British inventors lead world in carmakers’ drive for efficiency

Source : The Times

Though addressing diverse parts of the automotive landscape, the six companies shortlisted for the annual innovation award of the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders are all aiming at the industry’s biggest issue: making vehicles more efficient.

Two of the entries have technologies for cutting the cost of running refrigerated lorries. State-of-the-art car sound-cladding is about helping to make cars lighter, too. The new Ingenium engine from Jaguar Land Rover is aimed at meeting EU emissions regulations. Formula One flywheel technology is being harnessed to make fuel savings for buses. A vehicle transmission consultancy in Warwickshire is trying to ensure that driving a fuel-saving hybrid does not have to be dull.

The winner of the award, sponsored by GKN and supported by The Times, is to be announced at the SMMT annual dinner on November 25.

The Dearman Engine from Dearman Engine Company

The brainchild of a classic British inventor, Peter Dearman, working in his garden shed in Bishops Stortford, the Dearman engine is a piston engine powered by liquid air.

While its applications could be manifold, the Dearman Engine Company is concentrating on the cold supply chain. It is estimated that 15 per cent of the nation’s energy is used to keep things cold. In a refrigerated lorry, the cold trailer consumes 20 per cent of its diesel.

The plan is to put the Dearman engine, powered on cylinders easily available from the likes of Air Products, in the refrigerated unit. Toby Peters, the managing director and a professor at Birmingham University, said: “The cold economy needs fuel-efficient, zero-emission solutions.”

Xlite from Automotive Insulations

When a Bentley or top-of-the range Jaguar glides by, much of that soundlessness is down to a small Rugby-based insulations company. Automotive Insulations, under Jim Griffin, its owner-managing director, has responded to the demand from the motor industry to take weight out of cars to hit fuel-efficiency targets.

Sound insulation is everywhere in a car from the wheel arches to the dashboard to the doors. Mr Griffin’s task is to block out high-frequency sound and low frequency noise with a light product as thin as 6mm and with thermal properties included.

“The challenge is to bond materials for production and it is the adaption of that technology that we have patented,” Mr Griffin said.

Ingenium from Jaguar Land Rover

The new four cylinder Ingenium petrol and diesel engines from Britain’s biggest automotive employer are not only part of Jaguar Land Rover’s strategy to be self-sufficient — it currently buys from Ford and PSA Peugeot Citroën — but have led to the construction of a new factory in Wolverhampton.

“We lost the ability to manufacture engines for ourselves about ten years ago,” Paul Whitwood, the chief engineer on the Ingenium project, said. The work centres on efficiency gains from reducing friction in the engine, he said.

The best Ingenium engine will reach 70 miles per gallon, the company claims. The first engines are to go into the new Jaguar XE model.

OGeco from Vocis

Vocis, a Warwickshire automotive consultancy, has worked with Oerlikon Graziano, the Italian gearbox maker, to produce an automated manual transmission unit for hybrids with an integrated electric motor to maximise power.

The OGeco aims to bring a multi-speed gearbox to hybrid cars and to address “torque infill”, to flatten out the interruption in power between gear shifts. Mike Everitt, the managing director of Vocis, claims that the system can cut carbon dioxide emissions by 6 per cent.

“This will be suitable for mass-market plug-in hybrids and extended range electric vehicles,” he said.

Flybrid Kers from Torotrak

At the Renault grand prix team a decade ago, Jon Hilton investigated the possibilities of flywheel kinetic energy recovery systems or Kers. When Formula One changed its rules, Mr Hilton took away the lessons learnt and set up Flybrid.

The flywheel he has developed for buses stores the energy as if coiling a spring when the brakes are applied, and releases it when the bus moves off again. His system is claiming a 35 per cent increase in bus fuel efficiency.

“This part of the path is to get this technology into the car as well,” said Mr Hilton. Flybrid was bought by Torotrak, the listed automotive group, this year.

NaturaLine from Carrier Transicold and Sainsbury’s

Carrier Transicold, part of United Technologies, the US giant, has been testing the use of carbon dioxide refrigerated containers in the shipping industry since 2012. When Sainsbury’s came along looking for a way to meet its target of cutting carbon emissions by 30 per cent by 2020, Carrier began developing containers suitable for road transport.

Lionel Pourcheresse, Carrier’s marketing chief, says that the refrigerated containers take the strain off the truck’s diesel engine to cool the trailer and that the natural refrigerant CO2 being used is non-ozone depleting.

They topped the podium

2010 Gordon Murray Design’s iStream is a simplified operation that is aimed at mass-producing cars in an area the fraction of the size of a conventional assembly plant. The first fruits of the project are the Yamaha Motiv concept city car launched last year.

2011 The Range_e from Jaguar Land Rover is a project from the West Midlands carmaker to build a 4×4 with carbon emissions of less than 90g/km. The commercial production of a plug-in hybrid Range Rover is expected in the future.

2012 The Optare Versa EV electric bus was developed by the Indian-owned, but Yorkshire-based bus builder. The 50 seat, zero-emission buses have been ordered by Manchester and Nottingham city councils and by operators such as FirstGroup.

2013 The Ford ecoBoost three cylinder engine was developed at the US group’s global research and development centre in Essex. An extremely efficient and powerful small engine, the ecoBoost is in hundreds of thousands of Fiesta and Focus models