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Innovate UK funding helps Magnomatics attract interest from major vehicle manufacturers in fuel-efficient magnetic power transmission.

Innovate UK funding helps Magnomatics attract interest from major vehicle manufacturers in fuel-efficient magnetic power transmission.

25 Aug 2015: 

A gearbox without gears is about as innovative as it gets, especially when there is no physical contact between the moving parts.

But that is what Magnomatics is offering its customers, along with significant fuel savings.

The company originated as a spin-out from Sheffield University in 2006. Backed by £4.5 million of venture capital investment and with support from Innovate UK through the Low Carbon Vehicles Innovation Platform and funding competitions, it has expanded to 28 staff, including 7 PhDs, with aspirations to further growth.

Cross-sector revenue

Revenue is primarily from customers interested in applying Magnomatics technology to road or rail, oil and gas installations, aerospace, marine and renewable energy. That involves initial studies and then taking the project all the way through to manufacturing and delivering tested prototypes.

So what began as a laboratory-focused venture has evolved into a far more hard-headed commercial business, as product manager David Black explains:

We were originally a group of electrical machine researchers but now we have manufacturing expertise in-house, production and product launch experience.

Innovate UK has taught us a good lesson about asking hard questions of customers. We don’t really have the time or resources to spend on inquiries from people purely interested in the technology, above those with a genuine need to get to market rapidly.

Hybrid drive systems

Vehicle manufacturers are now more willing to embrace the notion of hybrid drive systems for vehicles and especially something as innovative asMagsplit®, Magnomatics’ contactless, frictionless, gearbox.

Magsplit acts as a magnetic coupling within a hybrid powertrain, sitting in exactly the same place as a gearbox. As a continuously variable transmission it offers a very wide range of gear ratios. It means the engine can operate at peak efficiency.

Magnomatics has developed the device through a project with Ford Motor Company in a 2-year collaborative R&D and then further collaboration with Volvo Group. Magnomatics is receiving a further £360,000 grant, together with a £100,000 Smart award, to ensure that Magsplit can be manufactured on a production line.

There is now the very real prospect of Magsplit going into low-rate production in one of its target markets of marine, rail, wind turbines or automotive.

Manufacturing base in the offing

The company is looking to establish production for Magsplit and another promising patented product Pseudo Direct Drive (PDD®) which has also been supported by Innovate UK.

“We are committed to starting up a manufacturing base in the UK, collaborating with The Proving Factory in Coventry on production volumes of up to 20,000 pieces a year initially. That’s where most hybrid volumes would be for trucks or passenger vehicles. Beyond that, we might pass responsibility for manufacture on to tier 1 manufacturers or the larger tier 2 suppliers.

He added: “The market is coming to the product now. When we started out, the system was a very daunting prospect to an OEM thinking about integrating it into a vehicle design. But now they are pre-packaging them on the vehicle. It’s a lot more palatable as an option.”

According to David, the key benefits in gaining support from Innovate UK went beyond subsidising the investment risk:

That did make the difference between Volvo Group trying our technology or not. It wouldn’t have happened without that support. But the opportunity to collaborate at that close technical level with major OEMs like Ford has made us the company we are today. Where the support from Innovate UK was so important was in turning mere interest into ‘Yes, we want to work with you’.

See other businesses that have gone on to become successful through Innovate UK support

Learn more about about the best of British automotive innovation at CENEX LCV 2015. This year’s show is convening the UK’s next generation of low carbon, intelligent vehicles and the British-based technology bringing them to life.

August newsletter

August newsletter

20 Aug 2015: 

August's edition of the TRIP monthly newsletter has now been published:

Submit your project to TRIP

Submit your project to TRIP

20 Aug 2015: 

The Transport Research and Innovation Portal is home to information on over 7,700 transport research projects with over 10,000 active users each month. There has never been a better time to submit your project description to TRIP and increase awareness of your work among Europe's policy-makers and researchers.

In addition to being part of a rich library of Europe's transport research and having your work available to 10,000 active users each month, TRIP also provides dissemination opportunities. Each month TRIP issues its newsletter, summarising new research results, upcoming events and relevant news stories. Submit your project to TRIP to have the opportunity to feature in the newsletter and send your work out to thousands inboxes in TRIP's mailing list. Email the TRIP helpdesk to see what other dissemination opportunities are coming up to raise awareness of your work.

