Engineers and researchers at WMG, University of Warwick, are working alongside Transport Design International (TDI), based in Stratford, to develop a battery-powered, lightweight, rail-based vehicle to operate in Coventry.
The WMG team, including engineers Darren Hughes and Andrew McGordon, are using their automotive engineering and battery expertise to assist TDI with the design of the vehicle for Coventry City Council, and now have a 3D simulation of the vehicle.
The vehicle will be battery-powered with the long term objective that it will become an autonomous vehicle, allowing more vehicles to operate intelligently and efficiently to meet passenger demand.
It will hold 50 passengers, and the longer term aim is that it will work like the London Underground system, where there is no timetable and people can hop on and off.
The vehicle will be a lightweight design using multiple materials including aluminium, steel and composites.
Due to being battery-powered there will be no overhead power supply which is both costly and has a negative impact to the city-scape. This feature provides future flexibility for operating on other non-electrified routes.
The first-of-a-kind design is available to view in 3D via WMG’s visualisation suite and the first test vehicle will be manufactured by mid-2020. TDI have partnered with Coventry-based Company RDM who will manufacture the vehicle once the design is complete.
A team of experts are also working to develop a new track system.
The Government’s Local Growth Fund through the Coventry and Warwickshire Local Enterprise Partnership (CWLEP) has contributed £2.46 million towards phase one of the research and design of the prototype and £12.2 million has been secured from the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) Devolution Deal to undertake the research and development required to prove the VLR concept.
The WMCA has also allocated specialist resource from Transport for West Midlands to provide technical support, advice and guidance to the project team as the scheme develops.
Dr Darren Hughes, WMG, University of Warwick comments:
“The Coventry light-rail system will be innovative in bringing together technologies from a number of sectors to deliver a low-cost environmentally-sustainable public transport solution for the City of Coventry. Seeing the 3D simulation and envisaging how it will look within Coventry makes us look forward to building the first vehicle that will be ready for testing at a test track facility during 2020.”
“Very Light rail is a fantastic innovation and it has the potential to transform the way people travel. It will be much more affordable to install than traditional trams, take up far less road space, be able to run alongside traffic and our ultimate aim is that it doesn’t require a driver so it can be a frequent service.
“Coventry has a rich traditional of vehicle manufacturing and now we are leading the way in future transport too. This Very Light Rail work, combined with our work on driverless and connected cars puts us right at the forefront of creating new, ground breaking solutions for future transport needs. They will be safer and more environmentally friendly and I hope go on to provide good job opportunities for local people too.”
Jonathan Browning, chair of the CWLEP, comments:
“Coventry and Warwickshire is at the forefront of battery technology and this exciting scheme emphasises our skills at leading the way in innovation.
“This new technology will bring more jobs and investment to Coventry and Warwickshire and it underlines the value of partnership working to boost the area’s economy.
“It is great news that the prototype of the Very Light Rail vehicle will be built ahead of Coventry being UK City of Culture in 2021 when the area’s profile will be boosted on a global stage.”
The event showcases leading figures from motorsport, automotive and beyond to discuss current and future technology development, and explores the many opportunities for business growth and success.
At the conference, our Professor Dave Greenwood joined other experts for a lively panel discussion entitled 'What's in it for me? Electric Power in Motorsport and Automotive'.
In the evening, the MIA held its prestigious Business Excellence Awards. WMG sponsored the ‘Export Achievement Award,’ with AP Racing crowned much-deserved winners. The AP Racing team were presented with their award by the CEO of our WMG centre HVM Catapult, Archie MacPherson.
You can read more about MIA events here.
New report says UK electric vehicle battery industry could be worth £2.7 billion per year for UK chemical companies
A new report published today Monday 25th June 2018 shows that UK companies are well-placed to supply valuable materials needed for batteries to be built in UK – a potential £2.7 billion per year business opportunity. The report commissioned by WMG at the University of Warwick, was launched to the Chemical Industry Association at the Chemistry Growth Partnership meeting in London, chaired by Steve Foots, Chief Executive of Croda, and attended by Richard Harrington MP.
The research underpinning the report brought together experts and data from the automotive battery industry and chemicals industry, working in the context of the UK’s Industrial Strategy, points to a large UK battery manufacturing industry opportunity. The report was funded by EPSRC, commissioned and managed by WMG at the University of Warwick acting in their role as the Advanced Propulsion Centre Electrical Energy Storage Spoke, and delivered in partnership with E4tech. WMG’s Professor David Greenwood, one of the report’s authors said:
“This report details a massive opportunity to grow a UK battery chemicals industry and related supply chain. The UK’s Industrial Strategy identified battery development and manufacture as one of the four initial Grand Challenges to coalesce industrial activity upon high growth opportunities. Battery pack manufacturing for electric vehicles (EVs) will logically take place close to the point of vehicle assembly since packs are hard to transport. This in turn implies that the battery cells which make up the packs will best be manufactured in (or close to) the UK. This could also mitigate the loss of vehicle engine production.”
