Policy initiatives jump start Sunamp Automotive

Sunamp had a major presence at Cenex-LCV 2017 where we showcased our cooling system for refrigerated vans, a project developed with bodybuilder Paneltex, journey optimisation software Routemonkey and Low Carbon Vehicle Partnership. We were delighted to be announced among the winners of the Niche Vehicle Network’s Proof of Concept Competition Sponsored by the Office for Low Emission Vehicles (OLEV) and Innovate UK, announced at the event.

Legislation, in the form of mandatory emissions reduction targets, and strong government support are the stick and carrot that will accelerate EV growth. Great strides have been made following the VW diesel scandal with the introduction of low emission zones, and the realisation that city centres have major air pollution problems, with diesel fuel recognised as the major contributor. This means there are some exciting opportunities ahead for us. Range is one of the key barriers to widespread EV adoption. Vehicles fitted with Sunamp compact heat batteries for heating and cooling will travel further than those which rely wholly on electric battery power.

BEIS, Department for Transport, Innovate UK and the APC have been investing in R&D technologies for a number of years. Sunamp’s first investment through InnovateUK – Integrated Programme Development (IDP) – was in 2010 when we received our first IDP6 grant. This grant call was looking at transferring innovative technologies from other sectors to the transport sector.

Since then we have received IDP8 funding to develop Thermo-Chemical Materials for higher temperature automotive applications; and to trial our PCM heat battery integrated inside the Peugeot iOn EV. The iOn (also known as the Mitsubishi iMiEV) has a range of just 55 miles – this is significantly decreased to around 40 miles when the heating and screen clearing is on in the car. Just one 2.5kWh Sunamp Heat Battery installed in the car (and charged alongside the main battery overnight) provides an hour of heat to the driver and passengers, with no reduction in range! Range is restored to 55 miles with a minimal installation that can fit under the boot floor.

This approach proved super-reliable in a two-year trial where a Sunamp engineer relied on the heat-battery-equipped iOn for a 52 mile commute. Without heat battery – result misery: a half hour mid-journey reacharge in freezing cold winter conditions. With heat battery – result happiness: the full 52 miles covered in all weathers with range to spare.

Spin-off applications that Sunamp is pursuing with leading manufacturers includes keeping the passengers and driver warm on low-carbon buses. Longer term we are working to be designed in to major brands’ electric cars and vans.

Heating isn’t the only drain on the battery in electric commercial vehicles: Supermarkets want to electrify their home-shopping deliveries, and that brings the need for cooling to safely deliver frozen and chilled goods. Power-hungry refrigeration means a huge load on the battery and consequent sapping of range. Our IDP12 project with Paneltex, Route Monkey and LowCVP is exploring solutions using low temperature Phase Change Materials to enable introduction of electric delivery vans for supermarket deliveries expected to have a huge positive impact on the reduction of emissions.

Our next challenge will be to convert the interest we have from most of the well-known names in the industry, and work with them to focus into those applications that are the best way to move forward. We have great opportunities to capitalise on market traction to set up license agreements with individual companies (integrators, automotive manufacturers and Tier 1 suppliers) or to work collaboratively in strategic consortiums with them, supported by Government through R&D programmes like IDP14, APC 9 and 10 (£5m to £30m sized projects).

A successful outcome of these and our current IDP12 project will see Sunamp Heat Battery-based automotive solutions that are one step away from entering into production, ready to make a real difference to the operation of real vehicles, for real people.

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