TRIP also shares information on new transport research via its LinkedIn page and DG Move's Twitter account - with an audience of over 20,000 followers. Submit your research today to reach policy-makers and researchers across Europe and help to make future decisions and research more impactful and effective.

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Contribute to the TRIP’s cooperative intelligent transport systems report

Contribute to the TRIP’s cooperative intelligent transport systems report

17 Aug 2015: 

TRIP’s second research theme analysis report is due to be published in Spring 2016 and will cover cooperative intelligent transport systems. To have your research considered as part of the analysis, make sure your project is submitted to TRIP in advance of 9 October deadline.

Submit project

European Mobility Week Thematic Guidelines explore ways to promote multimodality

European Mobility Week Thematic Guidelines explore ways to promote multimodality

7 Aug 2015: 

The Thematic Guidelines for the 2015 edition of European Mobility Week (EMW) are now online, providing a detailed overview of this year’s theme of multimodality and the call to action “Choose. Change. Combine.” The guidelines are an essential starting point for planning a city’s EMW activities.

The necessary background information to embrace this year’s theme is provided, with related mobility concepts explained. Examples and case studies of ways that cities can encourage the use of different modes of mobility, from cycling, to walking, to public transport, are included in the guidelines, as well as suggestions for how cities can plan and get the most from their Mobility Week.

At its most basic, multimodality encourages people to think about the range of transport options available and to choose the right mode when travelling. Through doing so, they can save money, improve their health and help the environment.

To download the Thematic Guidelines, visit the EMW Resources page.Image copyright: New bike path in Tivoli Park (photo on Flickr) by "City of Ljubljana", licensed un

City transport needs saving from itself – here’s how to do it

City transport needs saving from itself – here’s how to do it

7 Aug 2015: 

Cities are growing rapidly. According to UN estimates, the world’s urban population grows by two people every second, 7,200 every hour. This means that within two decades, nearly 60% of the world’s population – five billion people – will be city dwellers. In Europe, this figure is already higher – four out of five people (80%) live in cities.

Rapid urbanisation comes with a series of challenges and opportunities for cities. For example, urban areas are responsible for 70% of greenhouse gas emissions and consume three-quarters of the world’s resources. But there are ways cities can address these and other challenges in an integrated way providing safety, security, good quality of life and environmental sustainability.

To do this we must make cities “smart”, by using computer systems and the internet to better balance demand for things like energy, transport and waste management with secure and reliable supply. This will increase the resilience of our infrastructure to both man-made and natural disasters, and reduces cities’ ecological footprint.

Cars as batteries

Already cities are electrifying their mobility services, with electric cars gaining popularity alongside the electrification of rail networks, trams and bus routes. This reduces transport emissions – a major cause of air pollution in cities, but which also has an impact on the grid. The challenge is to integrate them.

Some smart phone apps already do this in a way, allowing drivers to schedule the charging of their electric vehicles (EVs) at night when electricity is cheaper. But through smart grid technologies, cities are moving towards dynamic demand responsive charging, where EVs are automatically charged at times when electricity demand is lowest or when excess renewable energy is available. Smart grids can match charging patterns to the intermittency of renewables such as wind and solar.

Ultimately, EVs could be used as a back-up power supply for our homes during peak times or in emergencies. What’s more, old EV batteries could be reused as back-up to meet short-term peak demand in other systems – for example anaerobic digesters (which break down organic waste to produce biogas) or other energy technologies that otherwise would require costly upgrades to connect to the grid.

Complex intelligence needed Gaellery/flickr, CC BY-NC-ND

Many cities are grid-locked and are struggling to address congestion on their roads and rail networks. To increase capacity, we have a choice between expanding our existing infrastructure, or to use it more intelligently. Instead of infrastructure upgrades that take decades to plan, smart cities use high-speed internet access and sensors to inform, manage, and nudge individuals and freight operators to optimise their journeys.

A trial from the EU-funded Compass4D project equipped key routes in seven EU cities with intelligent traffic lights that provide speed advice to drivers that cross them. This allows the drivers to receive information on a sat nav on how fast to drive in order to get through a series of green traffic lights. It reduces fuel consumption and helps the driver adopt an eco-driving style, reducing emissions in congested urban areas. Early results from the trial show that the use of Compass4D yielded improvements in average journey times, speeds, time spent stationary and power consumption.

