Thursday, 5 September 2013

JLR edges closer to electric drives

JaguarLandRover (JLR) is taking the lead role in an advanced powertrain research and development programme for state-of-the-art, next-generation hybrid and battery-electric powertrain technologies based on the Range Rover Evoque platform.

The ‘Evoque_e’ is a two-year £16.3m UK government Technology Strategy Board (TSB) project of which JLR will contribute £4m to the project and will lead a consortium of 12 selected partners – eight from industry and three universities.

The project brings together Zytek Automotive, GKN Driveline, Motor Design Limited, AVL, Drive System Design, Williams Advanced Engineering, Delta Motorsport, Tata Steel, Bristol University, Cranfield University and Newcastle University.

One of the most interesting companies in this line-up is that of AVL. It is the first time the company has been associated with a UK government automotive research programme.

Starting next month, the collaboration will design, develop and build three research vehicles showcasing state-of-the-art, next-generation powertrain concepts for a mild hybrid electric vehicle (MHEV); a Plug-In Hybrid (PHEV) and a full Battery Electric Vehicle (BEV).

For its hybrid vehicles, it will be interesting to see if JLR adopts diesel or gasoline powertrain technology.

Peter Richings, JLR director of hybrids and electrification, said: “The aim of the project is to develop technology platforms which are configurable and compatible within the architecture of an existing production vehicle. The modular technologies include single and multi-speed axle drives; modular battery packs and integrated power electronics, multi-machine, advanced control development and torque vectoring.”

“The research teams will look at how the speed of the electric motor can be increased, to reduce its size, weight and cost while enhancing performance and durability. We will also look at the use of alternative materials to both reduce the use of rare earth materials and for systems optimisation,” he added.

“The outcome of the Evoque_e project will be new technologies with the potential for high volume production that are capable of delivering benchmark performance in terms of cost, weight and stainable use of materials,” he also noted.  

As Britain’s biggest investor in automotive research and development, and the biggest investor in manufacturing R&D, JLR claims to be spending £2.75 billion in the year to March 2014 on product creation. This week, JLR showcased a number of the other collaborative research projects it is leading at the LCV 2013 event. These projects include the extreme downsizing of internal combustion engines, efficient management and storage of heat energies and weight reduction of engines through innovative new design concepts. The company has also just taken on board 273 new graduates as part of its scheme to bolster in-house engineering capability.

Commenting on these research projects, Dr Wolfgang Epple, JLR director of research and technology said:  “Jaguar Land Rover has ambitious plans for growth. We believe that the success of our global business – and the UK economy – lies in engineering and innovation. Our research programmes bring together some of the best engineering minds in the UK.  With Evoque_e, we will build on previous JLR technology demonstrators and show clearly the breadth of our capability and commitment in advanced powertrain technology.”

JLR already collaborates with a number of leading universities in the UK on a range of technology and skills projects.  More than half of the company’s research and advanced engineering team are based at Warwick University’s Warwick Manufacturing Group (WMG), to work collaboratively on key new technologies including energy storage, weight reduction and digital verification.

The chairman of WMG is Professor Lord Kumar Bhattacharyya who has close links with Ratan Tata of Tata Motors which is the parent of JLR. Once again, JLR is tapping into the resources of the WMG with which it has such close links.

Antony Harper, JLR’s head of research, confirmed this when he illustrated the importance of this work and its benefits to the company and the UK economy, when he said:  “We are keenly aware that not all the clever people work for us and our collaborative research programmes harness the best of UK engineering innovation, to develop new and exciting technologies.”  

“The development of our business and our continuing investment in R&D has also encouraged inward investment into the UK, with our suppliers creating and funding their own research projects in UK universities. The TSB’s funding allows us to multiply the effect of our investment and nurture UK-based technology investment, in supporting our work to address future needs, wants and legislation around the world.”

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