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UK start-up uses SR drives to cut vehicle emissions

23 March, 2008

A new UK company has been set up to develop technologies that use switched reluctance (SR) drives to cut automotive emissions. Controlled Power Technologies (CPT), formed last year as a management buy-in by a group of automotive executives, has signed licensing and collaboration agreements with Harrogate-based Switched Reluctance Drives (SRD), as well as buying technology and assets from the automotive supplier Visteon, including several CO2-reduction technologies, based on SR drives.

These deals give CPT immediate access a portfolio of ready and near-term technologies that can cut emissions from existing automotive drive trains. These technologies include electronically controlled superchargers, near-instant stop-start systems, and exhaust energy recovery systems, all based on SR drives.

"Switched reluctance motor and control technology is uniquely well-suited to the demanding requirements of these new automotive applications," says engineering director Guy Morris, who joined CPT from Visteon. "The technology provides robust, reliable and compact solutions with excellent energy efficiency and controllability, as well as low manufactured costs."

CPT team

As well as Morris (shown on the far left in the above photo), the CPT team includes (from left to right) chief executive, Nick Pascoe; advanced engineering manager, Dr Richard Quinn; and application engineering manager, Mike Dowsett

The Visteon deal includes the acquisition of a 1,500m2 development centre near Basildon in Essex, previously operated by Visteon. It also covers the transfer of licensing and technical agreements that Visteon had with Switched Reluctance Drives, an Emerson Electric subsidiary. CPT plans to extend the relationship established between Visteon and SRD and will continue a "significant" investment programme initiated by Visteon and SRD to develop the new technologies.

"We are highly supportive of CPT’s approach as this will help to accelerate and sustain commercialisation of these much-needed powertrain technologies," says SRD’s managing director, Dr Roy Blake.

"The need for carbon abatement is rapidly growing in importance," says CPT’s chief executive, Nick Pascoe. "Coupled with increasing fuel prices, company car tax determined by CO2 emissions, and increasing costs of diesel powertrains, there is now stronger demand than ever before for cost-effective, fuel-efficient technologies."

CPT stresses that its technologies are designed to be applied to existing vehicle designs. "Unlike full hybrids or fuel cell electric vehicles, our technologies represent low-cost, incremental solutions that have been designed specifically to fit within existing engine 12V architectures with no requirement for radical powertrain re-designs," explains application engineering manager, Mike Dowsett.

"While fully variable valve control and petrol direct injection technologies offer cost-effective improvements, they both require a substantial engine redesigns and as a result, very significant investment," adds advanced engineering manager, Dr Richard Quinn, who also joined CPT from Visteon. "By comparison, our SR technologies can be used to add incremental benefits to any engine, whether it is a low-cost legacy unit or the very latest design."

SR drives are based on simple brushless motors and dedicated controllers. Torque is produced by stator electromagnets attracting a steel rotor, which needs no windings or magnets. Information on the position of the rotor – obtained with or without sensors – is fed to the controller which energises each stator winding only when it can produce useful torque. The result is a rugged drive that operates at high efficiencies over a wide range of speed, torque and load conditions.

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