powertrain R&D center
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The IAAPS will have comprehensive test rooms, and two 4WD powertrain cells will offer full hybrid test capability with up to 750 kW of battery emulation at 1,200 V. (University of Bath)

New IAAPS powertrain R&D center to accelerate development of propulsion systems

The Institute for Advanced Automotive Propulsion Systems (IAAPS) will establish a new independent powertrain research facility in the U.K.

The auto industry needs new areas of expertise, new development tools, and new ways of facilitating collaboration and innovation to keep pace with technologies that are changing “faster than ever,” warned Prof. Gary Hawley, dean of the faculty of Engineering & Design at the UK’s University of Bath: “That’s why we are establishing a new R&D center to both accelerate the pace of innovation across companies of all sizes, and to increase the supply of engineers with skills needed to develop the next generation of electrified powertrains.”

To do so, the university is setting up the Institute for Advanced Automotive Propulsion Systems (IAAPS). Hawley said it will come on stream in 2021 to focus as much on the “how” as the “what,” regarding over-the-horizon technology. “While the breadth and depth of resources and expertise will place IAAPS within Europe’s top independent powertrain research facilities,” Hawley explained, “the most exciting aspect is that we are starting with a clean sheet of paper.”

With an initial investment of $85 million, funds are coming from sources including the UK government’s Research England Development Fund. “The industry needs new areas of expertise, new development tools and new ways of facilitating collaboration and innovation,” Hawley said. Expertise will be drawn from the university’s team of more than 40 academics who are active in relevant areas of research, alongside collaboration with vehicle manufacturers, Tier 1 technology suppliers, and specialist innovation businesses.

As an institute of the university, IAAPS will have the potential to cut across traditional research boundaries, allowing engineering, mathematics, chemistry, psychology and other relevant disciplines to work together, spanning wide-ranging program subjects from novel alternative fuels to how driver behavior can be harnessed to optimize fuel economy and reduce emissions.

Companies and other institutions will also be brought together under the university’s aegis to create a collaborative environment on aspects including the introduction of digital infrastructure to enable global participation. Systems on physical test at the facility can be integrated with models of other systems that may be hosted anywhere in the world and vice versa, Hawley stated.

Researching with AVL
Central to delivering this capability is a research agreement with Austrian test systems specialist AVL. IAAPS is slated be the first location that draws together every element of AVL’s new virtual systems development toolset to create a single, integrated environment. An example is seen to be the possibility of an electric drive unit running in a test cell at IAAPS, integrating with an internal combustion engine model hosted by a Tier 1 supplier in Germany, driving a virtual vehicle hosted by a manufacturer on another continent.

“The relationship with AVL allows us to try new ideas, discover how they work, explore the value they bring to researchers and development engineers,” said IAAPS program director Gavin Edwards. “We are going to keep pushing the boundaries to ensure that IAAPS will offer the most advanced digital collaboration tools available anywhere.”

To provide the industry with technology-agnostic physical development systems, the 11,300 m2 greenfield facility will include transient-engine and chassis dynamometers, laboratories for combustion research and pressure-charger research, and will benefit from a substantial investment in systems for the development and testing of electrification technologies.

Edwards described IAAPS as set to become one of the first independent research facilities to include research cells designed specifically for the development of high-voltage battery packs, supercapacitors and new battery cell designs, together with other high-energy electrical storage technologies. Although hydrogen-based testing is not included in the first phase, the new building has been designed to accommodate the fuel when required. Each test cell is specified to enable a wide range of systems integration, both physical and digital.

Battery research capabilities
The two 4WD powertrain cells at IAAPS will offer full hybrid test capability with up to 750 kW of battery emulation at 1,200 V, and an ability to replicate dynamic operating conditions for traction control calibration. There will be seven facilities for e-motor development covering power absorption levels from 250 kW to 750 kW. Battery research cells will be positioned around the outer walls to allow safe development of new chemistries, control systems and pack architectures.

Emphasizing the need for the continuing evolution of the ICE, Edwards sees three specific areas to which IAAPS will contribute: “First, we must accelerate the development of existing and currently understood technologies without compromising robustness, durability or cost. Second, we must develop ways to quickly design and validate all-new technologies to the same high standards. Thirdly, we must develop new tools that facilitate the tightest possible physical and control integration of complementary technologies into a single, highly efficient powertrain system that is as simple as possible to manufacture.”

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