Green vehicles move into fast lane with APC funding

Technologies to advance autonomy and reduce the greenhouse gas emissions produced by cars and other vehicles are being developed in the UK following a £62m funding announcement.

BMW i8
BMW i8

The Advanced Propulsion Centre (APC) has announced its latest funding for seven projects, with the aim of helping companies to develop and commercialise low carbon vehicle technologies.

One of the projects being funded by the APC is a collaboration between BMW, Delta Motorsport and WMG at Warwick University. The project will design, develop and manufacture more power dense batteries.

The project is aiming to increase the power density of lithium ion batteries, and thereby reduce the weight of the devices in the medium term, according to Graham Biggs, a spokesperson for BMW.

Researchers at WMG will be providing the electrochemical know-how for the project, which will aim to develop the technology to the stage at which it is ready to enter production, said Biggs.

“The project does not include the actual production [of the batteries], but the idea is that this technology could then appear in BMW Group production vehicles,” he said.

BMW i3 94Ah
BMW i3 94Ah

The team is hoping to achieve a power density of 5kW per kilogram, or around three times that of existing lithium ion batteries.

They hope to promote the uptake of battery electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles, in a bid to reduce pollution levels and improve air quality, and to increase the overall efficiency of the car fleet.

“The car industry sees electrification as a massively important initiative, and a fundamental part of that is the improvement of battery performance, in terms of energy density and recharge time,” he said. “The challenge is always to get a stable battery that can be charged and discharged quickly.”

Another consortium receiving funding from the APC is aiming to develop more environmentally-friendly tractors.

The consortium, led by New Holland Agriculture, which is owned by Netherlands-based CNH Industrial, is aiming to improve the performance, autonomy and efficiency of the company’s existing concept natural gas tractor.

The project will attempt to overcome substantial technical challenges in order to develop the tractor to a level at which it can compete with conventional diesel-powered vehicles, the company said.

The project will also consider opportunities to further reduce the tractor’s environmental footprint by linking it with anaerobic digestion plant technology. These plants break down biodegradable material to produce fuels such as renewable natural gas, which could then be used to power the tractor.

The project could significantly reduce the carbon footprint of agricultural tractors used on farms, the company said.

T6 Tractor
T6 Tractor

Other projects receiving funding include a Jaguar Land Rover-led consortium to develop new lightweight vehicle technology, designed to allow carmakers to reduce emissions while maintaining performance, and a Penso Consulting project focused on complex composite structure manufacturing.

Williams Advanced Engineering will lead a project to develop high performance, cost competitive batteries, while Ford will be working on a project to develop combined system optimisation. Finally, Westfield Sportscars will be leading a consortium to produce a compact hybrid powertrain for use in niche vehicles such as driverless pods.

Altogether, the projects are expected to create or safeguard 2370 jobs in the UK automotive industry.

The announcement is the APC’s sixth round of funding since 2013, as part of its target of saving 50 million tonnes of carbon dioxide by 2023.

The APC, which is based at Warwick University, is a £1bn, 10-year partnership between the government and the automotive industry.