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CPT's new technical centre in Coventry will help keep the UK in the forefront of low carbon vehicle developments

The official opening by the environmental award-winning company Controlled Power Technologies (CPT) of its new engineering technical centre in the West Midlands, which complements its technical facilities at Laindon in Essex and subsidiaries in Germany and the USA, will further help the UK automotive industry develop safe and affordable low voltage hybrid vehicles says Professor Richard Folkson president-elect of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers (IMechE) who was invited to the Coventry inauguration as principal guest speaker.

“Powertrain electrification will play a major role in advancing automotive technology,” said Folkson, a leading expert in low carbon vehicles and an assessor for the UK’s innovation agency InnovateUK.  “The opening of these new facilities will help keep the UK at the forefront of new developments in low carbon vehicle powertrains.”

“The UK is well placed as a centre of excellence for powertrain design and manufacture with major engine facilities operated by Bentley, BMW Mini, Caterpillar, Ford, Honda, Jaguar Land Rover, JCB, Perkins, Toyota and many other international vehicle manufacturers.  This part of the motor industry is vital to the continuing reduction of carbon dioxide emissions from road transport vehicles.”

Professor Folkson and other guests attending the opening, including customers and suppliers, were welcomed by CPT’s chairman Ali Naini who commented on the company’s achievements over the past eight years since the idea of Controlled Power Technologies was first conceived. 

“Over the past eight years, we’ve managed to complete the spin out of the company from Visteon, put together an amazing and very capable team, complete the fundraisings that we have needed to do year after year, prepare our VTES electric supercharger to a position of being ready for commercialisation and find a good home for it through the trade sale to Valeo, do the same with SpeedStart so that it too is ready for commercialisation for which we are talking to a number of potential manufacturing partners, and we have continued to develop the Cobra and Tigers products so that we now have a much better sense of the commercial opportunities they offer.”

“With these achievements our expectations have grown even higher,” said Naini.   “As a clean-tech financier I work with many clean-tech companies.  CPT is unusual in that it combines the agility and entrepreneurialism of an SME with the capability and technical prowess of a much larger company.  And I think that is one of the key reasons that has persuaded our investors to back the company to the extent they have.”

Two days before opening CPT’s new technical centre, Ali Naini and operations director Pat Salter had presented the company’s powertrain electrification technology at the Houses of Parliament, being one of only eight companies invited to showcase innovations in UK road transport

“Ministers and Members of Parliament recognise that UK innovation in low carbon road transport is leading edge and world beating and that’s why the UK government together with industry is investing £1 billion over the next 10 years to ensure that it can consolidate its position as the global centre of excellence for advanced propulsion systems,” said Naini.  “CPT’s ambitions have similarly matured, so we need to further grow our capabilities, we need to grow our team, and we need to grow our facilities and this is why we are here today.  I very much hope that all people who are working at our new technical centre will find it a pleasant and stimulating environment and that it helps us achieve our ambitions.”

The larger facilities at Rowley House meant that for the first time CPT was able to gather all 50 employees together in the West Midlands, when normally they would all head south to its headquarters in Essex for the annual corporate briefing.   Company co-founder and chief executive Nick Pascoe commented further on the expansion of the Midland facilities.

“We’re delighted we’ve now got a facility big enough to take everyone,” said Pascoe.   “When in 2006 Ali and I drafted our business plan, we realised that it would be desirable to have a handful of engineers based in the Midlands in addition to those employed in Essex.    We soon realised after two or three years that just 10 employees in Coventry would not be enough, so we went to 15 and that seemed a bold move at the time.   And then last year we hit 20 in the West Midlands and needed more space with the right combination of workshop and offices.”

“During our first eight years as a business we’ve seen a lot of change,” said Pascoe.  “When we first drew up our business plan we knew that CO2 legislation was coming and that was indeed implemented.  We saw the first stop-start systems being launched and we’ve seen a lot of evolution of stop-start and it’s now become commonplace.   And most recently we’ve seen hybridisation being redefined, which really plays to the strengths of CPT and its expertise in intelligent low voltage electrification of the powertrain.”

“We’re continuing to recruit from across Europe and beyond and we are really doing what the whole of British industry is having to do,” said Pascoe.  “But it shows how strong the automotive sector is and we are very proud of what we’ve achieved as a business during the last eight years.  As everyone in the company knows the mission isn’t over yet, we still have a lot left to do, but we are relishing the challenge.”

