Launch of Machines Spoke for the Advanced Propulsion Centre

by Chris Riley and Nikhil Sawant

12 October, Newcastle University

The Advanced Propulsion Centre (APC) is a 10 year, £1 billion commitment between the UK Government and the automotive industry to make Britain a centre for the development and production of low carbon vehicles (LCVs). APC is a private limited company created by innovators and production groups in LCV and its role is to enable successful collaborations leading to products that are brought to market.

A part of its strategy to achieve this is to develop “Spokes” for key technology areas to which UK academia and industry can contribute. Six of these exist so far, covering areas including Power Electronics, Electrical Energy Storage, Digital Engineering & Test, Internal Combustion Engines and, the focus of the launch in Newcastle, Electrical Machines. Each Spoke is managed by one of the UK’s leading research groups in that particular discipline. Newcastle University had been selected in a competitive bid and the purpose of the day was to set the scene for machines technology, so that delegates could see how their organization could be involved.

The meeting was opened by James Widmer, the Director of the Spoke at Newcastle, followed by Ian Constance, Chief Executive of APC. The morning’s speakers addressed the theme of “Where Are We Today?” and included David Latimer of Magnomatics covering the Valley of Death – the difficulty of getting great ideas from prototype to pre-production, Mike O’Neil of ZF TRW talking on volume manufacture and the solutions a Tier 1 supplier company must find to economically make a million motors per year and Alex Michaelides of JLR discussing electrical machines technologies and requirements from an OEM viewpoint.

Lunchtime gave an opportunity for networking, visiting exhibits by some of the leading UK groups in the machines world and in other technologies, touring the laboratories at the University and examining some demonstrator vehicles.

Not surprisingly, the afternoon theme was “Where Are We Going?”. Gary Wilson of APC kicked things off talking about capabilities and opportunities for the supply chain, Alan Walton of Birmingham University and current Chair of UK Magnetics Society along with Phil Anderson of Cardiff University provided their thoughts on where permanent magnet and soft magnetic materials needed R&D and Peter Malkin from Newcastle University gave a thought provoking talk on how the aerospace industry is also looking to replace conventional propulsion technology with electrical machines.

The meeting wound up with a panel discussion by academics from the UK’s leading machines groups and a UK motor specialist discussing the merits of different types of electric machines for traction. Induction, switched reluctance, brushless (using both rare earth and ferrite magnets) and synchronous motors were all covered, although no firm conclusion was reached. In the open discussion, Ed Spooner, a leading UK authority on machines, suggested that DC motors also ought to be considered due to their simplistic control requirements.

The strength of the UK in this technology area can be gauged by the attendance at the meeting – at least 200 people were there. Both Nikhil Sawant and Chris Riley had the opportunity to make new contacts, as well as renew many previous acquaintances. It was good to see so many organizations represented that use Opera FEA in machine design, and we look forward to the opportunity to work with the Spoke and other partners in further developing the software to meet future requirements.