New Technologies for Electric Vehicles
Submitting InstitutionUniversity of Sunderland
Unit of AssessmentAeronautical, Mechanical, Chemical and Manufacturing Engineering
Summary Impact TypeTechnological
Research Subject Area(s)
Mathematical Sciences: Applied Mathematics
Chemical Sciences: Physical Chemistry (incl. Structural)
Engineering: Materials Engineering
Summary of the impact
Fundamental work on transmission and power management systems for
electric vehicles has resulted in local and national impact with emerging
international reach. Computer simulation and rig-based prototype modelling
has shown that it is possible to improve overall energy consumption levels
by around 5 to 12 % by using a variable ratio gearbox within an electric
vehicle. A local company, AVID Vehicles Ltd have demonstrated the
potential of this work in the conversion of a Nissan Note supplied by
Nissan Motors UK Ltd into an electric powered car. This, and related, work
on hybrid vehicles has gained international recognition and has been used
as the basis for further developments, including regional impact with
Sunderland Council, and influencing regional strategy.
This research is in the area of simulation for transmission design,
powertrain systems (Mashadi and Crolla, 2012) and power management for
electric vehicles (Hu et al, 2010).
Most research into transmission systems for electric vehicles is based on
investigating the effects of coupling gearboxes to an electric motor in
order to optimise the motor's operation into the most efficient
configuration for speed and load (Crolla et al, 2008). This research set
out to dramatically increase efficiency and range (Elmarakbi et al, 2013).
Early experimental work undertaken by the team used computer simulation
and a laboratory rig (Ren at al, 2010); this work has shown that by using
a CAN controller and software it is possible to use a multi speed gearbox
to dramatically increase efficiency and so range. In particular the work
developed an electric vehicle model and predicted its energy consumption
with a variable and fixed ratio gearbox over a standard driving cycle in
order to understand whether this could offer significant efficiency gains.
The conclusion of this research was that it is possible to improve overall
energy consumption levels with a variable ratio gearbox depending on the
driving cycle used.
Ren's PhD work (2007 - 2010) included the analysis and modelling a twin
epicyclic gearbox; the analysis and modelling of the twin epicyclic system
in a vehicle and a comparison of the results with a single epicyclic
system; and the analysis and modelling of electric vehicles with and
without a transmission system of varying levels of complexity and showed
that there are worthwhile performance benefits from using improved
transmission designs for low carbon vehicles. Simulation results of two
electric vehicle examples confirm that energy consumption benefits are
indeed achievable; of between 7 and 14% depending on the driving cycle.
The approach was extended to model (using a computer and a full scale
prototype rig) the application of an electric motor to the existing
transmission of an electric vehicle. This model was then used to study the
possible efficiencies in each gear. From this work a prototype for a novel
gearbox control system was produced. The approach (Ren et al, 2010) has
created a radically altered perception of how gearboxes should be used
within electric vehicles and is very different from the approach being
pursued by other researchers and manufacturers. Initial modelling of a
traction motor coupled to the 4 speed `automatic manual' transmission has
shown significant benefits can be achieved leading to a reduction in the
traction motor size of up to 25% in some configurations, a reduction in
the battery pack size and weight of up to 10% and a reduction of the
systems operating voltage to 100v which reduces the cost of the battery
management system / control electronics.
The related EcO2Trans project was a collaborative project with Shanghai's
Shen Li High Technology and Avid vehicles which used simulation to design
a power management system for fuel cell and battery powered buses (Hu et
al, 2010). One North East has invested £314,000 to sponsor the ECO2Trans
project, which is converting two electric Gulliver U500EUK buses into
hydrogen vehicles using a fuel cell, battery and capacitor combination.
The University of Sunderland's Institute of Automotive and Manufacturing
Advanced Practice (AMAP) has joined forces with experts from Shanghai's
Shen Li High Technology and Cramlington-based AVID Vehicles to carry out
the work. Alongside this the team have been exploring the use of hydrogen
as an alternative fuel source for vehicles, in collaboration with Nissan
and with Sunderland City Council.
