BMW Group and Nanyang Technological University (NTU Singapore) launched a new electromobility research programme, involving the all-electric BMW i3 and plug-in hybrid sports car BMW i8 that runs on electricity and petrol.
This new research programme will be conducted at the Future Mobility Research Lab located on the NTU campus, which is the BMW Group’s first joint lab in Southeast Asia.
Both parties will be injecting a combined S$1.3 million to drive the new research projects, on top of the initial S$5.5 million funding allocated to the joint lab in 2013.
The new research programme will focus on two new areas, Electromobility in Asia and also Smart Materials. This is in addition to the original three research topics that the joint lab is working on: Advanced Battery, Driver Enhancement and Intelligent Mobility.
The joint lab will use the two BMW i vehicles to conduct research on real-life driver behaviour and to collect in-depth data on vehicle performance. The two cars will also conduct on-road trials of new technologies such as a mobile application that can accurately predict traffic and estimated end-to-end travelling time.
The main goal of embarking on the Electromobility in Asia project is to find out how drivers interact with BMW i vehicles in real life, so as to better understand user behaviours and to improve electric and plug-in hybrid technology for the future.
By conducting the research in Singapore, a densely-populated, urban city state, it will enable researchers in the joint lab to gain insights on how electric vehicles can be made more relevant for global megacities. Other study topics include how emerging technologies like fast charging, wireless charging and smart assistant driving technologies will impact the consumer.
With today’s proliferation of touchscreen interfaces being used increasingly in vehicles, there is a need to study how these touchscreen surfaces can be made more tactile.
Through research in various shape memory materials and dielectric polymers, scientists will look at developing technologies which can enable buttons to appear on interactive surfaces and touch screens when needed.
Future Mobility Research Lab breakthroughs
The Future Mobility Research Lab, set up in April 2013, aims to research and develop key areas relating to future transportation, which includes Advanced Battery, Driver Enhancement, and Intelligent Mobility.
After two years of intensive research, the Future Mobility Research Lab has made some significant findings in the following areas:
– New battery materials are being experimented on, such as high-voltage cathodes and anodes (the positive and negative poles of a battery), which can potentially double the energy density, which is important in extending the range of an electric car as well as enable faster charging times.
– Current sensor technologies are able to tell if a driver is sleepy or alert and if the vehicle is on a collision course with another vehicle, based on the speed and direction it is travelling. However, the sensor systems are independent of each other, and does not take into account the driver’s present condition and adjust to it.
– A driver enhancement system is now being developed to adapt to the driver’s condition, to either increase or decrease the number of assistance technologies deployed to help the driver. It is based on parameters such as whether the driver is alert or sleepy, if he/she is paying attention to the road, and if traffic conditions around the vehicle is congested or sparse.
– A mobile application has been developed which can better predict the traffic conditions and accurately estimate arrival time at the destination. This app is based on an intelligent routing system that calculates individual driving style and current traffic situation based on real-time traffic information. It also has a parking search system that analyses the parking situation around the destination.