Automotive, rail and marine


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.