Smarter traffic control

The same technology can be used to give priority at intersections for certain vehicle types, such as emergency vehicles to allow them to reach an incident more quickly. Similarly, delayed buses could be given priority at smart intersections, making public transport more reliable and attractive to commuters. Estimates have shown that implementing this technology along all bus priority routes in the northeast of England (approximately 65km of road) would cost the same as laying 200 metres of new asphalt.

Ultimately, this technology could be used to better manage the movement of freight vehicles within urban areas. Trucks could be platooned together and drive autonomously in a convoy or they could be given priority on roads designated as freight corridors, making logistics operations both more energy efficient and reliable.

There are a wide variety of benefits to smart cities but to take full advantage of them they need to be tested at scale and within different contexts as not all cities are the same. They require thinking differently about how we live in cities and improving our understanding of the interaction between cities’ energy, water, transport, waste and digital control systems.

Smart cities are not without risks. The scale and complexity of these urban networks coupled with their ever growing interdependencies could also potentially increase vulnerabilities to climate change and terrorist threats. But the opportunities for managing cities in a more efficient and cost-effective manner are simply too great to not be taken up.

Low emission vehicle innovation sought with £40m funding

Low emission vehicle innovation sought with £40m funding

4 Aug 2015: 

Two £20 million government-backed funding schemes to help foster the design of lighter vehicles and emissions-reduction technology will open to entries in August and September.

The two competitions represent a total of £40m funding for low emission technologies

Both funding competitions are aimed at UK businesses and are being run by the government’s technology strategy board – Innovate UK – and the Office for Low Emission Vehicles (OLEV).

The first of the two schemes to launch will see £20 million invested in research and development projects aimed at significantly reducing the mass of road-going vehicles in order to cut fuel-use and emissions.

Innovate UK said it aimed to “bring together and develop the best UK supply chain capability and expertise in the areas of advanced lightweight materials, as well as system and sub-system redesign and innovation, to make significant and necessary leaps in road vehicle weight reduction in order to reduce CO2 and other emissions”.

Successful projects through the lightweight vehicle design scheme are expected to range in size from total costs of £2-5 million and to last between 18 and 36 months, although projects outside these ranges may also be considered.

According to Innovate UK, small businesses could receive up to 70% of their eligible project costs, medium-sized businesses 60% and large businesses 50%. Successful projects will also have the opportunity for follow-up support via the recently-opened Advanced Propulsion Centre to further develop products towards commercialisation (see story).

Competition rules state that proposals must be collaborative and led by a UK-based business organisation, with funding aimed at mainly industrial research activity. Consortia must include at least one vehicle manufacturer or Tier 1 supplier.

The two-stage competition will open for applications later this month on August 24. The deadline for registrations will then fall on October 7 2015, before the final deadline for applications on 14 October at noon.

Applicants will be informed as to whether they have reached the second stage of the competition by November 13, with an interview panel for those reaching the second stage taking place during the week commencing January 26 2016.

Technology competition

Meanwhile, applications also open on September 7 2015 for another £20 million competition, with funding aimed at feasibility studies and collaborative research and development projects to encourage technology to deliver “significant reductions in CO2 and other emissions” from road vehicles.

Proposals are being sought which focus on one or more of the following:

  • electric machines and power electronics
  • energy storage and energy management
  • lightweight vehicle and powertrain structures
  • internal combustion engines
  • highly disruptive technologies which will significantly accelerate the reduction of CO2 and other emissions beyond the route achieved through standard product development projects

For the technical feasibility study, proposals must be business-led and may be collaborative or from an individual company. Total project costs for the feasibility study are expected up to £250,000, although projects outside this range may be considered.

Collaborative research and development proposals, on the other hand, must be both collaborative and business-led, with projects sought in the region of £500,000 to £3 million, although other sizes may be considered.

Again, it is expected that successful projects will be in a position to apply to an Advanced Propulsion Centre-supported competition.

After the competition opens on September 7, the subsequent deadline for registration is at noon on 21 October 2015, while the deadline for applications is at noon on 28 October 2015.

According to Innovate UK:

“The automotive sector has made great progress recently in reducing the carbon emissions from its vehicles and achieved its regulatory targets two years early. However, significant challenges remain, with targets for 2020 and beyond being discussed across the European Union. Meeting these targets demands an even greater level of innovation in technology, energy sources and vehicle uses.”

A briefing and consortium-building event for potential applicants to both £20 million schemes is also being held in Droitwich Spa in Worcestershire on September 3 2015.

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