Loughborough University is working with Ford as part of a major new commercial EV project that aims to replace prototyping with modelling and simulation.
The £39m ViVID (Virtual Vehicle Integration and Development ) programme is funded by the Advanced Propulsion Centre (APC) and also includes McLaren Applied Technologies and IPG Automotive. By removing costly and time-consuming stages of physical prototyping and testing, the consortium is hoping to speed up the adoption of new technologies for electrified commercial vehicles.
Loughborough’s role will centre around electrifying Ford’s Transit Van, which presents unique challenges in terms of payload and range requirements. Engineering schools at the university have been awarded £3.1m which will be invested in upgrading existing facilities as well as installing a new Vehicle-in-the-Loop (ViL) test rig that will allow researchers to test control algorithms on real vehicles.
“Simulation methods already exist but they’re underdeveloped for electric vehicles, we aim to take it to the next level,” said research lead Dr Gerogios Mavros, senior lecturer at Loughborough’s School Aeronautical and Automotive Engineering.
“At the moment, there’s a lot of compromise in electric and hybrid vehicle development. For example, current simulation models of batteries and motors do not cover a sufficiently broad range of performance attributes to allow design optimisation of the whole vehicle in a virtual environment.
“We will create improved models and use large-scale simulations to look at the combined performance and interaction of many sub-systems – such as the battery, motor, brakes (conventional and regenerative), control systems, Advanced Driver Assistance Systems – and how they operate as parts of a whole vehicle, rather than examine them in isolation. This approach will allow the design of more desirable electric vehicles with an increased range and better battery life.”
As well as the cost and time associated with current vehicle development, the process also forces compromises on design, according to the ViVID consortium. It’s claimed that replacing physical prototyping with simulation will enable overall vehicle design to be optimised.