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UK government and industry to invest >$1.5B in Advanced Propulsion Centre (APC) for low carbon vehicles; technology roadmaps for 5 priority areas

The UK government and automotive industry are investing £500 million (US$755 million) each over the next 10 years in an Advanced Propulsion Centre (APC) to research, to develop and to commercialize the technologies for the low carbon vehicles of the future. Backed by 27 companies in the sector, including supply chain companies, the commitment is expected to secure at least 30,000 jobs currently linked to producing engines and create many more in the supply chain.

The investment forms part of the report “Driving success – an industrial strategy for growth and sustainability in the UK automotive sector”, published jointly by the government and industry. It follows the recent plans for construction, aerospace and other key sectors to secure sustainable future growth in the economy.

Most of the APC funding will be focused on projects. Government and industry expect the APC to open during 2014. In advance of this, the Government is announcing up to £10 million (US$15 million) is being made available by the Technology Strategy Board (TSB) for highly innovative low carbon vehicle collaborative R&D projects that are closely aligned with the APC objectives and can demonstrate a strong potential for industrialization.

Britain is the fourth-largest vehicle producer in Europe, making 1.58 million vehicles in 2012. The challenge, notes the report, is to maintain this momentum to secure the long-term future of the sector by growing the UK share of the value chain and advancing in research and development (R&D) on ultra-low emission vehicles. The strategy maps out how this might be achieved over the next 20 to 30 years.

The report looks at four key themes:

  • Innovation and technology: By 2040 almost none of Europe’s new cars will be powered solely by a traditional gasoline or diesel engine. This “once in a lifetime technology change” offers the UK an opportunity to create tomorrow’s vehicles, increase its market share and create new supply chain companies, the report asserts. To deliver this the UK needs not only an increase in R&D investment, but also to capitalise on this—securing production in the UK. This requires innovative small and medium enterprises (SMEs) to be nurtured and investment by multinational companies.

  • Supply chain: The domestic supply chain is relatively weak, the report says. On average only a third of the parts that go into vehicles manufactured in the UK are sourced from the UK. Stepping up the amount of UK content is dependent on a stronger automotive supply chain in the UK.

  • Skills: The scale of these future opportunities and meeting increasing production demand has highlighted a shortage of engineers and other skilled workers. The UK needs to build up a comprehensive talent pipeline including in the supply chain, starting in schools and encouraging a career path to apprenticeships, graduates and post graduates. Failure to do this will make the UK less attractive as a place to invest and will restrict supply chain growth.

  • Business environment: The UK faces stiff competition from other countries that strategically support advanced manufacturing, the report advises. This can include significant R&D spending and tax breaks and strong incentives to encourage investment by suppliers. Strategic partnership is key to improve the business environment for the UK automotive sector.

In addition to funding the APC, the report proposes improving co-ordination and collaboration with academic research. The Automotive Council and Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) will set up an advisory group to help align research funding with industry challenges where relevant.

In addition, the industry will set out its view of the key technologies for the UK, how it can access more EU R&D funding and look at identifying future technologies such as intelligent networking of cars.

Technology roadmaps. In 2009, the UK developed and published an industry consensus passenger vehicle technology roadmap as part of the New Automotive Innovation and Growth Team report in 2009. This initial examination of research challenges and an analysis of UK capability led to the identification of five strategic technology themes in which the UK could show leadership through specialization. These include:

  • internal combustion engines;
  • electric machines and power electronics;
  • energy storage and energy management;
  • lightweight vehicle and power train structures; and
  • intelligent mobility.

Since this initial consensus statement of R&D themes, the Automotive Council has published further roadmaps for commercial vehicles and off-highway equipment and supports the Low Carbon Vehicle Partnership-led bus technology roadmap published in 2012.

To advance the new strategy, the Automotive Council will publish, by the end of 2013, detailed consensus technology roadmaps for each of the 5 priority technology areas. These roadmaps define the key targets or drivers in each priority area. Each roadmap identifies technologies with the potential to meet the targets either in isolation or combined with other systems. These consensus roadmaps will help guide future industry and government investment in R&D.

Key features of forthcoming detailed technology roadmaps
Technology Key themes
Internal combustion engines The roadmap defines future priorities to improve engine thermal efficiency, improvements in systems efficiency and enabling technologies. Key focus areas are:
  • Integration of combustion engines and electric machines to reduce cost and increase utility
  • Downsizing and downspeeding including more sophisticated charge air/boost systems
  • Fuel injection and variable valve & actuation systems
  • Waste heat recovery to shaft power or electricity production
  • Low carbon liquid fuels
Power electronics & electric machines Mixed technology motors such as Permanent Magnet Switched Reluctance machines as well as Switched and Synchronous Reluctance machines are key features of the roadmap. Focus areas include improvements in:
  • Advanced lower cost control electronics
  • Conductivity in windings
  • Topology & innovative configurations
  • Thermal management & conduction
Energy storage Significant Improvements in existing battery chemistries, achieving in excess of 400Wh/kg at a cost of less that US$250/kWh, next generation chemistries & other storage technologies. Key areas for progress are:
  • Electrolytes, catalysts, dopants, additives, surface modification and coatings
  • Scale up technologies to move from laboratory to prototype cells for in-field development
  • Innovative storage technologies that offer improved cost, energy density & packaging
Lightweight vehicle and powertrain To meet vehicle CO2 targets, substantial vehicle weight reductions can be achieved through:
  • Migration of motorsport/aerospace technologies initially into the premium sector and ultimately into high volume vehicle manufacture
  • Advances in manufacturing/joining technologies for advanced low weight materials to achieve automotive scale and cost requirements
  • Next-generation multi-physics computer aided engineering for weight optimization
  • New vehicle topologies enabled by advanced materials
Intelligent mobility Increased road user demand will require more intelligent & safer mobility to deliver a robust transport system. This will require improved communication, control and vehicle systems together with modal shift and demand management. Key technologies will include:
  • Advanced data processing & acquisition systems for multi-modal journey planning/optimization
  • Vehicle sensor fusion & processes for safety critical on-board software development
  • Communication systems/protocols for both vehicles and infrastructure
  • Next generation driver assistance systems and autonomous control technologies


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