This success story was first published in April 2022 NCUB’s in showcasing booklet, International Interactions. Read the booklet in full here.

It was central to COP26’s net zero ambition that we should be speeding up the switch to electric vehicles. Progress is being made and the transition to electric cars is well underway. In December 2022, sales of electric cars in Europe overtook diesel models for the first time. This is a hugely positive step forward. Switching to electric vehicles will not only provide us with cleaner air, but it will also cut carbon emissions that cause climate change.

The UK Government has announced that the sale of new diesel and petrol cars is to be banned from 2030. Loughborough University and Ford Motor Company, the American multinational automobile manufacturer headquartered in Dearborn, Michigan, United States, have joined forces to develop the next generation electric vehicle technologies.

Loughborough University is part of a four-year, £39 million Ford-led collaborative industry research project, accelerating the development of next generation electric vehicle technologies.

The project, called the Virtual Vehicle Integration and Development (ViVID) aims to enhance the virtual product development process for electrifying the Ford Transit Van. The work draws on the team’s extensive mathematical modelling and simulation expertise.

Replacing expensive and time-consuming engineering prototyping with virtual development and testing techniques improves cost efficiency, time to market, and the quality of the final product.

To support this innovation, the team has used part of the project funding to upgrade their existing electric vehicle testing equipment and installed a state-of-the-art Vehicle-in-the-Loop (ViL) rig to test control algorithms on vehicles.

In addition, relevant capabilities in Software-in-the-Loop, Hardware-in-the-Loop and Driver-in-the-Loop have been generated to underpin the current research as well as future vehicle development programmes.

Long term, the digital tools and methods created will have wider benefits, allowing UK companies to leverage improved product development capabilities – helping them to compete as industry leaders.

The new skills and knowledge generated will be made available to the project consortium – Ford, HORIBA MIRA and IPG Automotive – through a co-developed Masters degree programme and industry training modules as well as a series of workshops.

By bringing together international industry leaders with foremost academic researchers, ViVID is helping to accelerate the adoption of high-performing, low- and zero-emission commercial vehicles – ensuring that the UK remains a frontrunner in the global automotive industry.

Lead Academic Dr Georgios Mavros explains: “We’re creating improved models and using large-scale simulations to examine the combined performance and interaction of several sub-systems – the battery, motor, power electronics and control systems, advanced driver assistance systems – and how they operate together, rather than in isolation. This is supporting the design of more desirable electric vehicles with an increased range and better battery life at a fraction of the time and cost of conventional approaches.”

Dr Ashley Fly, lead researcher of ViVID’s battery simulation and testing, adds: “We’ve already developed a single pouch and cylinder cell 3D lithium-ion battery model which is allowing our partners to establish a battery characterisation process to improve accuracy and confidence in battery pack design and lifetime estimation – drastically reducing the iteration of tests during development and optimising the durability of the battery system.”

ViVID is funded by the Advanced Propulsion Centre – brings together a multi-discipline research team. Led by Dr Georgios Mavros, it comprises academics from the University’s School of Aeronautical, Automotive, Chemical and Materials Engineering; School of Mechanical, Electrical and Manufacturing Engineering; and Institute of Digital Engineering.

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