The University of Birmingham is a world leading university with a strong track record in many subjects important in automotive research. Uniquely, our centre covers all four areas of automotive research: a) autonomy and sensing; b) business and strategy; c) impact on the Environment and c) sustainability and circular Economy.
Current vehicle technology is transiting towards Connectivity, Autonomy, Sharing and Electrification (CASE). Future cars will be connected via V2X and one connected car will send over 25 gigabytes of data to the cloud every hour as reported. Autonomous driving systems are fundamentally changing the traditional control mode and it is believed that within 10 years many vehicles will become fully autonomous. Sharing and subscription models are under development and OEMs are looking to position themselves as fleet owners. It is envisaged that hybrid and electric vehicles will be the immediate steps, ultimately powered by hydrogen. We need to increase interaction more than ever with colleagues from different disciplines, both within as well as outside the University, to advance the research and development of CASE vehicle technology.
More than 20 Principal Investigators in this centre are research pillars in different disciplinary areas in UK automotive academia-led scientific and engineering fields.
Research area: autonomy and sensing
Future automotive vehicle trends are in developing more and more automated unmanned/hands-off/robotic vehicles to help drivers and road users, integrating sensors with vehicle control systems, with the road infrastructure, with other vehicles and with the web. Sensors can be seen as the front-ends of the vehicle which will provide awareness of the car’s systems in a complex environment (off road, liquid dirt) and severe weather conditions (rain, spray, snow) in order to achieve enhanced vehicle efficiency, safety and road system capacity. Along with ultrasonic, infrared, LIDAR and visible light sensor technologies the radar sensing is one of the most important.
The Microwave Integrated Systems Laboratory Automotive (MISL) has been working on next-generation sensing technologies since 1991 and achieved significant commercial and economic impacts through collaboration with Jaguar Land Rover. Research on Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS) has contributed to innovation and entrepreneurial activity (including IP and new product development) and impacted on business performance via revenue generation and knowledge transfer into the automotive engineering industry. In particular, it resulted in 40+ patent inventions generated for JLR, which had led to advancements in existing Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS) systems.
Professor Marina Gashinova
Professor Mike Cherniakov
Professor Chris Baker
Dr Michail Antoniou
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Research area: business and strategy
David Bailey is Professor of Business Economics at the Birmingham Business School, and a Senior Fellow of the ESRC’s UK in a Changing Europe programme, exploring the impacts of Brexit on UK automotive and manufacturing. He has written extensively on industrial and regional policy, especially in relation to manufacturing and the auto industry. He has been involved in a number of recent major projects including the recent Horizon2020 RISE project MAKERS where he led the Work Package on Industrial Policy. He is Editor-in-Chief of the leading journal Regional Studies and Chair of the RSA Europe Think-Tank and policy forum. His latest co-edited book ‘Keeping the Wheels on the Road. UK Auto after Brexit’ has recently been published by Bite-Sized Books. David is a regular media commenter and newspaper columnist.
Professor Robert Elliott is an applied economist who works at the intersection of international economics, development economics, environmental and energy economics and international business. He has a particular interest in the Chinese economy, firm behaviour, natural disasters and the impact of globalisation on the environment.
Dr Amir Qamar is an Assistant Professor of Strategy and International Business in Birmingham Business School, University of Birmingham, UK. His research interest is primarily on lean and agile production strategies within the global automotive industry. Having acquired a thorough understanding of strategy within a manufacturing context, Amir is also interested in multiplier effects within certain supply chains, MNEs, R&D, innovation, productivity and the retail industry.
Key project: Changing Lanes
The primary goal of the Changing Lanes project is to provide an understanding of the impacts of Brexit and the technological shift to driverless and electric cars on the UK automotive sector, as well as to provide policy and corporate strategy advice to navigate these challenges.
Research area: impact on the environment
The Vehicle Technology Research Centre led by Professor Hongming Xu has a world leading research profile in combustion engines and low carbon electrified vehicle technology. Sustainability, environmental concerns, user safety and comfort are the common factors for future designs. We research synergies between fuel, propulsion and after-treatment technologies for cleaner road vehicles.
The CASE-V Group is among the pioneers to develop high-efficiency vehicular technologies with artificial intelligence (AI) including metaheuristic algorithms, reinforcement learning, deep network, and adaptive neuro-fuzzy inference systems at four different vehicle operating levels, i.e. 1) power unit level control; 2) powertrain-level component sizing and power management on vehicle platform; 3) vehicle-level driver-machine interaction; and 4) fleet-level power management with adaptive car-following control.
