EPSRC Centre for Doctoral Training for Sustainable Electric Propulsion (CDT SEP)

Lead Research Organisation: Newcastle University
Department Name: Sch of Engineering

Abstract

Over the next twenty years, the automotive and aerospace sector will undergo a fundamental revolution in propulsion technology. The automotive sector will rapidly move away from petrol and diesel engine powered cars towards fully electric propelled vehicles whilst planes will move away from pure kerosene powered jet engines to hybrid-electric propulsion. The automotive and aerospace industry has worked for the last two decades on developing electric propulsion research but development investment from industry and governments was low until recently, due to lag of legislation to significantly reduce greenhouse gases. Since the ratification of the 2016 Paris Agreement, which aims to keep global temperature rise this century well below 2 degrees Celsius, governments of industrial developed nations have now legislated to ban new combustion powered vehicles (by 2040 in the UK and France, by 2030 in Germany and similar legislation is expected soon in China). The implementation of this ban will see a sharp rise of the global electric vehicle market to 7.5 million by 2020 with exponential growth. In the aerospace sector, Airbus, Siemens and Rolls-Royce have announced a 100-seater hybrid-electric aircraft to be launched by 2030 following successful tests of 2 seater electric powered planes. Other American and European aerospace industries such as Boeing and General Electric must also prepare for this fundamental shift in propulsion technology.

Every electric car and every hybrid-electric plane needs an electric drive (propulsion) system, which typically comprises a motor and the electronics that controls the flow of energy to the motor. In order to make this a cost-effective reality, the cost of electric drives must be halved and their size and weight must be reduced by up to 500% compared to today's drive systems. These targets can only be achieved by radical integration of these two sub-systems that form an electric drive: the electric motor and the power electronics (capacitors, inductors and semiconductor switches). These are currently built as two independent systems and the fusion of both creates new interactions and physical phenomena between power electronics components and the electric motor. For example, all power electronics components would experience lots of mechanical vibrations and heat from the electric motor. Other challenges are in the assembly of connecting millimetre thin power electronics semiconductors onto a large hundred times bigger aluminium block that houses the electric motor for mechanical strength.

To achieve this type of integration, industry recognises that future professional engineers need skills beyond the classical multi-disciplinary approach where individual experts work together in a team. Future propulsion engineers must adopt cross-disciplinary and creative thinking in order to understand the requirements of other disciplines. In addition, they will need an understanding of non-traditional engineering subjects such as business thinking, use of big data, environmental issues and ethical impact. Future propulsion engineers will need to experience a training environment that emphasises both deep subject knowledge and cross-disciplinary thinking.

This EPSRC CDT in Power Electronics for Sustainable Electric Propulsion is formed by two of UK's largest and most forward thinking research groups in this field (at Newcastle and Nottingham Universities) and includes 16 leading industrial partners (Cummins, Dyson, CRRC, Protean, to name a few). All of them sharing one vision: To create a new generation of UK power electronics specialists, needed to meet the societal and industrial demand for clean, electric propulsion systems in future automotive and aerospace transport infrastructures.

Planned Impact

This CDT will produce power electronics specialists with industrial experience, and will equip them with key skills that are essential to meet the future power electronics challenges. They will be highly employable due to their training being embedded in industrial challenges with the potential to become future leaders through parallel entrepreneurial and business acumen training. As such, they will drive the UK forward in electric propulsion development and manufacturing. They will become ambassadors for cross-disciplinary thinking in electric propulsion and mentors to their colleagues. With its strong industrial partnership, this CDT is ideally placed to produce high impact research papers, patents and spin-outs, with support from the University's dedicated business development teams. All of this will contribute to the 10% year upon year growth of the power electronics sector in the UK, creating more jobs and added value to the UK economy.

Alongside the clear benefits to the economy this CDT will sustain and enhance the UK as a hub of expertise in this rapidly increasing area. UK R&D is set to shift dramatically to electrical technologies due to, amongst other reasons, the target to ban petrol/ diesel propulsion by 2040. Whilst the increase in R&D is welcome this target will be unsustainable without the right people to support the development of alternative technologies. This CDT will directly answer this skills shortage enabling the UK to not only meet these targets but lead the way internationally in the propulsion revolution.

Industry and policy stakeholders will benefit through-
a) Providing challenges for the students to work through

b) Knowledge exchange with the students and the academics

c) New lines of investigation/ revenue/ process improvement

d) Two way access to skills/ equipment and training

e) A skilled, challenge focused workforce


Society will benefit through-
a) Propulsion systems that are more efficient and require therefore less energy reducing cost of travel

b) Engineers with new skillsets working more cost-effective and more productive

c) Skilled workforce who are mindful considering the environmental and ethical impact

d) Graduates that understand equality, diversity and inclusion


Environment will benefit through-
a) Emission free cars powered by clean renewable energy increasing air quality and reducing global warming

b) Highly efficient planes reducing the amount of oil and therefore oil explorations in ecological sensitive areas such as the arctic can be slowed down, allowing sufficient time for the development of new alternative environmental friendly fuels.

c) Significant noise reduction leading to quiet cities and airports

Publications

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Studentship Projects

Project Reference Relationship Related To Start End Student Name
EP/S024069/1 01/04/2019 30/09/2027
2281487 Studentship EP/S024069/1 01/10/2019 30/09/2023 Sumaira Naeema Ahmad
2281455 Studentship EP/S024069/1 01/10/2019 30/09/2023 Erfan Lessan
2281572 Studentship EP/S024069/1 01/10/2019 30/09/2023 Toby Benjamin Middlebrook
2309999 Studentship EP/S024069/1 01/10/2019 30/09/2023 Charles Lee
2281461 Studentship EP/S024069/1 01/10/2019 30/09/2023 Yohannes Eyassu Tecklehaimanot
2281494 Studentship EP/S024069/1 01/10/2019 30/09/2023 Claire Elizabeth James
2310012 Studentship EP/S024069/1 01/10/2019 30/09/2023 Grigorios Sergentanis
2309955 Studentship EP/S024069/1 01/10/2019 30/09/2023 Alexander Jeffrey
2281472 Studentship EP/S024069/1 01/10/2019 30/09/2023 Lewis Nyall Chambers