The UK automotive industry is a large and critical sector within the UK economy. It accounts for 820,000 jobs, exports finished goods worth £8.9bn annually and adds value of £10bn to the UK economy each year. However, the UK automotive industry is currently facing great challenges, such as responsibility for a 19% and growing share of UK annual CO2 emissions, strong international competition, declining employment and hollowing-out of the domestic supply chain, and enormous pressure from regulatory bodies for decarbonisation. A solution to these challenges comes from the development and manufacture of low carbon vehicles (LCVs), as identified by the UK government. Vehicle lightweighting is the most effective way to improve fuel economy and to reduce CO2 emissions. This has been demonstrated by many vehicle mass reduction programmes worldwide. Historically vehicle mass reduction has been achieved incrementally by reducing the mass of specific vehicle parts piece-by-piece, with little consideration of the carbon footprint of input materials and closed-loop recycling of end of life vehicles (ELVs). Our vision is that the future low carbon vehicle is achieved by a combination of multi-material concepts with mass-optimised design approaches through the deployment of advanced low carbon input materials, efficient low carbon manufacturing processes and closed-loop recycling of ELVs.
To achieve this vision, we have gathered the best UK academic brainpower for vehicle lightweighting and formed the TARF-LCV consortium, whose members include 8 research teams involving 18 academics from Brunel, Coventry, Exeter, Imperial, Manchester, Nottingham, Oxford Brookes and Strathclyde. TARF-LCV aims to deliver fundamental solutions to the key challenges faced by future development of LCVs in the strategic areas of advanced materials, enabling manufacturing technologies, holistic vehicle design and closed-loop recycling of ELVs. We have developed a coherent research programme organised 6 work packages. We will develop closed-loop recyclable aluminium (Al) and magnesium (Mg) alloys, metal matrix composites (MMCs) and recyclable polymer matrix composites (PMCs) for body structure and powertrain applications; we will develop advanced low carbon manufacturing technologies for casting, forming and effective vehicle assembly and disassembly; and we will develop mass-optimised design principles and specific life cycle analysis (LCA) methodology for future LCV development.
To deliver the 4-year TARF-LCV programme, in addition to the EPSRC funding requested, we have leveraged financial support for 2 post-doctoral research fellows from the EPSRC Centre-LiME at Brunel University and LATEST2 at Manchester University, and for 9 PhD studentships from partner universities. Consequently, the TARF-LCV research team will include 18 academics, 11 post-doctoral research fellows and 18 research students. This not only ensures a successful delivery of the TARF-LCV research programme, but also provides a training ground for the future leaders of low carbon vehicle development in the UK.