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Professor Gary Hawley
Professor Gary Hawley
Photo by Nic Delves-Broughton

Internal News - 16 September 2005

Vehicle centre begins work on million pound projects

Engineers at the University have recently won grants this year totalling more than a million pounds for research into cutting vehicle pollution and fuel consumption from diesel engines. They are also developing new approaches to the way vehicles are enhanced for performance before being released onto the market.

The work is being conducted in the University’s Powertrain and Vehicle Research Centre in the Department of Mechanical Engineering. The Director of the Centre, Professor Gary Hawley, said that the recent grant was given because the Centre had established a reputation among vehicle manufacturers for excellent performance during many years working with industry.

Part of the new research is to contribute to a Department of Trade Industry sponsored programme, “Succeeding through Innovation”. Part of this involves altering engine lubrication oil to achieve an improvement of five per cent in fuel consumption. This will result in cleaner, more fuel-friendly vehicles being driven on our roads.

Work is already underway on this three-year project, costing £2.69 million, of which the University of Bath has received £500,000. Other organisations working on this project include Ford Motor Company, British Petroleum, Imperial College in London, and the University of Nottingham.

Also, the Centre’s Dr Sam Akehurst has been award a prestigious £550,000 EPSRC Advanced Fellowship which allows him to carry out five years’ research into the complex area of optimising and refining the processes needed to get a vehicles engine and transmission to the market place.

Dr Akehurst believes he can identify and eliminate time-consuming experimental processes and so take years off the time it takes for motor manufacturers to get their new engines and transmission from the drawing board to under the bonnet.

At present vehicle component manufacturers can waste time and money by designing new components and engine systems, which may work perfectly well on a test rig but when added to the engine can cause adverse operating effects on other parts and the engine as a whole. This is because car engines are complex systems with many variables and altering one can cause the others to change as well, often for the worst.

One outcome of the work will mean that new engine parts can be more effectively designed to better match their interactions with the complete engine, reducing vehicle pollution and fuel consumption can. This work builds on that already underway by Dr Chris Brace.

The success of the Powertrain team was seen recently when Professor Hawley was awarded the IMechE Crompton Lanchester Medal by the Board of the Automobile Division for writing the most influential paper published in 2004 on vehicle engineering. In it he explores an alternative method to that currently adopted to control diesel engines for performance in vehicles.

Professor Hawley said that it was very important for the Centre to keep abreast of opportunities in the future. To strengthen the University’s position he said he was about to begin a new and exiting initiative with colleagues in the Department of Electronic and Electrical Engineering to offer a ‘one-stop-shop’ for complete vehicle research and development. The Electromagnetics, Machines and Drives group headed by Professor Dave Rodger will bring expertise in high-speed electric motors and power electronics that will bridge the divide between electrical and mechanical expertise that exists in many other University research groups.