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Lotus, Jaguar Cars Ltd, Queens University Belfast, Bioethanol Ltd, Orbital Corporation Ltd

Given the growing excitement around electric and fuel-cell vehicles it is sometimes tempting to think that the internal combustion (IC) engine has had its day. The Omnivore engine is a compelling piece of evidence that engineers can still make some impressive efficiency gains using a traditional fossil-fuel powertrain.

Developed at Lotus’s Norfolk headquarters, Omnivore combines variable compression ratio, direct injection and a two-stroke operating cycle. The

One of the keys to the engine’s performance is the fact that it is free of throttling loss, a major cause of efficiency reduction in four-stroke engines.

The use of a variable compression ratio (VCR) system further improves the efficiency by burning fuel at a higher compression ratio, while a novel charge-trapping valve in the exhaust allows the exhaust timing to be changed and endows the engine with a far smoother torque curve than other two-stroke engines.

What’s more, the combustion process, a derivative of homogenous charge-compression ignition (HCCI) where the engine operates without the need for a spark plug, is claimed to bring many of the benefits of the compression ignition used in diesel engines but without the high NOx emissions.

Lotus is now looking to take the project to the next level, which would involve developing a multi-cylinder variant and ultimately fitting a test engine to a car.

Lighweight Crashworthy Train Cab

NewRail, Newcastle University, Bombardier Transportation UK Ltd, AP&M

Weight reduction is a major issue across all areas of the transport sector, not least the rail industry where heavier vehicles use more energy, are costlier to run and are more likely to cause damage to the track than lighter vehicles.

In an effort to address this a team has developed a lightweight, fully structural, crashworthy cab based on advanced composite sandwich material technology.

Conventional rail-vehicle cab structures are typically based on welded steel assemblies, often with a thin non-structural fibreglass cover and are therefore relatively heavy. They also tend to be very complex, high part-count assemblies with fragmented material usage.

This is because they must meet a wide range of demands, including proof loadings, crashworthiness, missile protection, aerodynamics and insulation. Assembly costs are high and there is little in the way of functional integration.

The new prototype composite cab is up to one tonne lighter than conventional structural metallic solutions, made up of 40 per cent fewer parts, and features a modular design that is said to facilitate easy inspection, maintenance and repair.

Life-cycle analysis has estimated that operation savings resulting from each lightweight cab would be in the region of£40,000 over the life of a vehicle. For a fleet of 350 trains, with two cabs per train set, this would provide a total saving of approaching£30m.

Developed as part of the DE-LIGHT Transport European Project, the initiative brought together Newcastle University’s NewRail team which developed the conceptual and detailed design of the cab, Bombardier Transportation UK , which provided the specification for the cab, and Portuguese composites expert AP&M. The composite cab is based on Bombardier’s new SPACIUM 3.O6 commuter train.

The team claims that, with further refinement, it could represent a realistic alternative to SPACIUM’s existing steel-based cab.

Low cost carbon composite chassis

Delta Motorsport, Advanced Composites Group, KS Composites, Penso Consulting

With the mass of a passenger car having a significant effect on the energy it consumes, weight reduction is one of the biggest drivers in the automotive industry.

As electric vehicles (EVs) gain in popularity, the very poor energy density (Wh/kg) of even the best lithium batteries means that weight reduction is even more important, with every kg saved giving increased range.

Identifying the chassis as the biggest single contributor to a car’s weight, a collaboration involving Delta Motorsport, Advanced Composites Group (ACG), KS Composites and Penso Consulting has developed a chassis made from novel pre-preg carbon-composite materials that are a quarter the density of steel.

The primary goal of this collaboration was to design and build a carbon-composite chassis for Delta’s all-new EV, the E-4 Coupe.

The team managed to reduce the cost of a traditionally very labour-intensive process by developing the chassis design, the materials and the production process in parallel.

While the motorsport approach to chassis construction invariably involves a very small number of complex parts, the group quickly identified that this was not going to be appropriate for a passenger car and adapted the mainstream automotive approach of using simple, constant-thickness panels, spot welded together to form a rigid, strong structure.

Using this approach the group managed a weight saving of 50-75 per cent when compared with a comparable steel monocoque at a chassis cost that is commercially viable and maintains the required stiffness and strength.

According to the team, the design, which could result in significant energy savings when applied to production vehicles, has already attracted the interest of a number of automotive firms.

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