JLR reveals innovative new research

Jaguar Land Rover has showcased some of the new and innovative low and zero emission technologies it is researching at this year’s CENEX Low Carbon Vehicle event.

As well as showing Battery Electric Vehicle, Plug-In Hybrid and Mild Hybrid technologies, Jaguar Land Rover’s research engineers have revealed how they are researching more efficient heating and ventilation systems and new solutions to reduce vehicle weight to improve emissions and fuel economy.

Because Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning systems (HVAC) consume substantial amounts of energy and therefore fuel, or electrical energy stored in the battery of a Battery Electric Vehicle (BEV), Jaguar Land Rover is working on research projects that could dramatically reduce the energy consumed when heating and cooling a vehicle.

Dr Wolfgang Epple, Director of Research and Technology, Jaguar Land Rover said, ‘Today’s HVAC systems can draw 8-10kW from an electric vehicle battery, enough to reduce the range by up to 40 per cent, while air conditioning can reduce the range of an internal combustion engine by up to 20 per cent.’

‘So to improve the fuel economy and emissions of internal combustion engines and to enhance the range of a future BEV, we have been rethinking the thermal management of a vehicle cabin. We are developing new methods of heating and cooling the cabin, to achieve substantial reductions in energy consumption.’

Rather than continuously heating or cooling a flow of air as it enters the car, Jaguar Land Rover is researching how a car could heat or cool an ‘Air Bubble’ inside the vehicle once, and then maintain the temperature and quality of this air bubble using innovative new HVAC technologies. These include infra-red reflective (IRR) glass, tailor-made for the solar radiation profile of an individual region or country. The glass would reflect the sun’s rays so less energy is required to cool the inside of the car.

To maintain the breathable quality of the warmed or cooled bubble of air, cabin air would be passed through a special filter in the vehicle boot. This filter would remove CO2, moisture and particulates from the cabin air and provide better air quality inside the vehicle than out.

Warm Air Blanket

In the future it may also not even be necessary to heat or cool the volume of air inside the car. Instead the car could directly heat or cool the occupants with warm or cold air flowing through porous surfaces in the seats. Infra-red panels, invisibly embedded inside sun visors, door tops, the glove box door and the sides of the transmission tunnel would surround each occupant and would radiate heat to the body. This ‘Warm Air Blanket’ would cocoon individual occupants in their own microclimate, and warm just the occupant’s skin rather than maintaining the entire cabin at a given temperature.

Because the panels heat up quickly and efficiently, and because the sensation of feeling warm is almost immediate, energy consumption could be dramatically reduced. By combining these techniques, early test results show it is possible to reduce the consumption of an HVAC system by half, from 8-12kW, to 4-6kW.

‘Weight saving is crucial to improve fuel consumption and emissions. Jaguar Land Rover’s engineers lead the world in the development of lightweight vehicle bodies to reduce weight to improve handling, fuel efficiency and emissions. Our researchers are moving beyond lightweight body structures and are looking at every component in the car, from how to replace traditional wiring looms with printed electronics, to developing prototype seats much lighter than they are today,’ added Dr Epple. ‘We are also investigating how we could make use of carbon fibre in future vehicles by mixing carbon fibre with innovative new materials like flax, as well as new techniques for manufacturing carbon fibre components in higher volumes than is feasible today.’

Jaguar Land Rover’s research team is investigating whether a vehicle’s copper-based wiring loom and electrical components could be replaced with innovative wafer-thin printed electronic circuits, currently used in curved televisions. The technology could be deployed as a lightweight and space-saving alternative to traditional wiring for features including instruments, switches, sensing, lighting, heating and displays.

Using a forming process called thermoplastic composite stamping, Jaguar Land Rover research engineers have succeeded in developing a new type of lightweight polymer seat structure that weighs 30 per cent less than an equivalent steel-based seat structure. The PLACES seat technology makes the structural components work as part of the comfort system and enables consolidation of parts, reducing weight. Seat cushions and fabric covering are also optimised for weight without impinging on comfort. This enables less foam depth, which offers a slimmer seat profile. This could also aid packaging and liberate more space within the vehicle.

The Carbio project is looking at how we could make carbon fibre more environmentally friendly and cost effective, while improving its noise, vibration and harshness (NVH) properties.

CARBIO combines layers of carbon fibre and flax with an environmentally-friendly cashew nut oil resin. Flax is a natural and sustainable plant material and was chosen because of its inherent sound dampening properties. CARBIO brings the strength and lightweight benefit of carbon fibre together with the sustainability and lower cost of flax. While the manufacturing cost of CARBIO is similar to that of traditional carbon fibre, the material cost of mixing carbon fibre and flax is one-third cheaper.

Components made from CARBIO are 28 per cent lighter than aluminium and 55 per cent lighter than steel and because of the improved NVH properties provided by the flax, a CARBIO component requires less additional sound deadening material around it than traditional carbon fibre, aluminium or steel, potentially saving even more weight.