To wrap up the formal proceedings, Pascoe invited Prof Folkson to say a few words to officially inaugurate CPT’s new engineering technical centre.

“It’s no secret that the UK government is trying to position us as leaders in low carbon transportation,” said Folkson.  “I’m really impressed by what they’re doing, with what was the Technology Strategy Board and is now InnovateUK, to support new technology projects of which we heard about this morning.”

“I’ve got some fairly strong views on low carbon vehicles,” said Folkson.  “I don’t think that the future is pure battery electrics.  They’ll play a role, but I can’t see that we’re all going to be driving around in pure electric vehicles in the near future simply because they’re far too expensive and they’ve got range limitations, but we are going to see a lot more electrification of the powertrain.   And that’s what CPT’s business is all about.”

“I think internal combustion engines are going to be around for another 30 to 40 years, maybe downsized and in a different format, in smaller and lighter packages, to go with these electrified powertrain.  But that’s the way forward; to get more out of the fossil fuels and give us the range and performance that everyone expects.”

“So I’m really pleased that Nick has asked me here to open the new CPT engineering centre, because I think they’re absolutely on track with where the automotive industry goes and to help position the UK to be in a strong leadership position.”

CPT’s new technical centre in Coventry was officially opened on Wednesday 11 March 2015.

About Richard Folkson

Richard Folkson joined as a student member of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers (IMechE) at age 16.   As a Fellow of the Institution he has served as chairman of the Automobile Division (2008-09), chairman of the Eastern Region (2010-12), and has been chief judge for the world-renowned Formula Student competition since 2010. 

As a consultant advising on how future vehicle designs can reduce usage of fossil fuels, Richard initiated and leads the organisation of the Institution’s Sustainable Vehicle Technology Conference, and has organised seminar events on light-weighting for low carbon and electric vehicles.

Richard worked previously in product development at Ford Motor Company for 30 years on all aspects of car and truck design, rising to the position of chief engineer.   During this period he served as chairman of the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) Engineering Committee with regular contact with government departments at a senior level.

Richard gained his BSc in mechanical engineering from Imperial College London.  

About 48V mild hybrid vehicles

Working closely with many international automotive companies, CPT has been in the vanguard of hybrid vehicle innovations since its formation in 2007, and was one of the first in the automotive industry to spot the opportunity for low voltage electrification of the powertrain.

Because of its background, which can be traced back to Ford in 2000 and then Visteon, CPT was among the first to develop practical technical solutions when in 2011 five German carmakers – Audi, BMW, Daimler, Porsche and VW – announced that they would instigate a 48V standard for their vehicles’ on-board power networks.  

CPT built one of the world’s first 48V hybrid demonstrators, developed under the European Advanced Lead-Acid battery Consortium (EALABC)’s LC Super Hybrid programme, together with its 12V sibling fitted with otherwise identical motor generator technology demonstrating best-in-class stop-start capability, for a series of ride-and-drive evaluations by leading car makers. 

“The ease of manufacture and affordability of 48V mild hybrids, combined with their efficient use of gasoline and diesel fuels, is what makes them particularly attractive to a wide range of vehicles produced by car, bus and commercial vehicle manufacturers,” says Pascoe.  “The universal application of this technology to the 100 million vehicles our global industry will soon produce each year, 98 per cent of them with highly advanced gasoline and diesel engines, would in the short term reduce annual global CO2 emissions by 100 million tonnes.   The technology is relatively easy to produce, which gives the industry the time it needs to develop lower cost pure electric and hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles.”

About Controlled Power Technologies

CPT is an independent, clean-tech, company based at Laindon in Essex and in Coventry in the West Midlands with subsidiaries in Germany and the USA.   It specialises in the development of cost-effective CO2 reduction measures for the global automotive industry that avoid major redesign of the powertrain or vehicle electrical system.  Its core competencies include low voltage power electronics, advanced control software and the application of low voltage switched-reluctance electrical machines to gasoline and diesel powertrains.

The business was established in 2007 to acquire Visteon’s advanced powertrain business.  With asset and technology acquisitions from Visteon, and the signing of associated licensing and collaboration agreements with Switched Reluctance Drives Limited, now part of Nidec Corporation, CPT gained immediate access to a portfolio of near-term solutions to the problem of automotive CO2 and NOx reduction – and has since developed the technology to a high level of application and manufacturing readiness.