Staff involved in the research: Adrian Morris (Head of AMAP,
Institute for Automotive and Manufacturing Advanced Practice, 1994 —
present), Dr. Qinglian Ren (PhD student, 2007 - 2010, graduated and now
employed at Changan UK), Prof. Dave Crolla (Visiting Professor at
University of Sunderland; 2004 until he sadly passed away in 2011);
Professor Ahmed Elmarakbi (Professor, 2007 — present), Dr David Baglee
(Senior Lecturer, 2000 — present), Dr Mike Knowles (Senior Lecturer, 2007
— present), Dirk Kok (Research Assistant, 2003 — present).
References to the research
1. Elmarakbi, A., Ren, Q., Trimble, R. and Elkady, M. (2013) "Performance
Analysis of Hybrid and Full Electrical Vehicles Equipped with Continuously
Variable Transmissions" Advances in Automobile Engineering, 2 (1),
1-8, Paper No. 1000103. This paper presents the results of the
research on the use of variable transmissions within an electric
vehicle, the impact that this can have on range, and power consumption,
and the reduction of carbon emissions.
2. Knowles, M., Baglee, D., Morris, A. and Ren, Q. (2012) "The
State of the Art in Fuel Cell Condition Monitoring and Maintenance" World
Electric Vehicle Journal, 4, 487-494. This paper reviews the
state of the art of fuel cells as a power source.
3. Mashadi, B. and Crolla, D. (2012) "Vehicle Powertrain Systems"
Wiley, ISBN: 978-0-470-66602-9. This research text presents a series
of chapters which represent the state of the art in powertrain system
design and manufacture.
4. Hu, Z., Ren, Q., Crolla, D., Morris, A., Kok, D. and Hu, M. (2010)
"Design and Implementation of Power Management System for Fuel Cell and
Battery Powered Buses" The 25th World
Battery, Hybrid and Fuel Cell Electric Vehicle Symposium EVS-25,
Shenzhen, China, Nov. 5-9, 2010. This paper presents the results
of work on the use of alternative power sources for electric vehicles.
5. Ren, Q., Crolla, D. A., & Morris, A. (2010) "The effect of
Transmission Design on Electric Vehicle (EV) Performance" Journal of
Energy and Power Engineering, 4(3), 46-51. This paper presents
the work developed during Ren's PhD.
6. Crolla, D. A., Ren, Q., ElDemerdash, S. and Yu, F. (2008) "Controller
design for hybrid vehicles—state of the art review" Vehicle Power and
Propulsion Conference, 2008. VPPC'08. IEEE (pp. 1-6). IEEE. This
paper reviews the state of the art on controller design within hybrid
The ECO2Trans project was supported by £314,000 funding from One North
Papers 1, 2 and 5 are representative of the quality of the work of the
group, and cover work on transmission design and alternative power
Details of the impact
This research has enabled a demonstration vehicle to be built which
verifies the theoretical model with actual test data, and has established
the cost/benefit ratios which can be gained. Batteries are very heavy and
expensive, so the smaller the battery packs the better. The impact comes
from the manufacture of CAN control systems that maximise the efficiency
of an electric vehicle Driveline considering electric motor and battery
pack characteristics. The research aimed to model, and develop, a novel
ultra-high efficient gearbox control system for electric vehicles. The
project has been developed by the University of Sunderland and Avid
vehicles at Cramlington, UK. The research has produced technology with a
market lead, which achieves additional efficiency and range that cannot be
matched by competitors. The resultant product will be manufactured in the
North East by Avid, their partners and sub-contractors. The estimated
timeframe for introduction to the market is early to mid-2014 (Evidence
The University was invited by the North East Local Enterprise Partnership
(NELEP) (in 2012/13) to produce a report to inform the Lord Andrew
Adonis-led Independent Economic Review: "Analysis of Barriers to Growth in
Key Manufacturing Sectors in the North East Region". The University was
approached because of its research expertise as outlined above. This
report (Evidence 2) "made a significant impact on the Independent Economic
Review process". It was presented to a conference of senior
representatives including the Adonis Review Team, Leaders of local
authorities and business leaders. The report was then used by the review
team to inform their recommendations to grow the North East's economy. The
piece of work produced by Sunderland (in early 2013, Evidence 2) "will be
critical in informing strategy going forward. This will be reflected in
the European Investment Plan that NELEP is preparing, and also in the
Local Growth Plan that each Local Enterprise Partnership has been asked to
produce by Central Government".
