With the deadline of 2020 for the UK’s carbon targets looming, immediate action is required to address the emissions generated from vehicle use. While many alternatives to fossil fuels are being explored, engineers from the Department of Mechanical Engineering say these will not be ready to contribute to 2020 targets.

Dr Chris Brace, a leading automotive researcher from the Powertrain and Vehicle Research Centre, said: “Key technologies aimed at reducing carbon emissions from transportation are hydrogen fuel cells, electric vehicles and biofuels. Unfortunately none of these alternatives are ready to replace our reliance on fossil fuels for mass market vehicles in the near future.

“At current rates of progress it is inconceivable that these technologies will displace fossil fuels by 2020. We must therefore focus clearly on improving the technology already used in mass market, fossil fuel burning vehicles.”

To do this, the new centre aims to develop new downsizing technologies that can be applied to both petrol and diesel engines, allowing them to reduce fuel consumption while still giving the performance of a large engine.

The centre is carrying out its work in collaboration with the UK’s leading vehicle manufacturers, Ford and Jaguar Land Rover, as well as turbocharger manufacturer Cummins Turbo Technologies.

Future legislation demands vehicle carbon reduction, and consequently vehicle manufacturers are investing significantly in research and development in this area. Downsizing is a key part of this approach, and totally aligned with the objectives of this project.

Dr Brace said: “By incorporating turbocharging into smaller engines, we can maintain power while significantly decreasing the size of the engine and the amount of fuel required to run it.

“Working with leading vehicle manufacturers is essential to the knowledge transfer of this project - by improving the relationship between research and end users we hope to accelerate the uptake of downsizing technologies.”

The research will be carried out primarily through the new Turbo Centre in Bath, with additional work taking place through the project partners.

Professor Gary Hawley, Dean of the Faculty of Engineering & Design and an investigator on this project, said: “The funding received for this project through the Knowledge Transfer Account will allow us to expand on the Faculty’s already highly acclaimed automotive research.

“We already have a Powertrain and Vehicle Research Centre which has the most advanced experimental facilities in the field to be found in a University sector in the UK. This project offers us the opportunity to build on this and to establish a new centre of expertise that we hope, with time, will become internationally recognised for its research into turbocharged engines.”

The project is funded by the three industrial partners, with match funding from the University’s Knowledge Transfer Account (supported by the EPSRC). The project will be completed in January 2013.