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APC identifies four lightweighting technologies to help UK reach its net zero targets

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The Advanced Propulsion Centre (APC) has identified four lightweighting and aerodynamics technologies which it believes will help the UK reach its net zero carbon targets faster.
APC identifies four lightweighting technologies to help UK reach its net zero targets
Courtesy of Advanced Propulsion Centre (APC)

As part of its recently announced £1 million investment in 14 micro, small and medium sized businesses, the APC has identified grapheme and aerodynamics among technologies to secure funding ahead of the UK’s net zero carbon target. The funding comes as part of the APC’s Technology Developer Accelerator Programme (TDAP) and will support companies in the application of the ‘wonder material’ graphene discovered at the University of Manchester, an innovative integrated wiring loom and electrical system design, a reinvention of the traditional wheel using technology previously developed for use in wheelchairs and  a revolutionary new take on the electric motorcycle taking learnings from the aerodynamics and ultra-high performance set-up used in Formula 1.

As the universal route to improved vehicle efficiency, lightweighting was highlighted in the Automotive Council Roadmaps as one of the key areas for technological advancement in order to achieve a low-carbon future. In addition to this, in recent years we have seen car manufacturers race to improve their drag efficiency and this principle is now being applied to other areas of vehicle development. With the rapid increase in the production of electric vehicles, the need for reduced weight and improved aerodynamics is even more pronounced as a typical electric vehicle passenger car is over 30% heavier than the equivalent internal combustion engine model.

“Increasing vehicle weight as a result of electrified powertrains has highlighted the pressing need for intense research into ways manufacturers can reduce overall vehicle mass and aerodynamic resistance” said Josh Denne, TDAP Manager. “There are a number of ways lightweighting can be achieved through design tools, improvements in materials and more efficient manufacturing processes. The four projects to receive funding from our fourth wave of TDAP are all developing innovative solutions to this problem and we are excited to see how they progress.”

The four projects are:

Functional Structures:

Founded in 2019, Functional Structures is commercialising innovative digital and flexible manufacturing technology. With its TDAP funding, it will be developing the 3DP-Harness - a manufacturing process and software toolchain that enables the digital, flexible assembly of wiring using robotics and additive manufacturing technologies. With the ability to use just in time manufacturing in small or large batches, this technology re-imagines a harness or electrical / electronic device with wires, sensors and PCBs distributed throughout the device.

For Functional Structures, TDAP is all about the accelerator process. With a technology that has the potential for a variety of applications, using an accelerator focused purely on the automotive sector really focuses its attention. Todd Williams, founder of Functional Structures, explains: “For Functional Structures, the alignment with TDAP is perfect; the experts within the programme are ideal to help us hone our offering and make the technology suitable for the automotive industry. It’s exciting to be starting with such a group of energised and supportive people.”

2DTech:

2DTech specialises in the supply of graphene products and the transfer of fundamental science to applied technology. Its product offerings are capable of having a game-changing impact in a broad variety of industry sectors.

A spin out from the University of Manchester, 2DTech has already proven its patented processes for the production and modification of 2D materials with applications for the rail industry. Through TDAP it hopes to demonstrate how its graphene enhanced Carbon Fibre Reinforced Composite can be used for light weighting applications in the automotive sector.

“Our focus in 2020 is to build further collaborations to demonstrate how our graphene enhanced Carbon Fibre Reinforced Composite can be used for light weighting applications” said Daniel Smith, Head of Production Development. “This is why TDAP is ideal for us to work collaboratively with APC, end users, automotive industry suppliers and manufacturers to develop a demonstrator of our technology. The team at the APC are extremely supportive and knowledgeable and we are excited to develop our applications in the automotive sector with their help.”

Sam Pearce Design:

Sam Pearce Design is developing the use of its innovative in-wheel suspension in order to make a significant improvement in the light weighting of electric vehicles. With technology that has previously been used for wheelchairs, it is using the TDAP process to identify the best market for its technology in the automotive sector. By placing the suspension inside the wheel, the technology not only reduces vehicle weight by using fewer components but also offers benefits in reduced vibration and noise isolation, thus providing a smoother and more pleasant ride.

Sam Pearce is well-versed in using in-wheel suspension technology for the benefit of wheelchair users through his company Loopwheels, and now TDAP opens a variety of new doors in the automotive sector. Gemma Pearce, Managing Director, says: “We are really excited to showcase how our innovative technology can be successfully reapplied for use in electric wheels for the automotive industry. Whilst we consider ourselves experts in the wheelchair sector, the automotive one is completely new to us. The support and expertise we gain from TDAP is vast, it feels like we’ve instantly expanded our team with the most knowledgeable, creative and insightful people in the sector. Frankly, it’s an invaluable offering and we are looking forward to identifying new market opportunities with our new support network.”

White Motorcycle Concepts:

With a proven prototype already under its belt, White Motorcycle Concepts is using its TDAP funding to precisely understand how to move towards a market-ready solution utilising their revolutionary aerodynamic motorcycle technology, that can deliver up to twice the mileage for the same electric charge than the current market equivalent. With an engineering background, founder Rob White explains how TDAP is helping develop the concept: “For White Motorcycle Concepts, TDAP offers a wealth of commercial knowledge. For us, this process is all about taking our proven concept and making it market viable. Through TDAP we are able to access a network of resource that would otherwise be impossible for a small start-up organisation.”

For additional information:

Advanced Propulsion Centre (APC)

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