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  Dr Chris Vagg  Applications accepted all year round  Competition Funded PhD Project (UK Students Only)

About the Project

Development of propulsion systems for any type of vehicle involves enormous amounts of testing at a range of levels, from components through to whole vehicles. The electrical energy consumption of these test systems is not negligible and can become very significant for long-term experimental campaigns, such as battery degradation or powertrain durability studies. In addition, when there are multiple Units Under Test (UUT) being tested at the same time the peak power requirements can become very high (the sum of all the UUTs), which forces a need for a very large power supply. These two issues lead to increased capital investment costs, higher running costs and larger CO2 footprint.

A great deal of work has been done to optimise component sizing and energy management in hybrid-electric vehicles, but these techniques have never been used to optimise the testbed, which is what this research will explore.

This PhD seeks to understand to what extent energy management strategies can be used to optimise the simultaneous testing of multiple components. It will be supported by AVL GmbH, the world's largest independent company for the development, simulation and testing of all types of powertrain systems. The initial case study will be AVL’s next-generation 36-channel battery cell tester, and other applications may also be considered. Within this battery cell tester an Active Front End is used to maintain a shared DC-link at an elevated voltage, and each channel uses a step-down DC-DC converter to reach a voltage close to the cell voltage. By optimising the power scheduling of the 36 channels, and by recirculating power between channels, the objective is to reduce the system complexity and cost whilst simultaneously improving the energy efficiency of its testing.

The research has a strong application focus and the opportunity to evaluate solutions in hardware with the support of AVL. The outcomes will directly contribute to new AVL software upgrades and inform future generations of powertrain test systems, reducing the cost and CO2 footprint of developing new powertrains.

This project would suit a student with a background in Electrical Engineering; candidates with a background in Mechanical Engineering or IMEE with appropriate experience would also be considered.

This project is offered as part of the Centre for Doctoral Training in Advanced Automotive Propulsion Systems (AAPS CDT).  The Centre is inspiring and working with the next generation of leaders to pioneer and shape the transition to clean, sustainable, affordable mobility for all. The successful candidate for this project will be working with Engineers from the project partner, AVL, a world class test and simulation techniques developer at their global headquarters in Graz and with teams at the new state of the art IAAPS laboratory complex on the Bristol bath Science Park. 

Prospective students for this project will be applying for the CDT programme which integrates a one-year MRes with a three to four-year PhD   

AAPS is a remarkable hybrid think-and-do tank where disciplines connect and collide to explore new ways of moving people. The MRes year is conducted as an interdisciplinary cohort with a focus on systems thinking, team-working and research skills. On successful completion of the MRes, you will progress to the PhD phase where you will establish detailed knowledge in your chosen area of research alongside colleagues working across a broad spectrum of challenges facing the Industry.   

The AAPS community is both stretching and supportive, encouraging our students to explore their research in a challenging but highly collaborative way. You will be able to work with peers from a diverse background, academics with real world experience and a broad spectrum of industry partners.  

Throughout your time with AAPS you will benefit from our training activities such mentoring future cohorts and participation in centre activities such as masterclasses, research seminars, think tanks and guest lectures.  

All new students joining the CDT will be assigned student mentor and a minimum of 2 academic supervisors at the point of starting their PhD.  

Funding is available for four-years (full time equivalent) for Home students.  

See our website to apply and find more details about our unique training programme (   

AVL List GmbH is the world's largest independent company for the development, simulation and testing of all types of powertrain systems (hybrid, combustion engine, transmission, electric drive, batteries, fuel cell and control technology), their integration into the vehicle and is increasingly taking on new tasks in the field of assisted and autonomous driving as well as data intelligence. 

As a AAPS CDT student sponsored by AVL, you will also benefit from the peer support and professional development offered by AVL’s Systems Engineering Lab, founded in 2014 as an interdisciplinary communication & collaboration platform for systems engineering. It comprises around 60 students from various studies, ranging from computer sciences and engineering to psychology, economics and law. 

A specially developed program provides training to improve systems engineering competencies and prepare young talents for upcoming challenges in a connected world. Additional mentoring from qualified AVL experts and constant knowledge exchange is guaranteed throughout your time within AVL SE-Lab. 

Funding Notes

AAPS CDT studentships are available on a competition basis for UK students for up to 4 years. Funding will cover UK tuition fees as well as providing maintenance at the UKRI doctoral stipend rate (£17,668 per annum for 2022/23 rate) and a training support fee of £1,000 per annum.

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