Cenex 2022: the top UK automotive start-ups to watch

Bosch Automated Valet Parking front quarter turning

Bosch’s Autonomous Valet Parking system uses an array of sensors to autonomously park a car

From autonomous valet parking to an EV truck for farmers, here are our picks from the 2022 Cenex LCV show

At this year’s Cenex LCV exhibition, held at the Millbrook proving ground in Bedfordshire, companies active in the fields of low-carbon transport and autonomous-driving systems displayed many of the latest technologies.

Visitors were able to catch up on many of the latest developments, and here are 10 that caught our eye.

Williams Advanced Engineering – Flexible EVR platform

Flexibility is the point of Williams Advanced Engineering’s new, scaleable, composite electric hypercar platform. Called the EVR, it can, within reason, be whatever length and width that a manufacutrer seeking a halo product requires. In addition, track-only, Targa GT and track-inspired, road-legal vehicle versions can be accommodated. But how to achieve differentiation between vehicles? “It’s a challenge, but features such as drive layouts, optional torque-vectoring and different steering systems will help,” said Dyrr Ardash, head of strategic partnerships at WAE.

Ricardo – Planning for the unknown

With the war in Ukraine, rising energy costs and ongoing material shortages, these are uncertain times for car makers, but Ricardo claims to provide some clarity with its scenario-planning service. Rather than conventional forecasting, the engineering and consultancy company helps firms explore a future that it has termed “creative scavenging”, in which they will reduce, reuse and recycle. “We test the robustness of a firm’s future strategy, and at the moment, OEMs are very receptive,” said Angela Johnson, vice-president of Ricardo Strategic Consultancy. 

Ford – Lighter Transit chassis

Although Ford recently launched the electric E-Transit, development continues on the diesel van, in in the form of a new, lightweight ladder-frame chassis section. Part of Ford’s eShadow project, tasked with lightening the Transit for supermarket delivery work, the component weighs 40% less than the current item but, thanks to composite materials, is just as strong. “We’re developing a version for the E-Transit, too, that can increase payload but still support the battery,” explained Roland Stark, Transit Innovation Project lead.

Equipmake Q&A – 3D-printed electric motor

Good thermal management is vital for an electric motor. Equipmake claims to have made big gains by 3D-printing its latest unit, the Ampere-220. This method has allowed engineers to optimise its thermal efficiency while shrinking its size. Weighing just 20kg, this modern take on the off-the-shelf ‘crate motor’ produces 295bhp and is the most power-dense electric motor in the world. We asked Ian Foley, CEO of Equipmake, to tell us more.

Autocar: “What production benefits does 3D-printing bring?”

Ian Foley: “It opens up huge possibilities for engineers and allows us to make more efficient products.”

AC: “It must limit production volumes?”
IF: “We anticipate building the Ampere e-220 only in the hundreds per year.”

AC: “What’s the challenge with electric motors of the Ampere e-220’s size?”
IF: “Because there’s less surface area, getting the heat out of it.” 

AC: “What types of vehicles have you designed the Ampere-220 for?” 
IF: “We’re showing it in [590bhp] twin-motor form, with two equally compact inverters and single-speed transmissions, all machined in-house. By integrating it with our new e-axle, it becomes an off-the-shelf, high-performance drive system for electric sports cars and supercars.”

AC: “Each month seems to bring big advances in electric-motor design.”
IF: “They have developed very quickly, but gains are now much more incremental.”

Fleete – Fleet EV charging

An individual moving from petrol or diesel to electric faces challenges in terms of charger availability and reliability, but for an operator with a large fleet and markets to serve, those challenges can threaten its very existence. One company that claims to have a solution is Fleete. The financing and infrastructure firm installs and maintains high-power DC chargers at vehicle depots for a monthly subscription. In a recent project, it installed 130-150kW chargers at a major Glasgow bus depot. “It’s about helping fleets transition from ICE to electric smoothly, reliably and affordably,” said CEO Dan Bentham.

Bosch – Autonomous driver aids

Available on Jaguar Land Rover (JLR) models including the new Range Rover, Bosch’s advanced Trailer Tow Assist features high-definition imagery and takes the hassle out of manoeuvring a trailer by enabling the car’s sensors and assistance systems to do so instead.

Bosch also teased its new Autonomous Valet Parking system, available on JLR models and some from Mercedes-Benz. Currently active only in Germany, it requires a car park to have sensor-based infrastructure that can communicate with the car. The driver exits the vehicle at the entry barrier and, by way of a smartphone app, instructs the system to park the vehicle. 

Autocraft Solutions Group – Battery fault diagnosis

Battery assembly and remanufacturing specialist Autocraft also inspects and repairs batteries. It claims to receive around 45 faulty items per week, the bulk of them returned by manufacturers and dealers under warranty. “Common problems are cell degradation, failed cell welds and connector damage caused by road vibrations,” said Sara Ridley, engineering and quality director. “Natural variability in the chemical processes also means that some cells degrade faster than others.”

Ox Delivers – Farmer’s EV

Currently undergoing trials in Rwanda, the Gordon Murray-designed Ox truck for emerging markets can be delivered in flat-pack form and is simple to maintain and more refined than its diesel predecessor. Set to receive Toyota underpinnings for greater ground clearance, it has a two-tonne payload and a 60-mile range in single-battery form. “Its benefit is that it can get farmer’s produce to the towns, where it fetches more money, rather than just to the villages,” explained chief engineer Cliff Vince. 

Swindon Powertrain – Off-the-shelf battery

In recent years, this automotive engineering, testing and assembly company has acquired a reputation for supplying Mini electrification kits and other parts necessary for classic-car EV conversions. At Cenex, it previewed its new off-the-shelf automotive battery pack, the only product of its kind available. “Until now, we’ve supplied bespoke battery solutions, which we will continue to do, but this is our first generic product,” said Raphaël Caillé, managing director. 

Source: Autocar

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