Department of Mechanical Engineering

Lowering CO2 through improved driver behaviour

The most significant feature of our relationship with the PVRC is the academics' willingness to participate in tightly focused research that will have a direct impact on commercial products within a very short development period.

— Mark Roberts,
Managing Director,
Ashwoods Automotive

Improving vehicle technology is not the only answer to the environmental challenge of the growing need for personal transport.

Drivers must also play their part in reducing energy usage. The choices that they make have a very large effect on fuel consumption and CO2 output.

Understanding the driver's actions and improving performance

The PVRC has engaged in pioneering research since the 1990s to understand the actions of the driver and improving their performance. We realised that a 10 per cent improvement in fuel economy of an engine was achievable, but at a cost in terms of the driver’s experience.

Our researchers conducted an extensive series of experiments with Ford and Torotrak to link fuel use and emotional response of drivers to acceleration performance.

REF submission

This research was part of our REF 2014 submission for Aeronautical, Mechanical, Chemical and Manufacturing Engineering.

We found that for some specific road types, the most aggressive drivers could easily use 50 per cent more fuel than the least aggressive. This has significant implications for both traffic planners and for vehicle designers.

In a subsequent project in partnership with Mahle Powertrain, we examined the impact of driver behaviour on the effectiveness of the on-board systems used to monitor emissions.

Mahle Powertrain has used the results of this work to develop their ProLogiq™ data management product sold worldwide to automotive suppliers.


Savings of 10 per cent in fuel use and CO2 emissions per year

We deployed these techniques in a government-funded KTP project in collaboration with Ashwoods Automotive, designing and developing a new and award-winning product called Lightfoot™. The product is marketed by Ashwoods to fleet operators of light commercial vehicles and gives reductions of at least 10 per cent in fuel use and CO2 emissions.

The product has significant environmental impact, saving an estimated 2,000 tonnes of CO2 per year. Furthermore, if all of the 3.5 million light commercial vehicles in the UK are fitted with this system, it would save nearly 8 per cent of CO2 emitted annually.

Over a million tonnes of CO2 would be avoided each year by saving 382 million fewer litres of diesel fuel at a cost of £535 million annually.

In addition to environmental impact, the economic performance of 200 fleet vehicles, including six major operators, has been improved by 2500 installations of the systems, saving over £83,000 per month in fuel costs.