Coventry University targets manufacturers to collaborate on EV development

The head of a £50m state-of-the-art Coventry University research facility is targeting key partners in the automotive sector to collaborate with on high impact research projects worth millions of pounds as the race to electrification gathers pace.

Simon Shepherd has been appointed as the director for the Centre for Advanced Low-Carbon Propulsion Systems (C-ALPS), a Coventry University research initiative established to engage with strategic partners in the automotive industry.

The powertrain systems expert has been given the task of developing capabilities in energy storage, power electronics and electrical machines, as he looks to bring together cutting-edge academic research and commercial expertise to help industry partners accelerate commercialisation of clean technologies.

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C-ALPS is located in a 30,000 sq ft purpose-built hub on Cheetah Way, Coventry, housing some of the most advanced internal combustion and electrification testbed facilities in the UK.

Coventry University Final stages of cell prototyping at C-ALPS facility
Source: Coventry University; Final stages of cell prototyping at C-ALPS facility

The capabilities will be available to original equipment manufacturers, small and medium-sized enterprises in the supply chain and technology partners keen to accelerate the creation of hybrid and electric systems for use across automotive, aerospace, marine and rail sectors.

More than 40 new jobs have been created initially, with a number of apprentices and graduates from Coventry University already appointed.

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Coventry University and founding partner FEV have already invested over £15m into the C-ALPS facility, installing an electronics lab, battery cell prototype line and battery cycling lab alongside FEV’s own state-of-the-art engine test cells.

It will now look to attract next-generation technology projects that help OEMs and the supply chain meet increasing public demand for real-world CO2 reduction through cleaner mobility.

“The race to decarbonised transport is one of the biggest challenges facing the automotive sector right now, as all of the big players try to find increasingly high-tech ways to meet stringent emission targets while ensuring their organisations remain profitable,” explained Shepherd, who is a Chartered Engineer, IMechE Member and Mentor.

Coventry University FEV advanced powertrain test cell
Source: Coventry University; FEV advanced powertrain test cell

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“At the heart of this is how we power the vehicles of the future and how we can move faster towards mass adoption of hybridised and fully electric transport, the billion-dollar question that we are all working frantically to find an answer to that works both environmentally and commercially.”

He continued: “C-ALPS has the potential answer, providing the sector with unique access to the best professors, applied learning, industrial expertise and an e-mobility hub that is packed with the latest testing, development and prototyping capabilities. There is really nothing else like it in the UK.

“Our first eight months have been about recruiting some of the UK’s best academic talent and investing in facilities that include a battery cell prototype and test facility that can produce and characterise cells in many standard automotive pouch and cylindrical formats.”

Coventry University Simon Shepherd
Source: Coventry University; Simon Shepherd

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Shepherd is one of the UK’s leading figures on powertrain systems, boasting over 20 years’ experience in transmissions, control and electronics, electric machine design and vehicle system modelling.

He has significant expertise in technical consultancy and training, leadership and management of multi-disciplined technical teams after holding senior roles at Ricardo and Drive Systems Design.

One of his first tasks at C-ALPS will be to identify key industrial partners and match their needs to the centre’s core priority research areas and capabilities, incubating project ideas that can attract ground transport and aerospace funding from bodies such as Innovate UK.
There will be a specific focus on developing, maturing and commercialising technologies and manufacturing processes around battery energy storage and hydrogen fuel-cells, power electronics, and electrical machines.

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“Our target is to work with partners to secure a number of multi-year research programmes over the next twelve months, which, if successful, could deliver over £20 million of high-impact research,” Shepherd added.

“We have everything in place at C-ALPS, whether that is the academic expertise, the technology or the space to grow in Coventry. The focus now is on exploring partnerships with businesses so we can jointly help industry address and overcome key areas of technology development.”

Coventry University Testing and characterisation of new wide band-gap materials
Source: Coventry University; Testing and characterisation of new wide band-gap materials

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“It is definitely a global outlook we are adopting as we want to go and work with the best companies in the world. Our founding relationship with FEV is a prime example of that and the two of us are already exploring joint projects we can work on together.”

“Both parties will also have the freedom to partner with other organisations and C-ALPS is already making strides with numerous OEMs and a number of international academic institutions, the latter opening up opportunities for collaboration in new markets.”

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