WMG officially opens hybrid powertrain testing facility

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Warwick Manufacturing Group (WMG) hopes to become a key testing site for the automotive industry after officially opening its unique Vehicle Engine Facility (VEF) this week.

The £2.28m facility will ultimately assist in the development of future hybrid and all-electric technology, although the team behind it believes there may be an initial learning curve.

‘Because it is so different to current capabilities, actually coming up with the best methodologies is almost part of the research at the moment, but we know it will make a big difference and provide a lot of benefits,’ Prof Paul Jennings of the WMG told The Engineer.

The VEF uses two dynamometers with the advanced ’Texcel’ control system, plus a robot driver to enable the testing of various hybrid powertrain designs. The two dynamometers are installed in parallel and can test electric motors and petrol, diesel, ethanol or biofuel internal combustion engines.

‘We’re looking at how to optimise supervisory control, characterise components, improve energy management and stop-start performance, local emissions as well as CO2 emissions — there’s lots of things we can make an impact on,’ said Jennings.

The VEF is the UK’s only purpose-built hybrid powertrain testing facility that is not owned and operated by an individual automotive company. It will cater for Tier 1 and automotive OEM clients worldwide.

Dr Ralf Speth, chief executive officer of Jaguar Land Rover in nearby Gaydon, said: ‘We look forward to benefiting from the work undertaken there, especially in the incredibly complex area of significantly reducing vehicle emissions.’

The facility 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.

‘It’s important to recognise that actual usage and individual driving styles will affect economy as well; what we’d like to do is to be able to design controls that reflect this,’ said Jennings.

Global design and testing company Froude Hofmann, headquartered in Worcester, helped to install the VEF, which has received funding from Advantage West Midlands and the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) as part of the Science City Research Alliance (SCRA) Energy Efficiency Project.