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Work begins on £2.28m unique powertrain testing Christmas gift for Midlands

Mark Amor-Segan and Chris Bale (L-R) examine the hybrid powertrain test facilityWork has begun on a unique £2.28 million Vehicle Energy Facility for the Midlands which will be the UK’s only purpose built hybrid powertrain testing facility not owned and operated by an individual automotive company. The facility is being built in WMG at the University of Warwick and will be ready for a formal launch just before Christmas. 

The new labs, which are being funded by Advantage West Midlands (AWM), the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) and the University of Warwick as part of the Birmingham Science City initiative, will provide the region with a state of the art test and characterisation facility for hybrid vehicle powertrains.

Much of the new Vehicle Energy Facility (VEF) is being constructed by specialist powertrain test equipment manufacturers Froude Hofmann. Their UK headquarters is in Worcester and they are particularly expert in the design and manufacture of dynamometers, powertrain and control systems. The new facility will use two dynamometers with the advanced “Genysis” control system plus a Robot Driver to allow the testing of various hybrid powertrain designs. The two dynamometers are being installed in parallel, the first to test electric motors, and the second to test Gasoline, Diesel, ethanol, and Bio-fuels based engines.

VEF Facility under construction WMGWhen complete the VEF equipment will also include: a battery simulator, battery test station, full exhaust emissions measurement capability and a Froude Hofmann Robot-Driver. The Cell will operate transmissions and powertrain systems, whilst simulating the powertrain components that are not available for test. These tests provide strategies for evaluating the optimisation of the car’s powertrain and how it will operate in the real world.

Richard Guest, Managing Director of Froude Hofmann, said: “We are proud to be part of this development which will provide Warwick with a facility that is in the forefront of global hybrid development technology. With many competing alternative-fuel and hybrid powertrain technologies now being developed internationally, this new facility allows Warwick to work with Tiers 1 and Automotive OEM clients world-wide ”

 Mark Amor-Segan from WMG (Warwick Manufacturing Group) at the University of Warwick said:

 “The Vehicle Energy Facility (VEF) has been designed with the aim of servicing the automotive industry – ranging from small vehicle up to large truck and lorry manufacturers - but its usage is not limited to this sector. The VEF will be of interest to companies in all sectors with a requirement to test the performance of internal combustion engines or electric machines. For example, the facility can be used to characterise the performance of electrical generators for the wind turbine industry.”

 “The University of Warwick WMG Hybrid Vehicle Research Group already works with a range of industrial partners and is looking forward to the opportunities the VEF will bring to form new partnerships and collaborations, particularly with businesses based in the West Midlands.”

 Professor Paul Jennings from WMG at the University of Warwick said:

 “The VEF builds on the research work of WMG’s Hybrid Vehicle Research Group which, alongside its industrial partners, has created technical and cost modelling tools for hybrid vehicle development. These include WARPSTAR (WARwick Powertrain Simulation Tool for ARchitectures) which can be used to model the performance of any hybrid vehicle architecture, and is currently being enhanced to include real world driver behaviour through an EPSRC supported project as part of Warwick’s Innovative Manufacturing Research Centre”

 Rebecca Garrod-Waters, Director of Innovation at regional development agency Advantage West Midlands, said:

 “This investment is key for Birmingham Science City, which supports and showcases the global strengths of industry and the knowledge base in the West Midlands.  Sixty per cent of the UK's automotive R&D investment is in this Region, so we are thrilled to be funding and supporting the Vehicle Engineering Facility, which will catalyse knowledge transfer and effective collaboration between industry and universities, as well as contributing to the low carbon future of both the automotive and energy industries.”

 “This builds on the West Midlands’ strong business base, manufacturing strengths and world leading low carbon engineering expertise”

Mark Amor-Segan with VEF facility WMGThe creation of this new facility is part of the £10.5m Energy Efficiency & Demand Project, funded by AWM and ERDF under the Birmingham Science City initiative. It is a key part of a larger investment in the research infrastructure of the West Midlands region, which unites the Universities of Warwick and Birmingham in a newly-formed Science City Research Alliance (SCRA). The Energy Efficiency and Demand project is led by the University of Warwick.

 There will be a formal launch of the VEF in December once all the equipment has been installed and tested but the facility is already listed as one of  the top 15 projects in Europe that delegates to the Engine Expo event in Stuttgart ( 22-24 June) should familiarise themselves with.

Note for Editors: Birmingham Science City is a region-wide partnership of public sector, businesses and the research base, which is facilitating the use of science and technology to improve the quality of life and prosperity of the West Midlands. Funded by Advantage West Midlands, Birmingham Science City’s aim is to create strategies to exploit centres of world-class scientific research, by developing relevant activities for sustainable economic and social benefit.  

For further information please contact:

Peter Dunn,  Head of Communications
Communications Office, University House,
University of Warwick, Coventry, CV4 8UW, United Kingdom
Tel: +44 (0)24 76 523708
Mobile/Cell: +44 (0)7767 655860PR50  17th June 2010