A new virtual Centre of Excellence, funded under the EPSRC’s ‘Prosperity Partnership’ scheme, aims to accelerate the UK’s transition to zero-emission transport, in line with the UK government’s ‘Road to Zero’ strategy.

The Centre of Excellence for Hybrid Thermal Propulsion Systems, combines the engineering, measurement, and numerical modelling capabilities of the Universities of Bath and Oxford with the industry expertise and manufacturing resources of Jaguar Land Rover and the software development experience of Siemens Digital Industries.

The five-year partnership project, which starts 1st January 2020, will develop world-leading design capability for hybrid propulsion systems – thereby accelerating the development of this essential technology on the ‘Road to Zero’.  The partnership’s overriding ambition is to develop a thermal propulsion system that, when combined with a matched hybrid energy recovery system, will be capable of powering electric vehicles from a liquid fuel at an equivalent or lower economic and environmental cost than if they were to be charged directly from the current EU average grid.

The research aims to provide UK motorists with access to highly efficient and more affordable electrified vehicles able to operate at zero emissions within urban environments, significantly enhancing inner-city air quality, while at the same time delivering lower fuel bills and reducing CO2 emissions.

Professor Sam Akehurst, Professor of Advanced Powertrain Systems and Principal Investigator at the University of Bath, said: “This is an excellent collaboration between Oxford and Bath, bringing together synergistic skills in fundamental combustion processes from Oxford and Bath’s expertise in systems-level optimisation. This is a highly challenging research programme, pushing the limits of thermal propulsion system technology and systems modelling techniques.

“This will be one of the first projects to utilise the state of the art research facilities of our Institute for Advance Automotive Propulsion Systems (IAAPS), a £70M investment on the Bristol and Bath Science Park, opening in early 2021.”

 Professor Martin Davy,Principal Investigator and Associate Professor of Engineering Science at the University of Oxford, added: “This project will firmly establish UK industry and UK academia as world-leaders in hybrid thermal propulsion system science and technology. The core research activities of the academic teams at Oxford and Bath are highly complementary and together we are extremely well-equipped to develop and test these new technologies in a virtual framework. Our combined expertise and our established relationships with the industry partners provide a solid foundation for an effective collaboration”.

The ‘Road to Zero’ strategy is part of the UK government’s ambition to see at least half of new cars be ultra-low emission by 2030, enable a massive expansion of green infrastructure across the country and reduce emissions from vehicles already on the UK’s roads.

The University of Bath is currently constructing the automotive propulsion research facility that will form a key part of IAAPS at the Bristol & Bath Science Park, near Bristol. The £70 million facility is scheduled to open in 2021.