INTERVIEW – As the world’s automotive industry races to find alternative fuels in order to survive, research in hybrid vehicles is critical. At the forefront of this search is Sweden and in particular, the Chalmers University of Technology in Gothenburg. The Chalmers University has a grant from the Swedish Energy Agency to set up the Swedish Hybrid Vehicle Centre in 2007 with the backing of three universities and five auto manufacturers at the Chalmers University of Technology in Gothenburg at a cost of SEK 32.5 million.
The agency gave the university SEK 32.5 million through to December 31, 2010 to run the Centre. Chalmers contributed SEK 10.8 million as did the Royal Institute of Technology and Lund University of Technology. Other partners include AB Volvo, Volvo Car Corporation, Saab Automobile, GM Powertrain Sweden, Scania and BAE Systems Hagglunds.
The Centre’s mandate is to implement a major initiative to support the development of hybrid vehicles. The Centre’s other objective is also to function as a hub for Swedish hybrid vehicle research and development. Support from the Swedish Energy Agency accounts for 33 per cent of the cost of the project.
Last year, Hans Folkesson, chairman of the Swedish Hybrid Vehicle Centre said: “The only vehicle with zero emission in the tailpipe is an electrical vehicle. Our biggest challenge at the moment is the energy storage needed to realize this.”
Sweden has a green production of electric energy, almost all produced by hydroelectricity and nuclear power. “We also have a good capacity in our electric grid and an infrastructure for electric charging (through the spread use of engine heaters). Therefore, Sweden has a very good opportunity to provide hybrid electric vehicles and electric vehicles with a green energy thus the possibility to provide green transportation, in particular for city traffic,” said Lennart Josefson, Director of the Swedish Hybrid Vehicle Centre in an earlier interview to AI.
This year, the Swedish Hybrid Vehicle Centre will be fully operational. At which time it will run around 15 PhD projects involving 40 researchers. Josefson says the emphasis is on a “holistic view” to meet both environmental and societal needs with new technological solutions in three parallel thematic areas which include system studies and tools, electrical machines and drives and energy storage. One of the Centre’s objectives is to also evaluate the impact of hybrid technology on infrastructure and environmental concerns such as recycling and disposal of batteries and other components.
Another research unit at Chalmers University is the SAFER Vehicle and Traffic Safety Centre. Here, research spans a broad base, covering several disciplines and encompassing both traffic and vehicle safety in real environments. The centre’s activities engage the very elite in the field of traffic safety, and the results contribute to increasing the competitive advantages of the centre’s partner companies and organizations. The SAFER centre has 22 partners from academia, industry and society cooperate in the design of future vehicle and traffic safety systems.
“Our vision is to enable Sweden to reach world leading competitiveness, and to provide new countermeasures to considerably reduce both the number of traffic accidents and the number of fatalities and serious injuries,” says the SAFER centre.
Automotive Industries spoke to Lennart Josefson, Director of the Swedish Hybrid Vehicle Centre.
AI: What are some of the developments your Centre has made vis a vis energy storage for electric vehicles?
We are currently working with the development of Li-ion based cells, i e new electrode materials and better electrolyte additives. We are also starting projects on models for life assessments of batteries, based on extensive testing of battery systems.
AI: Are any of your technologies likely to be incorporated by industry in the near-term future?
No, our results would more likely be implemented in a five year period
AI: What roles do your industry partners play in the research your Centre is does?
Our industrial partners participate actively in several projects; we also jointly decide research directions and projects
AI: What is likely to happen after December 2010 when the Swedish Energy Agency’s grant runs out – any likelihood of vehicle manufacturers taking over the financing of the Centre?
The plan for our Centre of Excellence SHC is for ten years, we have an agreement for the first phase which ends 2010. We will negotiate for a planned continuation for the next Phase (three to four years) with the same funding following an international evaluation of the first phase
AI: How closely does your Centre work with the SAFER centre? And if so, what are some of the common areas of interest between the two?
We currently discuss a joint project bringing competences in hybrid vehicle technology and vehicle safety together. The objective is to propose new (light weight) vehicle architectures, with electric motors as primary energy source, that can meet tomorrow’s safety requirements