Ricardo awarded funding to develop ‘digital twins’ for electrified powertrains


As automakers seek to use digital engineering to accelerate the development of electric and hybrid vehicles, and to improve their real-world product quality and efficiency, Ricardo has been awarded funding from the UK’s Office for Low Emission Vehicles (OLEV) – delivered through Innovate UK – to develop ‘digital twin’ based design and optimisation solutions for electrified powertrains.

Digitalisation is advancing the complete product lifecycle, from development and production to testing, in-service maintenance and recycling. A digital twin is a representation of any physical product that can be used for monitoring, simulating and optimising designs, and assessing operational performance. According to Ricardo, digital twin technology will bring a “significant reduction” in electric powertrain development time, cost and risk, through up-front design analysis, optimisation and testing in a virtual environment, reducing the need for multiple prototypes.

The key objective of Ricardo’s project, which will run for the next six months, is to assess the impact of digital twin techniques on product development. A secondary objective is to evaluate the application of digital twin technology to in-service product maintenance. Ricardo’s intention is to apply its expertise in powertrain reduced-order modelling for real-time applications, and then to propose innovative business models for virtual product maintenance solutions. For the project, Ricardo has received £113,000 in funding from OLEV.

The initial focus of the project will be to define digital twin requirements for each of the key sub-systems within an electrified powertrain. The second focus will be to develop digital twins for each sub-system which meets these requirements. The third point of focus is the integration of each sub-system, to create an electrified powertrain digital twin. This system-level digital twin will be used, as part of the virtual product development process, in the design and optimisation of the electrified powertrain.

The expectation is that the project will deliver three innovations, which will be key building blocks in the digitalisation of electrified powertrain development and in-service maintenance, enabling Ricardo to deliver clean and efficient propulsion systems with reduced timescales, saving tens of millions of pounds/dollars per product. The first of these innovations is the definition of a digital twin for electrified powertrain sub-systems, including model hierarchy, data exchange, historical data management and standardised interfaces. Secondly, simplified models using automatic model reduction, that allow for faster interactions when results are required at small time scales. Lastly, the use of digital twins as part of a virtual product development process.

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Adam divides his time as an editor between the worlds of aviation and motoring. These worlds may seem a little diverse today, but autonomous technology and future urban mobility is bringing them ever-closer. Adam is also chairman of the Vehicle Dynamics International Awards.

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