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THE SINGAPORE MAGAZINE OF RESEARCH,
TECHNOLOGY AND EDUCATION
About Innovation
SPOTLIGHT:
BMW Group and NTU Embark on S$1.3 million Electromobility Research
MW Group along with Nanyang Technological University (NTU) announced a new electromobility research programme on 29 June 2015. This will be held at the Future Mobility Research Lab at NTU and involves the all-electric BMW i3 and plug-in hybrid sports car BMW i8 that runs on both electricity and petrol.

The launch ceremony was graced by Minister of State at Singapore's Ministry of Trade and Industry, Mr Teo Ser Luck; Minister President of Hesse and President of the Federal Council of the Federal Republic of Germany, Mr Volker Bouffier; and His Excellency, Dr Michael Witter, Ambassador of the Federal Republic of Germany to Singapore.

The Future Mobility Research Lab is BMW Group's first joint lab in Southeast Asia and they will be providing the BMW i3 and BMW i8 as research platforms.

Both partners will all together be providing S$1.3 million, in addition to the initial S$5.5 million funding allocated to the joint lab in 2013, to drive the new research projects.

This programme will target on two areas, Electromobility in Asia and Smart Materials. This is on top of the original three topics that the joint lab is working on: Advanced Battery, Driver Enhancement and Intelligent Mobility.

The two BMW vehicles will be used to investigate real-life driver behaviours and to collect in-depth data on vehicle performances. New technologies such as mobile applications to accurately predict traffic and estimate travelling time will be tested by the cars during on-road trials.

Mr. Axel Pannes, Managing Director of BMW Group Asia said: "We are very satisfied with our partnership with NTU and the establishment of the Future Mobility Research Lab, thanks to the high level of competency from NTU's research staff and interdisciplinary teams."

"Through the relentless efforts of the dedicated researchers, we have already made some important findings through the earlier research topics in a short period of just two years. With the expanded research scope on Electromobility in Asia and Smart Materials, more invaluable knowledge will be gained by both parties. Further, the knowledge will also be transferred to Singapore's academia and broaden their technical understanding of modern full-electric and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles. It will definitely forge a stronger technological partnership between the BMW Group and NTU," added Mr. Pannes.

NTU's Chief of Staff and Vice President (Research), Professor Lam Khin Yong, said the new research programme will add on to the research successes of the NTU-BMW joint lab.

"The new research programme will further exploit the synergy between BMW Group's leadership and expertise in automotive sciences and NTU's leading research in sustainability and clean technologies. The NTU-BMW joint lab has already made important advancements in areas such as new battery materials that can extend the range of an electric vehicle and innovative driver assistive technologies to greatly enhance safety."

"NTU is one of the eight top universities across the globe that BMW has established a strategic partnership with. The BMW i3 and i8 will be used by BMW and NTU scientists to develop and test innovative technologies in real-life conditions and this new research programme extends NTU's efforts in developing future mobility solutions with global impact," said Prof Lam.

Prime Minister of the Federal State of Hesse and President of the German Bundesrat, Mr Volker Bouffier, said, "The new electromobility research programme launched by NTU and BMW emphasises the strong and fruitful bilateral relations between Germany and Singapore in the fields of research. Certainly the programme will further strengthen the ties on each side. Thus, to study and develop key areas which relate to future transportation will be a crucial factor on our way to a modern globalized world based on sustainable development."

Director, Transport Engineering, Singapore Economic Development Board, Mr Tan Kong Hwee, said, "BMW's partnership with NTU for the set-up of its Future Mobility Lab is testament to the increasing interest in urban mobility and Singapore's attractiveness for the conduct of research and development in this area."

Electromobility in Asia

The Electromobility in Asia project aims to investigate how drivers interact with the BMW vehicles in real life so as to better comprehend user behaviour and to improve electric and plug-in hybrid technology for the future.

Singapore, a densely-populated urban city state, will be a good place to conduct research that allows the scientists to understand how electric vehicles can be improved to become more relevant for global megacities. Other topics that will be studied include how emerging technologies like fast charging, wireless charging and smart assistant driving technologies will impact the consumer.

Smart Materials

With the increasing popularity of touchscreen interfaces used in vehicles, there is a need to research how such interfaces can be made more tactile, such as research in various shape memory materials and dielectric polymers can allow scientists to possible develop technologies to allow buttons to appear on interactive surfaces and touch screens when required.

Mr Pannes added that Singapore is the perfect venue for the BMW Group to conduct research on electromobility.

"In Singapore, the second most densely populated country in the world, we anticipate that electric vehicles with its zero tailpipe emissions and exhaust fumes will be a key player in the transportation network of the future. The city-state also has high connectivity and a tech-savvy population, which makes it more receptive towards new cutting-edge technology. Further, we believe Singapore has the potential to become a R&D hub for electromobility, especially with its clearly expressed ambitions to become a Smart Nation. We want to play a contributive role in that," said Mr Pannes.

Future Mobility Research Lab Breakthroughs

The Future Mobility Research Lab which was set up in April 2013, aims to research and develop vital areas relating to future transportation, including Advanced Battery, Driver Enhancement, and Intelligent Mobility.

After two years of intensive research, they have made several significant findings in these areas:

Advanced Battery

  • New battery materials are being experimented on, such as highvoltage cathodes and anodes (the positive and negative poles of a battery). This potentially doubles the energy density, important for extending the range of an electric car as well as allowing for faster charging times.
Driver Enhancement
  • Current sensor technologies can detect if a driver is sleepy or alert as well as detect based on speed and direction of travel if the vehicle is currently on a collision course with another vehicle. However, these sensor systems are independent of each other, and do not take into account the driver抯 present condition to adapt to it.
  • A driver enhancement system is currently being developed to adjust to the driver抯 condition by changing the number of assistance technologies deployed to assist the driver. It depends on parameters such as the alertness of the driver, if he/she is paying attention to traffic, and if traffic conditions around the vehicle is congested or sparse.
Intelligent Mobility
  • A mobile application that can better predict the traffic conditions and accurately estimate arrival time at the destination has been developed. This app is based on an intelligent routing system that takes into account individual driving style and current traffic situation based on real-time traffic information. It also has a parking search system that analyzes the parking conditions around the destination.

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INNOVATION magazine is a joint publication of Nanyang Technological University, National University of Singapore and World Scientific Publishing Co Pte Ltd