Ricardo Design

4th September 2007

A group of ten members enjoyed a tour and talk session at Ricardo Design on the evening of September 4th. The Shoreham site is where Mr. Harry Ricardo first started his work on engines. It is now the workplace for between 700 and 800 staff concerned with the development of engines, fuel systems, transmission systems plus both inlet and exhaust systems.

Our host Dave Morrison, Head of Marketing, had arranged for two colleagues to also act as guides, so we had the benefit of a very individual service.

The tour included seeing two of the vintage cars that the site keep taxed and insured for use on special occasions. One was a very rare Ricardo built car, the “Dolphin”, and the other was claimed to be the first production car with a Ricardo diesel engine, the Comet Mk. 111, in a 1935 Citroen “Rosalie”.

The displays of some of the many engines that Ricardo have been involved with included the original two cylinder two stroke, designed and built by Harry Ricardo for a car.  This engine found its way into many of the local Shoreham fishing boats, being well suited to prolonged low speed and proved extremely reliable.

Another engine of interest was a JCB 444-LSR, two of which were used in the Dieselmax successful breaking of the world land speed record for diesel cars. At 350 mph. it had been limited by the tyre technology. This racing engine had been developed from the existing JCB 444 used for sturdy construction equipment.

We were also shown an “exploded” version of a Ricardo diesel-electric hybrid. Here the 6kw.electric motor was continuously coupled to a turbo assisted 1.4l. Diesel. The electric motor was used as the ‘starter’, assisted at low revs, where the diesel torque was limited – up to 1500rpm, and then recharged the battery with regenerative braking. These hybrid engines had been fitted to both a Vauxhall Vectra and Alfa-Romeo respectively, and demonstrated successfully to car manufacturers in Japan

Also displayed was the 6.6l. Duramax Turbo Diesel and 5 speed Allinson automatic transmission that Ricardo helped develop and install in the non-military version of the Hummer – the H1.

We were shown a Vauxhall Vectra set up in an echo proof chamber, with rollers set in the floor for the vehicle to run on, forced ventilation and exhaust. This set up enables Ricardo to ‘tune’ any car to the noise ‘signature’ that the manufacturer desired. A Porsche Boxter was in an adjacent bay, being prepared for testing.

Our tour included looking in the control room of one of the four engine test bays on the site. These test bays complied with all the requirements of the Occupational Health and Safety Regulations. The building of the test facility had been a thoroughly researched and debated project, as it cost over £10 million, but had fortunately, been busy ever since they had been commissioned

After light refreshments Dave Morrison gave us a slimmed down presentation of the “Challenges and Drivers in the Automotive Industry”. This was based on his successful one-day lectures given to various Universities and other technical bodies.

These ‘Challenges’ were summarised as: –

(1) The need to reduce the effect of vehicles on the Environment, [i.e. CO2, NOX, and particulates],

(2) The need for the vehicle manufacturer to stay profitable, and also

(3) The need to continue to satisfy the needs of the Customer.

In the USA and Canada, small vehicles were predominately petrol driven, but are now turning to diesel power, whilst the Japanese with their very limited spaces, and memories of noisy, smoky diesel trucks were prejudiced against diesel cars. China and India are both seen as areas for significant development for Ricardo technology.

Light duty diesel technology was constantly improving, giving good fuel consumption and controlling NOX, but complex controls were needed to control the turbos.

The petrol engine still had potential, and was cheaper to produce { £25 – £50 per Kw. versus £10,000 -£30,000 per Kw. for a fuel cell}. Lean Boost and direct injection improved petrol consumption, and Ricardo were part of £2m Government project to produce an experimental 2stroke/4stroke petrol engine.

Hybrid engines offer several routes, but the most exotic are currently very expensive.  – A Stop/Start function on an IC engine could save 7% on fuel, was relatively cheap, and could be fitted to a million new cars a year! – A ‘Mild’ Hybrid engine could save 30-35% on fuel [such as the diesel/electric described above] cost £5k – £10k extra per car – A ‘Full’ Hybrid could save up to 40% on fuel, but currently is prohibitively costly – A fuel cell engine required significant work on both the car system and the fuel storage/distribution costs

In summary the way forward was seen, by the speaker, as being in the improvement of power transmission – the use of electric all wheel drive, in the downsizing of the combustion engine (high speed, turbo-assisted), and in the increasing use of Bio-fuels.

J Pound