Following the successful £30 million sale of its VTES electric supercharger business to Valeo for applications in cars and vans up to 3.5 tonnes gross vehicle weight, CPT is now focused on bringing its liquid-cooled COBRA, SpeedStart and TIGERS technology to mass market readiness.

Today, CPT retains an experienced team of high calibre automotive engineers, all with shares in the company, and is backed by a number of prominent investors specialising in the energy and environmental sectors including Conduit Ventures, Entrepreneurs Fund, Low Carbon Innovation Fund, Mowinckel Management, National Technology Enterprises Company, Reformer Group, Target Ventures, and Turquoise Capital (whose director Ali Naini serves as chairman of the CPT board).

CPT’s technology development partner, Nidec Corporation of Japan, is one of the world’s leading suppliers of electric motors.  Further information on CPT is available at

Supplementary notes to readers describing CPT’s switched-reluctance technology

During the Coventry opening procedures, Pascoe introduced two of his senior managers to talk about the work undertaken in the Midlands primarily focused on electronics and software development, which lies at the core of CPT’s highly advanced switched-reluctance motor-generator technology.

First up was Andy Dickinson programme manager for the Tigers and Cobra products.   Tigers is an exhaust turbo-generator and Cobra is a water-cooled supercharger developed by CPT from a clean sheet of paper with significant intellectual property invested in both the mechanical designs as well as the control and power electronics and software.

“Exhaust energy recovery is an advanced technology,” said Dickinson.  “It’s gaining more prominence now particularly during the last F1 season with the teams making great progress based on sophisticated systems that will get better as the seasons go on.  Now Tigers may not be as powerful in terms of the high voltages of an F1 system but it’s just as sophisticated, because we have the challenge of integrating the technology into passenger and commercial vehicles and working at significantly lower voltages.   And of course we have the OEM manufacturing cost constraints that simply don’t apply to the world’s pinnacle of motorsport.”

“The system that we acquired from Visteon was at technology readiness level TRL3, which is a recognised early stage of development within the automotive industry,” said Dickinson.  “Essentially Tigers was then just a collection of separate components to prove that the technology worked.  That gave us the opportunity to develop our first fully integrated system, which we produced for the HyBoost technology demonstrator in collaboration with the European Advanced Lead-Acid Battery Consortium (EALABC), Ford, Imperial College, University of Sheffield and Valeo.  The programme was led by Ricardo and supported by the UK’s innovation agency the Technology Strategy Board (TSB), now known as InnovateUK.”

“It was our first turbine integrated gas energy recovery system, hence the TIGERS acronym, with the control and power electronics built into the back of the machine,” said Dickinson.  “That led to putting the technology into the Wrightbus demonstrator vehicle, which was another TSB project, creating an opportunity for us to see the system working in a 24V passenger transport application, which is relevant to understanding commercial vehicle applications generally.”

Control electronics is key to the development of CPT’s innovative motor-generators

“Through doing all this development and learning, we worked out very early on that the key to this technology is the control system and how to control the device,” said Dickinson.  “So we worked with consultants and the clever people that now sit upstairs in the Rowley House design office to develop vital algorithms that we’ve patented.”

“It was this more sophisticated system that we took forward into a project known as VIPER in collaboration with BP, Ford, Imperial College, Jaguar Land Rover and University of Nottingham, again supported by the TSB,” said Dickinson.  “We integrated Tigers into the exhaust system of a Jaguar XF technology demonstrator vehicle and despite extensive testing we never once managed to break the device and gained even more understanding of the technology.”

“The latest iteration, which is now approaching technology readiness level TRL7, and by definition getting ever closer to its first commercial application, has been incorporated in the advanced diesel-electric powertrain project known as ADEPT,” said Dickinson.   “This is a 48V mild hybrid vehicle, which aims to demonstrate that we can reduce carbon dioxide emissions to 75g/km in a Ford Focus family car.   This too is a UK government co-funded collaboration led by Ricardo supported by EALABC, Faurecia, Ford and the University of Nottingham.”

“In addition to these funded research programmes, CPT is working on a number of vehicle OEM and Tier 1 projects,” said Dickinson.   “We are also engaged with the European Union and its eco-innovation credit scheme.”

Having successfully sold its VTES electric supercharger to Valeo in 2011, for passenger car applications, Dickinson explained the challenge of developing its Cobra technology for a wide variety of commercial vehicle and off-highway applications.

