Ricardo opens new vehicle emissions test center

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Ricardo has officially opened its new £10m (US$16m) Vehicle Emissions Research Centre (VERC) at its Shoreham facility in the UK.

The new center, located on the south coast of England, was opened by Richard Noble, land speed record holder from 1983-1997, as part of a wider celebration of the company’s centenary since it was founded in 1915 by Harry Ricardo.

Ricardo CEO Dave Shemmans said, “The Vehicle Emissions Research Centre is a fantastic addition to Ricardo’s automotive research and testing capability, enabling us to help our customers in all parts of the world in the development of cleaner and more fuel-efficient vehicles.”

The new lab is climate controlled and can test in temperatures from -30 to 55C, with four-wheel drive capability for testing AWD and hybrid vehicles. Ricardo has also built space for another testing laboratory to account for future demand and changes in legislation.

The new testing equipment, supplied by Horiba, is capable of supporting engineering projects to worldwide regulatory standards, including Euro 6/7 and US SULEV. One feature that Ricardo says sets the facility apart is the third constant volume sampler (CVS) tunnel. Typical testing facilities contain separate CVS tunnels for gasoline and diesel projects, but the new Ricardo center has a third for the very lowest SULEV emissions projects.

ETi talks to Neville Jackson, chief technology and innovation officer at Ricardo

How does VERC change things for Ricardo?

The primary reason we invested in it is because we’re going to have to measure very low emissions levels so much more accurately. You’ve got to have the latest measurement, control and environmental technology to be able to test the vehicles that are going to meeting the emissions regulations in five or 10 years’ time. This new facility is fundamental to our business, it really does support so much of the rest of the work that goes on. If you’re designing and implementing a new engine, you need to be able to put it in the vehicle and see that it achieves the vehicle characteristics, because that’s what’s being sold.

You’ve got this physical facility, but what role are computers playing these days?

It’s vast – we can work out not just the performance and potential emissions from an engine, but how it’s going to sound before we’ve even built it. When we do build it, the software systems have grown immensely. When I joined Ricardo in the early 1980s, you would put an engine on the test bed and fill out test sheets as you went along. These days everything is computer-aided, it’s so much easier to optimize things. In the 1980s we had three or four parameters you could change; nowadays we’ve 20 or 30, and you couldn’t do it without a computer model.

Is there a good correlation between the computers and the final product testing, or is there still the potential for surprise?

Much less. The whole purpose of engineering development is to remove surprises – we don’t like them, we want to understand where the issues are. Finding surprises late on in the development process is a bit of a disaster.

Do these variables mean that everyone is going to converge on the same space?

There will be general trends to converge on the same space, but there will always be differentiation and new innovations coming to the market at different rates, and certain technologies that are brand differentiators. The trends towards downsizing, direct injection – all those things provide significant benefits, so you can’t ignore them.

Are ultra-low emissions regulations feasible from the current standpoint?

It’s all entirely feasible. The real issue is the economics. We could completely clean up the exhaust, but we’d end up with a massive chemical reactor on the back of the car, which would cost the same as the car. It’s about developing technology that delivers what’s required at an acceptable cost to the consumer.

How does Ricardo work to remain an industry expert?

We’re quite fortunate that we work for so many different customers that we’re able to support a broad portfolio of technologies. We work on everything from electric vehicles to hybrid to gasoline, diesel, gas. We have a broad vision of how the different routes compare. It’s important for our business that we have a big picture view, we’re not just focused on a narrow area. When it comes to the future we’re well placed to decide what the best solutions are.

July 30, 2015

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About Author

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Dean has been with UKi Media & Events for over a decade, having previously cut his journalistic teeth writing and editing for various automotive and engineering titles. He combines extensive knowledge of all things automotive with a passion for driving, and experience testing countless new vehicles, engines and technologies around the world. As well as his role as editor-in-chief across a range of UKi's media titles, he is also co-chair of the judging panel of the International Engine of the Year Awards.

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