FUTURE Vehicles Conference 2013

Robert Richardson's picture

On the morning of the 15th of January 2013, Japan’s two biggest airlines grounded all their Boeing 787 aircraft after one was forced to make an emergency landing when a lithium-ion battery caught fire. Meanwhile, a group of bright minds from academia and industry were gathered in a conference room in the University of Warwick ready to clash heads on their latest research efforts towards understanding the science behind electrochemical storage technologies.

The gathering was a conference for two major research projects – FUTURE vehicles (‘FUTURE’ = Fundamental Understanding of Technologies for Ultra Reduced Emission) and VESI (Vehicle Electrical Systems Integration). Between them, these projects will develop the tools and techniques necessary to extend the current operating envelopes of reduced emissions vehicles. Oxford is an academic partner in both of these projects, alongside nine other academic institutions (including Loughborough University, Imperial College London (ICL) and Cranfield University) and several industrial partners (including Mercedes AMG, Nissan and Jaguar-Land Rover).

The focus of the morning session was on FUTURE vehicles. After a brief introduction from Professor Rob Thring of Loughborough University, Dr. Greg Offer and Dr. Monica Marinescu of ICL kicked off the presentations with an overview of the Battery and Supercapacitor work package. This work package is being tackled primarily by academics at ICL and the University of Oxford. The lofty aim of this package is none other than to “be defining the state of the art in modelling electrochemical storage devices within the next three years”. In simple English, “modelling electrochemical storage devices”, means creating numerical models which are capable of predicting the electrical and thermal behaviour of batteries and fuel cells. This is not only necessary to optimise the design of these devices, but it is also crucial for monitoring and control. The ability to estimate physical and electrical parameters such as state of charge (SOC), state of health (SOH), and temperature on-board a vehicle is critical. Without careful monitoring, safety issues such as the onset of thermal runaway can arise (as highlighted by the Boeing 787 mishap). For this reason, computationally efficient models, which can predict these parameters in real time, are necessary. Here in the EPG, we (in particular Adrien and Christophe) are also focusing research efforts in this area.

Subsequent morning talks were given by our own Dr. Malcolm McCulloch and Dr. Darren Kavanagh (Power Electronics and Transmission and Electrical Vehicles), and Prof. Francis Assadian of Cranfield University (Reduced Order Modelling and Control Optimisation and Diagnosis). This was followed by a relaxed three course lunch (i.e. frantic networking extravaganza), after which proceedings recommenced in earnest with a number of talks focused on the VESI project. Throughout the day, we also had the opportunity to browse the various posters on display. Rob Camilleri’s poster gave an insight into some of his research on cooling systems for electric motors in small urban vehicles. Other poster topics ranged from modelling of novel self-adjusting cooling systems for electric vehicle components using shape memory alloys (Dr. Xueguan Song of Newcastle University) to investigations into the feasibility of vehicle-to-grid technology (Gareth Haines of the University of Warwick). The merits and demerits of these projects provided excellent fodder for some lively debate between researchers, and between members of our group, much of which continued on our drive back to Oxford later that evening.

This was my first conference as a DPhil student, and it has given me much to chew on with regards to my own research. I also had the chance to engage in this much hyped activity known as ‘networking’, and in the time since the event I have even had the pleasure of showing Dr. Song around our lab in Oxford. Next stop on the conference calendar is Modval10 in Stuttgart in mid-March – sure to be an interesting one! We’ll keep you posted.