“The first challenge was to take a 24V unit and morph it into a water-cooled electric supercharger by borrowing from the Tigers system,” said Dickinson.  “The passenger car market is quite simple in some ways, but the heavy-duty and off-highway markets are far more diverse with different needs, each one has a different requirement, some require fuel efficiency and low emissions, some just want to be able to operate in the conditions they’ve been dealt.”

“We’ve continued working with OEMs to develop Cobra and we’ve now added our C88 unit to the product line-up, which is a smaller high-pressure device with load flows more suited to hydrogen fuel cell and exhaust aftertreatment applications,” said Dickinson.  “Throughout 2015 we’ll be developing an even higher power unit, so we can get more boost and more stable steady-state running.  We’re working through a series of design changes to standardise and simply the design across the product family to reduce costs, which will lead us into low-volume production by 2017.  We are actively engaged with commercial vehicle fleets, passenger transport, off-highway and military vehicles as well as marine and fuel cell developers.”

SpeedStart development evolves into a 48V mild hybrid system … and meets the latest vehicle OEM standards

The senior manager responsible for the electronics and software development of CPT’s SpeedStart belt-integrated starter-generator is Tim Spearman, who explained how the company is organised across its two UK sites with Coventry focused on electronics and software complemented by mechanical design and durability testing at Laindon in Essex.  

His presentation revealed how the company is investing in essential processes and building blocks to meet various standards that vehicle manufacturers expect before any new and innovative technology can enter series production.  This includes the automotive SPICE (Software Process Capability Improvement and Evaluation ISO 15504) standard, functional safety standard ISO 26262, as well as the Autosar (Automotive Open System Architecture) standard, which is an open and standardised automotive software architecture jointly developed by vehicle manufacturers.

CPT switched-reluctance motor-generators can each incorporate as many as 30 field effect transistors (FETs) which need to be precisely controlled millisecond by millisecond, and is working closely with Infineon to include the latest tri-core Aurix processor into its products, which have to fully integrate with ever more complex vehicle electronics. 

“The modern car is an incredibly sophisticated electronic system with numerous electronic control units (ECUs), containing altogether 100 million lines of code, that have to communicate with one another,” said Spearman.  “This is significantly more than the 24 million lines of code in the Joint Strike Fighter and almost as many as the 120 million lines of code in the A380, which one of the world’s largest commercial airliners.”

“This complex electronic system within the vehicle, which will only increase in complexity, naturally drives our software development,” said Spearman.  “This is true not only because of the increasingly connected car and trend towards driverless vehicles, but also because of the increasing low voltage electrification of the powertrain.   And that is where we come in with SpeedStart, which can provide electrical power and torque assist hence reducing use of the internal combustion engine, and eking out our use of precious fossil fuels,.”

“With more than 80 per cent of automotive innovations now based on electronics, we have put a lot of effort into software development,” said Spearman.  “We’ve been independently assessed to SPICE level 2 and are now used as a benchmark in discussions with other SMEs by independent assessors who say that they are impressed at how far we’ve got in the time available.   We are very proud of what we’ve achieved.”

“Functional safety to ISO 26262 is another big tick box that we’re aiming to complete as far as the OEMs are concerned,” says Spearman.  “Using the EALABC 48V LC Super Hybrid demonstrator as a benchmark, we’ve analysed the system arriving at an ASIL B safety requirement for the SpeedStart device.  We are now taking that requirement and working back to determine the requirements on the individual component parts of the SpeedStart system.

“Again, how it’s all about how our technology interacts with other systems within the vehicle,” says Spearman.  “For instance, with energy storage systems there may be a time when you want to disconnect the battery pack from the rest of the vehicle, but if you just unload it at maximum power generation it could cause a major problem.  So safety goals have to be worked out between all parties at a vehicle system level.”

“Using sophisticated modelling, we’re constantly looking at new ideas for the machine construction,” said Spearman.   “We’re always looking to make our machines more robust and we’re always looking to reduce cost.   It’s a fundamental part of the process for an SME technology developer seeking to validate its products for high volume production.”

“Our simulation work using our CPT developed Matlab Simulink model has helped us develop a simulation of the magnetic system, a model of the power and control electronics, a model of the control strategies for torque, voltage, current and temperature, as well as modelling varying combinations of winding turns and wire diameter,” says Spearman.

