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Loughborough University awarded more than £750K to develop tomorrow’s low carbon vehicles

Three Loughborough University research projects have received a slice of a £38m Government funding grant to design low carbon vehicles of the future.

Scientists and engineers in the University’s Wolfson School and Department of Chemistry will work with industry partners on a series of projects that address vehicle weight; battery materials and performance; and greener, better performing engines for heavy goods vehicles.

Engineers in the University’s Wolfson School Multifunctional Materials Manufacturing Lab are working with innovative Nottingham-based vehicle designer-manufacturer Far UK Ltd on a £250K project to develop high-spec, lightweight composite materials for car chassis.

The novel manufacturing method produces porous carbon fibre and glass fibre engineered composite beams and is low waste, unlike traditional composite manufacturing methods. It also offers flexibility in the three dimensions, and requires minimal tooling for tailored structural beams, keeping costs low.

This approach could also benefit other transport sectors including heavy goods vehicles and rail.

Project leader Dr Carmen Torres-Sánchez said:

“Reducing vehicle mass is essential for the automotive industry to help meet the Government’s carbon reduction targets. A typical family car would need to reduce its mass by about a quarter to achieve this, so the car industry needs to find a way to manufacture lightweights without adding production cost or affecting performance.

“We believe our new composite structure and manufacturing protocols will provide a viable solution. We’re delighted to be working with Far UK Ltd to put our technology to the test.”

A second project in the Wolfson School, led by Dr Andrew Clarke has received £420K funding to test duel fuel engines for heavy goods vehicles, with the aim of developing an engine that is high performing and reduces operating costs by 23%.

A further £160K funding has been awarded to academics in the Department of Chemistryand sustainable technologies company Johnson Matthey for a third project to develop the next generation of ‘green’ batteries.

Declining fossil fuel reserves and ever-increasing demands for energy make developments in energy storage capabilities vital. Battery usage is becoming increasingly widespread, but this presents new challenges due to materials scarcity and limitations in battery performance. It is vital that the increased exploitation of existing battery materials and the development of next generation batteries proceed through sustainable approaches.

Dr Pooja Panchmatia and colleagues will be addressing this challenge through the SINTER project and will use state-of-the-art computational approaches to explore design higher energy density battery materials of the future.

Loughborough University is amongst more than 130 car manufacturers, technology companies and research centres across the country to have won a share of the money, announced in the Budget, which will create hi-tech jobs and help Britain become a global leader in exporting state of the art, emission-cutting technology.

Transport Minister Andrew Jones said:

“Our £38 million investment will help Britain become a world leader in this exciting and valuable technology sector, creating skilled jobs of the future as part of our long-term economic plan. It will also mean lower running costs for motorists and less fuel consumption, which is good for the environment and our economy.

“This competition continues our £600 million commitment by 2020 to support the uptake of ultra-low emission vehicles, making journeys cheaper and greener, ensuring the nation is fit for the future.”

The winning projects were chosen following a competition launched last September (2015) encouraging companies to propose innovative ideas to cut vehicle emissions. The funding combines £30 million from the Office for Low Emission Vehicles (OLEV) with £8.2 million of additional funding from Innovate UK, who will support the schemes.