A blog by Neil McGregor – Chief Engineer, Steel E-motive and Ricardo
The Steel E-Motive project focuses on the development of a radical vehicle architecture for Mobility as a Service and Autonomous applications, targeting available technologies for 2030 deployment.
In a previous blog, Owain Davies discussed the various challenges of developing a vehicle architecture for these applications, including potential passenger and end user requirements, as well as those of the vehicle owner. However, these are just some of the considerations that need to be made so that we meet our programme objectives.
To begin to work towards a design for our steel mobility concept, the membership has been involved in a requirements study to help us to make the important decisions which will shape the development of the vehicle.
Requirements studies are important to the development of the vehicle concept
A requirements study is the process of analysing and assessing aspects of a proposed project to decide on the likelihood of achieving the objectives of the programme.
A good study requires input from a broad range of stakeholders so, over the past few months, we’ve been inviting a cross-section of global industry experts to take part in a series of virtual workshops to discuss challenges faced by vehicle users and operators and how these will shape vital elements of the vehicle design for production in 2030.
These have included mobility service providers, technical and engineering experts, steel manufacturers and suppliers and automotive manufacturers from across the world to ensure a diverse representation of global and industry requirements as we consider the nature of future mobility and global smart cities.
The requirements workshops started from a blank piece of paper and began to formulate requirements, use cases and ideas for key features in the potential vehicle design. Up for discussion were use cases and the engineering approach to styling, crash and safety and vehicle architecture considerations, as well as the appropriate steel grades and technologies which could be used to realise the design.
Through collaborative discussion and extensive research, and by leveraging Ricardo’s digital engineering expertise in simulation and analysis, the input of our panel of experts has helped to identify and define a technical specification for two concepts which will ultimately meet the objectives of the Steel E-Motive programme.
The two vehicle concepts identified will shape the future of mobility as a service
To help support the decarbonisation of urban transportation and global clean air policies, we have opted to develop battery electric vehicles.
A pre-study determined two unique use cases for urban mobility vehicles: a smaller urban vehicle used for shorter inner-city journeys and a larger vehicle used for longer journeys outside of cities. Each of these use cases will have differing range requirements, and the average number of passengers and luggage capacity may differ.
We are therefore opting to create a modular scalable vehicle architecture to accommodate for both urban and extra-urban use cases with a specific focus on safety, passenger comfort, accessibility, ownership costs and environmental performance.
This approach means that vehicles can be tailored to suit the requirements of the journey, whilst enable cost savings in the design and manufacture of the vehicle; a consideration that must be made to make the concepts accessible and affordable for both consumers and fleet operators.
To enable this modular approach, the vehicle concepts will use a skateboard platform. This integrates the major powertrain and chassis systems into a compact, self-contained unit, minimising space utilisation and enabling a variety of vehicle types and derivatives to be based on the same framework.
By taking advantage of the latest technology roadmap for battery evolution, this platform will demonstrate optimal range for the service provider, whilst meeting expected crash requirements for battery intrusion and passenger protection.
Finally, we’re targeting level 5 autonomy for these vehicle concepts which removes the human driving and control elements and interfaces such as steering wheel, pedals, and gear selectors. This presents us with new design freedoms for the vehicle architecture and safety, and unique load paths that will leverage the unique properties of advanced steels.
The Steel E-motive vehicle concept will target the following technologies.
Battery Electric Technology
Level 5 Autonomy
So what’s next?
Now that the feasibility study is complete and we have identified the vehicle concepts that we are targeting, this is where we can begin to see our ambition to create the future of sustainable mobility come to life.
Over the next phase of the project, we are excited by the prospect of the vast range of technical possibilities open to us as we develop and realise these two vehicle concepts.
We have the potential to bring radical innovation to the future of mobility with a combination of steel innovation and new automotive technologies, as we develop an efficient, cost-effective and manufacturable solution for transport providers.
The next phase runs until September 2021 and we’ll be ready to share outcomes from the phase, initial design concepts and supporting data. Along the way, we’ll be writing blogs and creating video to introduce you to our people and give peeks into our design processes. We hope you are as excited as we are as we go into the next phase of the project. Subscribe to our mailing list to make sure that you don’t miss out on our project updates.
Chief Engineer, Steel E-Motive and Ricardo