In 2012 the University, in conjunction with The Energy and Environmental
Industries Forum (EEIF), held a conference: "Low Carbon Vehicles And Their
Role in the Low Carbon Economy" (Evidence 3) which presented the
"pioneering technology being developed in the region".
A programme is underway (2012) to investigate the use of a range of
conventional and low carbon vehicles in the fleets of the University of
Sunderland and Sunderland City Council including hybrid buses and electric
cars (Evidence 4). Cost effective strategies for carbon reduction are
being developed with low-Cost tracking units being used to record the
operations of a number of vehicles. Software developed by the university
will analyse the use of the vehicles and determine best options for carbon
minimisation by identifying options for new charging locations, different
power trains and improved scheduling. The outcome of the project will be a
strategy for reducing carbon emissions along with a set of tools to allow
on-going improvement in changing circumstances. The University has played
a major role in the development of the Sunderland Strategy on Low Carbon
Vehicles, which has concluded that "the use of low-carbon vehicles would
positively impact the city environmentally, financially and economically"
and that "the council should consider implementing targets to adopt
electric cars into its fleet" (Evidence 4).
Work on hydrogen cells, in the ECO2Trans project (2009 - 2011) was
evaluated in two hydrogen buses which were tested on the streets of
Sunderland. Work with Nissan adapted a Nissan Almera (2008) to run from
hydrogen fuel cells. This research has resulted in a start-up company (in
2011) which is developing a system to extend how far electric vehicles can
travel, making them more commercially viable. North East firm Inova Power
has teamed up with the University of Sunderland to commercialise the
breakthrough, which extracts hydrogen from water to power vehicles
Professor Dave Crolla was part of a team of British engineers working on
the Bloodhound Supersonic Car (SSC) project (Evidence 6), which was
described as a "great British engineering adventure" by the Government.
The team was designing a car powered by a Eurofighter Typhoon jet engine
and hybrid rocket that will be capable of about 1,050 mph - twice the
speed of a bullet fired from a handgun. It is expected the car will be
able to accelerate from 0 to 1,050mph in only 40 seconds.
Sources to corroborate the impact
- Contact details of CEO of Avid Vehicles will be given for
- Statement from Economic Strategy Manager, North East Local Enterprise
Partnership, available on request. The report can be found at:
The report examines the current state of play in the automotive and low
carbon sectors in the North East.
- Low Carbon conference held at University of Sunderland (2012):
This conference evidences the key role that the Sunderland team have
within the regional local carbon strategy, and the importance of the
research developments of the team.
- Work with Sunderland City Council on low carbon vehicles within the
city (2012). This press coverage presents a University of Sunderland /
Sunderland City Council programme to investigate the use of a range of
low carbon vehicles within the city.
The Sunderland Strategy on Low Carbon Vehicles can be found here:
- The use of Hydrogen fuel cells as alternative power source This press
coverage demonstrates the work of the ECO2Trans Project which is
exploring the use of hydrogen fuel cells within buses in collaboration
with Shen Li High Technology, China (2009):
This press coverage demonstrates work with Nissan on hyrdrogen as a
power source (2008):
This press articles provide evidence of the Sunderland team's work on
alternative power sources, particularly the use of hydrogen fuel cells.
The work has resulted in the establishment of a company to commercialise
the research (2011):
- Press coverage demonstrating Prof Crolla's impact on the Bloodhound