“However for cell production to occur in the UK, the supply chains of chemicals would need to be reconfigured, since most cell production and chemicals supply is currently in Asia. Whilst such components could be imported, to capture the most value cell production and the related chemical and process equipment supply would need to come from UK suppliers.”
The future of daily urban commuting could be small, lightweight Electric L-category Vehicles (ELVs). A cost effective, energy efficient and comfortable alternative to traditional cars in cities, is at the heart of the €6.92m RESOLVE project, which included WMG at the University of Warwick.
The European project – named ‘Range of Electric Solutions for L-category Vehicles’ – designed and developed two stylish tilting four-wheeler prototype ELVs with leading European manufacturers Piaggio and KTM. These demonstrators were unveiled, and presented to representatives from the European Commission, at an event in Brussels in April 2018.
WMG was one of fourteen partners in the project, which included leading names from industry and research such as Piaggio, KTM, Bosch, Ricardo, the Austrian Institute of Technology, and the University of Florence.
They will be tasked with establishing a community of early career academics to provide Theme Leaders at EPSRC with strategic advice to develop their themes in ‘Manufacturing the Future’. They will also act as a conduit for communication (with EPSRC), covering the broader community in manufacturing research both nationally and internationally.
Dr John Low who works in WMG’s Energy Innovation Centre, explains: “I will share my vision of manufacturing science in energy storage to help accelerate the UK’s advances in fundamental electrochemistry through to application-driven programmes.”
Dr Jerome Charmet, who is based within the Institute of Digital Healthcare team said: “I will endeavour to bridge the gap between the biomedical/clinical sciences and the manufacturing communities, in particular in the area of micro and nanotechnologies.”
Electric vehicle charging infrastructure on UK roads is to be advanced, thanks to a new £5.6 million project – funded by Innovate UK – to develop Vehicle-2-Grid (V2G) technologies, involving WMG at the University of Warwick.
For three years from April 2018, the EV-elocity consortium will conduct a project to demonstrate and develop V2G technology across a variety of UK locations, including airports and business parks – with the aim of proving its viability and worth to business and the wider public.
Researchers at WMG, led by vehicle electrification and energy storage expert Dr James Marco, will build a techno-economic model of how V2G will be viable within the UK. A key innovation will be the inclusion of new models of battery degradation within the analysis that will underpin new methods to optimise the vehicle’s battery system.
Dr Marco’s team will also analyse real-world usage data from a range of different electric fleet vehicles as they are used within a V2G context.
The project will break new ground in helping consumers, businesses and infrastructure providers to financially benefit from adapting their charging behaviour and vehicle use.
In doing so, the project will help to further accelerate and incentivise the transition from traditional fuel sources to electric vehicles.
Researchers at WMG at the University of Warwick have developed a new direct, precise test of Lithium-ion batteries’ internal temperatures and their electrodes potentials and found that the batteries can be safely charged up to five times faster than the current recommended charging limits. The new technology works in-situ during a battery’s normal operation without impeding its performance and it has been tested on standard commercially available batteries. Such new technology will enable advances in battery materials science, flexible battery charging rates, thermal and electrical engineering of new battery materials/technology and it has the potential to help the design of energy storage systems for high performance applications such as motor racing and grid balancing.
If a battery becomes over heated it risks severe damage particularly to its electrolyte and can even lead to dangerous situations where the electrolyte breaks down to form gases than are both flammable and cause significant pressure build up. Overcharging of the anode can lead to so much Lithium electroplating that it forms metallic dendrites and eventually pierce the separator causing an internal short circuit with the cathode and subsequent catastrophic failure.
The new high-tech laboratory, measuring 15m by 16m, was lowered into position by WMG’s Energy Innovation Centre (EIC) at the University of Warwick.
This new facility is funded through the Government’s Energy Research Accelerator (ERA) programme. There are three test modules. The first two provide battery pack testing up to a total power of 1MW, 1200V, 2400A. The third test module provides mechanical testing facilities to enable researchers to fully characterise a lithium-ion cell’s mechanical behaviour over its entire temperature and state-of-charge operating range.
New research led by WMG, at the University of Warwick has found an effective approach to replacing graphite in the anodes of lithium-ion batteries using silicon, by reinforcing the anode’s structure with graphene girders. This could more than double the life of rechargeable lithium-ion based batteries by greatly extending the operating lifetime of the electrode, and also increase the capacity delivered by those batteries.
Today, Tuesday January 23rd 2018, the Faraday Institution announced up to £42 million in new government funding to four UK consortia to conduct research aimed at overcoming battery challenges to accelerate the electric vehicle revolution, and WMG at the University of Warwick will be partners in two of those four new consortia.
The Faraday Institution, which WMG at the University of Warwick helped to form, is the UK’s independent national battery research institute, and it was established as part of the government’s £246 million investment in battery technology through the Government’s Industrial Strategy. Its formation was announced in October 2017 by the Business Secretary Greg Clark. The research it supports at organisations such as WMG at the University of Warwick aims to put the UK on the map as being at the forefront of battery technology worldwide and radically increase the speed with which we are able to make the move to electric vehicles.