BMW Group and Nanyang Technological University (NTU Singapore) are cooperating on a new electromobility research program at their Future Mobility Research Lab located on campus. The joint lab was set up in 2013 with initial funding of S$5.5 million and it is BMW Group's first in Southeast Asia. An additional combined S$1.3 million will be injected for this new project.
BMW i8 with RD plate (special purpose vehicle plates) in Singapore (Photo via BMW Blog)
Research will focus on the plug-in electric i3 and the plug-in hybrid sports car i8 platform, which BMW will provide these vehicles to the joint lab. It will focus on two new areas, Electromobility in Asia and Smart Materials. Scientists from BMW and NTU will conduct real life research on driver behavior and logging detail data on vehicle performance. Both vehicle will conduct trial technology on public roads including mobile application that can accurately predict traffic and estimate traveling time to destination point.
Having the research conducted in Singapore, a densely-populated, urban city state (slightly smaller than Hong Kong) will provide the research team unique data on how future electric vehicle can be manufacture suitable for global mega cities that Southeast Asia region house a large percentage of them.
Unfortunately, cars are famously expensive in Singapore as the government needs to manage the growth of vehicles on the road in the densely populated city. There are multi-level of fees or tax on the manufacture price even before adding the profit margin for the retail dealers and EVs aren't in the exception list. A Nissan Leaf sold in 2013 reported to cost as much as USD147,000 whereas an ICE equivalent cost USD80,000.
The Land Transport Authority does provide incentive schemes to low-emission vehicles and a has a reduced road tax program, but neither have reached an attractive level. We hope the city's strong initiatives on EV research could soon be reflected on their policy for local EV market to promote higher adoptions of environmental friendly vehicles.
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:
- Advanced Battery
- 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.
- Driver Enhancement
- 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.
- Intelligent Mobility
- 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.