Emissions and impact on environment
The School of Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences (GEES) has world-leading expertise in air pollution research. GEES has the expertise and infrastructure to study the emissions of non-exhaust particles from EVs and their contribution to PM2.5 and coarse particles in the urban atmosphere (Professors Zongbo Shi and Roy Harrison). However, EVs are heavier (for example due to additional battery and hardware mass) than the equivalent internal-combustion-engine vehicle, which may lead an increased emissions of tyre and road wear emissions. Furthermore, the transition to EVs will lead to a low NOx atmosphere with a significantly different chemistry to what we are experiencing now. GEES is well positioned to study the impact of the transition to EVs on atmospheric chemistry, such as the formation of ozone and secondary organic aerosols by Professors William Bloss, Zongbo Shi, and Roy Harrison.
Professor Roy Harrison
Professor William Bloss
Professor Zongbo Shi
Research area: sustainability and the circular economy
The Energy Materials Group led by Professor Emma Kendrick primarily focuses on existing and novel battery technologies. The research the group does can be categorised into four streams: Materials, Manufacturing, Recycling, and Modelling. The research group is looking into the development of several different chemistries, including lithium-ion batteries, sodium-ion batteries, and solid-state batteries. For lithium-ion batteries, there has been focus on nickel-rich cathode materials due to their higher energy density and the need to reduce reliance on unethically sourced cobalt. The research group tailored the battery manufacturing process by studying the influence of the manufacturing process on the structure and electrochemistry of the material for improving battery performance and reducing costs.
The Chemistry Battery Materials Group involves the work of five academics: Professor Peter Slater, Dr Paul Anderson, Dr Phoebe Allan, Dr Josh Makepeace and Dr Zoe Schnepp. Current research is aimed at developing new materials (cathode, anode and solid electrolyte) for both Li and Na batteries, as well as recycling and remanufacturing methodologies for these batteries. In terms of new cathode materials, research is aimed at the development of high capacity cobalt free cathode materials to deliver lower cost high energy density batteries. There is also significant work on the development of new solid state electrolyte materials for all solid state batteries, including both oxide and non oxide systems.
Energy storage system
The Birmingham Centre for Energy Storage led by Professor Yulong Ding is working on the thermal energy storage system for electric vehicles comprises three aspects: heat management system, charging station and data storage library. A phase change materials (PCMs) were developed at the Birmingham Centre for Energy Storage and equipped in a high-performance heat exchanger so that it could be thermally charged by an external vehicle charging station and also provide thermal energy to the vehicle when in demand. This PCMs are used in an onboard thermal management solution for battery unit for an increases range and an extended battery life. A vehicle thermal energy store is provided for maintaining the battery temperature within a desired range and to provide thermal comfort to the cabin.
The Birmingham Centre for Fuel Cell and Hydrogen Research (CFCHR), led by Professor Robert Steinberger-Wilckens, focuses on the design and development of fuel cell electric vehicles (FCEVs). The group is home to 10 staff and 35 PhD students, making it the largest UK university group working in the field. The Centre is the host of the EPSRC-funded CDT in Fuel Cells and Their Fuels (EP/L015749/1). The Centre has a total of 6 early and new generation Coventry-built MicroCabs, and also one Hyundai ix35 FCEV used by University Estate office. The Centre owns England’s first hydrogen FCEV refuelling station which was opened on campus in 2008, under the Birmingham Science City Programme.
Charging system and grid
The Smart Grid Research Centre, led by Professor Xiaoping Zhang, is focusing on the fundamental technical impacts of different charging facilities/battery systems/devices on power grid operations and investigate the cyber-physical systems including EVs, Power Grids and Charging Facilities. The aim is to enable more electric vehicles integration with most efficient and effective charging facilities and smart charging control strategies so as to support the UK Government’s Net-zero Target by 2050.
Computational intelligence for complex problems
Professor Stephen Jarvis is a computational scientist, whose research has been employed by industry and national laboratories to address scientific problems, ranging from simulating fusion energy reactions to the design of efficient turbofan jet engines. He is a former Royal Society Industry Fellow, Director of an EPSRC Doctoral Training Centre, and non-Executive Director of the Alan Turing Institute, the UK’s national institute for data science and artificial intelligence.
Recycling and circular economy
At the Recycling and Circular Economy Group we are researching process technologies and the (re)manufacture of materials from secondary resources. We are developing processes that can deal with manufacturing waste or materials at the end-of-life so we can keep these materials in the anthroposphere rather than send them to landfill or energy recovery.
Dr Nana Osei Bonsu seeks to deeper understand the policy dynamic of Britain’s ‘The Road to Zero strategy', which sets out ambition for at least 50% — and as many as 70% — of new car sales to be ultra low emission by 2030, alongside up to 40% of new vans.