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Industry collaboration brings low-carbon engines to mass markets

Alongside Ashwoods Automotive, University of Bath researchers have developed a mass-market ready low-carbon diesel hybrid engine.


Ashwoods Automotive offer hybrid systems for light commercial vehicles.

Fitted to front or rear-wheel drive diesel vans, their systems have been proven to reduce carbon dioxide emissions and fuel costs.

In 2010, while still a relatively small company, Ashwoods lacked the resources to get the most out of their technology at a price that was suitable for mass-market production.

They hoped that through working with the University's Powertrain and Vehicle Research Centre, they could reduce costs while maintaining the system’s carbon dioxide reducing qualities.

Collaborating with academia wasn’t our first choice, but what quickly became apparent from our first meeting was the extent of the resources the University of Bath had.

Not only do they have extreme depth and breadth of expertise and capabilities, but also access to tools and machinery that many other businesses don’t have. And then the University of Bath demonstrated they were willing to take a commercial view on development as well. 

Mark Roberts, Ashwoods Automotive Limited


A joint project team - funded by an EPSRC Knowledge Transfer Account - took expertise in powertrain systems and carbon dioxide reduction already developed at the University and combined it with Ashwood's hybrid product and design expertise.

The University helped Ashwoods build a control strategy that could take take their system and get the most out of it in a real-world situation - to offer a very good cost/benefit ratio.

The project team has also developed a driver training device that assesses how 'aggressive' a driver is being and gives them feedback they can use to improve their fuel efficiency.

How hybrid engines work

A typical hybrid vehicle has two means of propulsion - usually an internal combustion engine and an electric motor, powered by a battery pack.

Every time a vehicle decelerates and stops it wastes energy in the brakes, turning it into heat.

Hybrid systems capture some of that energy, store it in the battery and then re-use it to supply power when accelerating the next time, reducing the amount of fuel the vehicle consumes.

Benefits and outcome

As a result of this project, a hybrid system suitable for the mass-market was established and is now being sold by Ashwoods.

The benefits provided by this new system include:

  • lower carbon dioxide emissions
  • cheaper to produce
  • requires less fuel.

The newly developed motor has the best cost-to-performance ratio of any competing product.

In addition, the driver training device has demonstrated significant fuel consumption benefits in fleet trials (over 10% in some cases) and is now sold as a stand-alone product - in large volumes, to some of the largest fleets in the country.


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