Sustainable Vehicle Engineering Centre (SVEC)

About us


The need for more sustainable transport solutions has never been more pressing in order to meet net zero emissions targets. Vehicles for individual mobility must become smaller, lighter, energy-efficient, recyclable and use renewable energy sources to power them. Future light duty vehicles such as cars and vans must also use fewer primary material resources in their manufacture.

We have produced world-leading research on energy, emissions and materials resource challenges facing the international automotive industry. This has included important work on:

  • lightweight vehicles that could be designed for dismantling and materials recovery
  • electric powertrains and battery technologies whose component parts can be recycled
  • vehicles with a reduced use phase energy consumption that is derived from renewable energy sources.

The automotive sector is currently transitioning to the new normal of electric vehicles (EVs). At the same time, the energy sector will both power these EVs and use the energy stored in vehicle batteries to deliver energy into the electricity grid during times of peak demand. We have modelled the environmental impacts of this entire new energy and transport nexus using sophisticated whole of life cycle assessment methods.

Researcher working in a workshop

Research impact

Battery

Multi-disciplinary research at Oxford Brookes University’s Sustainable Vehicle Engineering Centre (SVEC) has uniquely addressed the economic, technical, social and environmental aspects of electric vehicles and personal mobility since 2004. Through collaborations with the automotive industry, local government and public-private partnerships, SVEC has had impact in 3 distinct areas:

  • Substantial commercial gain for BMW, who used SVEC’s research in the MINI E project to inform the technical development of their electric cars, and benefitted from guidance on building wider acceptance of electric vehicles in their markets globally.
  • Influencing UK transport policy on electric vehicle adoption as a result of real-life demonstrator trials, and influencing policy on powered light vehicles through collaboration with the Zemo Partnership.
  • Informing battery strategies through whole life cycle analyses of the emerging energy and transport nexus through collaboration in a sequence of EU and UK projects such as the Faraday Institution’s Reuse and Recycling of Lithium Ion Batteries (ReLIB) project.

Leadership

Allan Hutchinson

Professor Allan Hutchinson

Professor - Head of Sustainable Vehicle Engineering Centre

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Featured Research

The transition to electric vehicles: modelling and real-life trials

SVEC’s research in electric vehicle (EV) introduction and e-mobility began with a fundamental and detailed understanding of the energy requirements through unique modelling and analysis. We created a new methodology for sustainable vehicle design, to enable detailed evaluation of the whole life energy and economic implications of combining different forms of powertrain, components, materials, processes and recycling techniques. This was achieved by combining database information with detailed Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) models in a multi-partner EPSRC-funded project entitled Towards Affordable, closed loop Recyclable Future Low Carbon Vehicle Structures (TARF-LCV, 2011-2016). We incorporated whole lifecycle energy analyses with predictions of the market growth of electric and hybrid vehicles.

'Beta test' electric MINI from electric vehicle trials from 2009 to 2011
'Beta test' electric MINI from electric vehicle trials from 2009 to 2011

Energy and transport: life cycle assessment

Electric transport is inextricably bound to the electricity grid, both in terms of direct energy use and energy storage in vehicle batteries that can deliver energy into the grid during times of peak demand. A thorough understanding and modelling of this new energy and transport nexus is required to deliver a low carbon and robust new approach.

Figure showing the overlapping electricity grid, eletric transport and energy storage nexus

The following figure shows the transition pathways highlighted in green dictated by policy, the main constraints for batteries highlighted in yellow, and the secondary strategies to alleviate the constraints highlighted in light green. Our dynamic C-LCA model enables us to interrogate each of these items, to identify the most significant elements of the constraints, and to provide quantified outputs over time such as the numbers of end-of-life batteries, amounts of scarce materials available for re-processing and potential vehicle-to-grid energy storage.

figure showing the interlinked transport and energy sectors, with transition pathways

Influence on transport policy

The transition to mainstream electric vehicles during the last decade began with large-scale demonstrator trials. We worked with the UK Centre of Excellence for Low Carbon and Fuel Cell Technologies (CENEX) to provide a national picture for the Technology Strategy Board (TSB) and Office for Low Emission vehicles (OLEV). This involved combining information on driver adaptation, infrastructure requirements, cost barriers, EV charging behaviour and energy use from all eight of the UK Ultra Low Carbon Vehicle (ULCV) trials 2009-12 (including the MINI E UK Project). The programme outcomes identified infrastructure and cost barriers that influenced subsequent Government policy and actions such as further funding for EV deployments, learning activities, and Plugged-in-Places funding to help urban regions with infrastructure installation. This may be seen in the Government’s continuing commitment to electrification through subsidies for EV purchase and home charging installation, zero road tax, provision of public charging infrastructure and unification of charge point access and payment for customers.

vehicles on Westminster bridge with the Palace of Westminster in the background

Selected publications