A key part of reducing CO2 emissions from vehicles will be the increased electrification of transport through battery electric vehicles and hybrid vehicles. Most automobile manufacturers are planning or producing hybrid vehicles in various configurations and also investigating plug-in hybrid, full electric and fuel cell vehicles for future use.

An important challenge is to understand how components within such vehicles can be driven at their performance limits without degrading their lifetime or overengineering the vehicle. In order to achieve this, a detailed understanding of the physics of the components is required, plus suitable models which allow for optimised control to ensure maximum utility at minimum cost.

There is a clear need to push components harder, to get more from them by extending perceived envelopes of operation in a controlled and deterministic manner, without creating an over-complex control system requiring excessive calibration. A step change in component performance may be achieved by advanced control coupled with a unified understanding of the fundamental component science, for example as vector-control accomplished for induction machines. Furthermore, the duty cycles and operating environments experienced by components in a vehicle powertrain are significantly more aggressive than those of conventional industrial or consumer applications.

New motor, power-electronics, fuel cell and battery technologies are being created which will need to be understood by vehicle designers from a systems integration perspective. At present, modelling approaches are often inadequate to capture failure and degradation, and are developed in a component-specific piecemeal fashion. Therefore it is essential that a unified modelling approach is developed with the flexibility to accommodate current and future components. Additionally, different models with various degrees of fidelity are required for simulation, control design, diagnosis or prognosis.

The FUTURE Vehicles Project

The FUTURE Vehicles project is structured with three workpackages and three cross-cutting scientific themes as illustrated in the following schematic:

The first work package addresses chemical energy storage and conversion components (batteries, supercapacitors and fuel cells), since these represent a costly and heavy part of FUTURE powertrains. The second work package, which has a similar structure to the first, addresses electrical machines and power electronics. The third work package addresses the integration of control and optimisation.

Research FUTURE Vehicle design and technology

Research challenges

The main research challenges addressed by this project are: (i) understanding the conditions that cause gradual or rapid component degradation, (ii) modelling these conditions and the failure mechanisms with sufficient accuracy for control, prognosis and diagnosis, (iii) structuring such models in a unified way, (iv) simplifying such models to allow efficient computation whilst preserving acceptable accuracy and (v) applying advanced component and high-level control to increase lifetimes, contain faults and extend operating envelopes.

Objectives and outputs

The project will produce the following deliverables: (i) a codified lexicon of validated component models at various fidelities for different uses, (ii) a systematic modelling framework for components and model-based controllers, (iii) a reference implementation of a vehicle powertrain demonstrating all component models plus low level and high level supervisory control systems.