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4 September, 2013 - 08:53 By Tony Quested

Ricardo CleanTech breakthrough wows global carmakers

Key players in the low carbon initiative

New technology unveiled today by Ricardo, the Cambridge UK automotive innovator, will bring the low voltage concept of intelligent electrification to a diesel car.

Global carmakers have been eagerly anticipating the technology breakthrough.

Ricardo revealed that carbon enhanced capacitive lead-acid batteries will be incorporated into the Advanced Diesel Electric Powertrain project known as ‘Adept’ – announced at the Cenex LCV2103 low carbon vehicle technology expo at the Millbrook Proving Ground in Bedfordshire.

The pioneering business is collaborating with original project partners Essex-based Controlled Power Technologies, the Advanced Lead-Acid Battery Consortium (ALABC) and Ford Motor Company plus new partners Faurecia Emissions Control Technologies UK Ltd and the University of Nottingham.

The project will take more than two years to complete at an estimated cost of £3.25 million and is supported by the UK’s innovation agency the Technology Strategy Board.

The Adept project combines several next generation technologies previously demonstrated individually but not yet bought together into a consolidated research and development programme at the nominal 48V architecture being pursued by a number of global carmakers.

As a project member an important role for the Advanced Lead-Acid Battery Consortium (ALABC) is to focus on recuperated energy storage and management through the application of low cost valve regulated lead acid (VRLA) battery technology in the high-rate, partial state-of-charge operation of a micro-mild hybrid electric vehicle.

Following more than two decades of extensive research and development the breakthrough lead-carbon battery technology is at an increased level of manufacturing readiness for low voltage mild hybrid electric vehicle applications.

The cost target to vehicle OEMs is to achieve less than $250/kWh as an alternative to the much more expensive lithium-ion batteries.

In the Adept project, a high power-to-weight ratio lead-carbon battery will be combined with a belt-integrated motor-generator and turbine integrated gas exhaust energy recovery system. Both are state-of-the-art water-cooled switched reluctance electrical machines supplied by Controlled Power Technologies.

Other members of the project include the Ford Motor Company – in other words the same four partners that worked previously on the successful Ricardo led 24 volt HyBoost research and development programme, which delivered a breakthrough in gasoline fuel efficiency and CO2 reduction through the same concept of low voltage hybridisation of the powertrain.

For the Adept project, the original partners will be joined by Faurecia Emissions Control Technologies UK Ltd and the University of Nottingham. Faurecia is a leading Tier 1 supplier of electrical and thermal systems, with a significant UK manufacturing presence. The University of Nottingham is a leading academic authority on internal combustion engines.

Allan Cooper, European project coordinator ALABC, said: “The Adapt project takes a highly innovative approach to energy recuperation and energy storage requiring only a relatively small rechargeable battery compared to that required for a full hybrid or pure electric vehicle.

“So, we can avoid the considerable cost and complexity of electrically and thermally managing lithium-ion batteries as well as the environmental issues of manufacturing and disposing of them, while delivering considerable diesel powertrain efficiency from intelligent electrification of a low voltage mild hybrid vehicle.”

Keeping the voltage below the critical 60 volt high voltage safety threshold, the nominal 48 volt technologies to be applied to a Ford Focus aim to deliver a breakthrough in diesel engine fuel efficiency and CO2 reduction by demonstrating full hybrid equivalent fuel economy and performance with less than 70g/km CO2 emissions, but at significantly lower cost.

The combination of various technologies and slight engine downsizing from the baseline 1.6-litre diesel engine is expected to deliver significant synergy and cost effective benefits without compromising vehicle performance.

Adept technologies are aimed not only at the C-segment car platform represented by the Ford Focus, but also are entirely relevant from the B-segment to the largest passenger car and rapidly growing SUV platforms.

The technology could also be applied to medium and heavy duty commercial vehicle platforms. In the UK and Europe, B to D segment vehicles are responsible for almost 80 per cent of passenger car sales, and there are further significant opportunities to apply the technology in the US, Japan and China.

The development of Adept technology will help to increase the market acceptance of low carbon vehicles and their contribution to achieving EU climate change targets. Potentially the low voltage technology combination could be applied to something approaching 50 million vehicles per annum.

The successful application of the technologies would allow a global vehicle manufacturer to reduce its in-use carbon footprint of a typical vehicle by 50g/km – a 30 per cent reduction on today’s baseline. Universal application to the vehicle parc would reduce annual CO2 emissions by 20 million tonnes in the UK alone and over 500m tonnes globally.

ALABC and CPT, who are also partners in the 48V LC Super Hybrid programme, and shared recipients of this year’s Low Carbon Vehicle Partnership (LowCVP) ‘Low Carbon Champions’ Award, will contribute almost half (43 per cent) of the project costs from the consortium partners, with matched funding from the TSB. The overall project budget is approximately £3.25 million.

Adept is one of a number of projects resulting from the latest Technology Strategy Board Integrated Delivery Programme competition entitled Technology Challenge. The initiative aims to speed up the development of low carbon vehicles and put the UK in the vanguard of low carbon vehicle technology.

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