CPT’s strong relationship with UK universities

CPT works closely with a number of UK universities and for its final technical presentation at the official opening of Rowley House invited Dr Martin Foster reader in electronic engineering at the University of Sheffield to discuss the company’s relationship with this centre of academic learning.

“It’s pretty obvious really that fuel economy is a big issue,” said Foster.  “Petrol and diesel seem to be getting more and more expensive, so we need to make vehicles more efficient.  Improvements to the internal combustion engine will mean that we don’t need to use as much fossil fuel, and it will last longer if we recognise that it’s a limited resource.”

“We also need to get down carbon and particulate emissions and there are many international government targets that we now need to meet,” he added.   “In 2015 nearly 89 million vehicles will be sold worldwide.  So obviously that’s a lot of vehicles and that’s a lot of profit to be made if UK plc can get a slice of this business by applying advanced technologies to improve the efficiency of the vehicle.”

“One way to do that is to provide electrical systems; motors and generators or actuation systems that can improve the performance of the internal combustion engine,” said Foster.  “CPT has for instance developed its SpeedStart system, where you replace a conventional starter motor with a special electrical machine that acts as a generator as well as a starter, so you can use the system to recuperate kinetic energy and charge a set of batteries.”

“It’s also developed its electric supercharger, which can use that recuperated energy stored in the battery to provide a boost to the engine,” said Foster.  “Moreover, another of their machines can recover exhaust energy to further charge the battery to power hotel loads such as air-conditioning and various other high power electrical equipment on the vehicle.”

“So this is really a combination of electrical machines and batteries with the internal combustion engine to improve overall efficiency,” said Foster.  “And what we try to achieve is something like a 1-litre engine car with the equivalent performance of a 2-litre engine.   Fantastic; the driver has an improved experience because it’s costing them less during their daily use of the vehicle, yet it’s actually very driveable.   So we’re talking about increased fuel efficiency and decreased emissions while we maintain the performance and drivability of the vehicle and most importantly at a cost the motorist can afford.”

“The key technical challenges, and where it gets interesting for the university and its blue skies research is that essentially we’re talking about a very difficult environment in which to operate electrical machines and energy storage systems,” said Foster.   “We have harsh and extreme environment under the bonnet where temperatures are high.  But vehicles also have to operate at 30° below zero in some countries, so there’s quite a wide temperature differentiation.  Moreover, these electrical machines have to cope with engine revolutions ranging from 800rpm at idle to perhaps 8,000rpm.”

“These electric machines can provide a power boost to the engine and recover kinetic and thermal energy,” said Foster.  “But this energy has to be stored in a unique battery system able to cope not only with the same harsh environment as the electrical machines, but also have high currents constantly charging or discharging them.  And this is quite unlike how other batteries perform.”

“The problem with battery technologies is that effectively you have a fuel tank that changes in capacity,” said Foster.  “First, it changes its capacity with age, so anyone who has used a mobile phone or a laptop will know that initially you can expect one or two days’ worth of life before having to recharge, but when the device is two years old you’ll only get a few hours.  Second, a battery’s capacity also changes with temperature.   Third, what you’ve done with the battery immediately beforehand also affects the energy you can extract from it.”

“So we have various joint research projects underway with CPT and its energy storage development partner the EALABC,” said Foster.  “Our KTP (Knowledge Transfer Partnership) projects help us understand how to map the electrical system to the battery system and see how they perform both instantaneously and over longer periods of time.   We study, model and characterise many different types of battery.  Not only lead acid, but also a proliferation of lithium chemistries to better understand the various technical challenges they each present.”

“These joint research projects help CPT to train electronic and battery specialists which it can then employ as high calibre engineers at its Midlands engineering technical centre,” said Foster.  “They will have a deep understanding of how battery technology and vehicle electrical systems can be optimised, and accordingly redesign the vehicle electrical architecture and battery pack for the best possible result.”

“Universities love these sort of projects, because it brings a much better experience for the undergraduate, or postgraduate undertaking a Master’s Degree or PhD research,” said Foster.   “It creates fantastic opportunities for both students and CPT.   It addresses the skills shortage in engineering head-on, because one way to entice young people into engineering is to offer this academic-industry collaboration.   It’s valuable training experience for students, but it also provides CPT with a year-long interview for the student as well.  So they definitely know if they’ve selected the right candidate.”

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