Terrestrial vehicles, in particular road vehicles, provide the majority of transport services. This will not change in the foreseeable future. The same applies to the fundamental challenges arising therefrom, such as reducing energy consumption, reducing noise, carbon dioxide, particle and pollutant emissions, increasing the use of alternative fuels, and improving safety, security, and comfort. In order to develop appropriate solutions DLR's Transport Business Area focuses on both road and rail vehicles and takes full advantage of the resulting synergies. The research topics of 'Vehicle Energy Systems', 'Novel Vehicle Structures' and 'Driver Assistance' offer immense potential for successfully tackling the challenges identified for road vehicles. The creation of visionary solutions for future rail vehicles is being pursued under the concept of a 'Next Generation Train'.
Vehicle Energy System
During the term of the current research program, 2009–2013, DLR will significantly improve the theoretical system principles and modelling processes for vehicle energy systems. For medium-size vehicles, a reduction in energy consumption of 5–10 percent for conventional combustion engines will be realised through innovative conversion of waste energy into useful energy, corresponding to savings of up to 15 grams of carbon dioxide per kilometre. Compared to a conventional gasoline engine, DLR’s in-house development of a free-piston linear generator will result in an efficiency improvement of 20 percent through direct conversion of chemical into electrical energy. In addition, DLR will increase the range of fuel cell vehicles by 35-50 percent through performance-enhanced fuel cell systems and hydrogen storage with advanced sorbents.
Novel Vehicle Structures
To significantly reduce the energy demand and therefore also the emissions of vehicles, it is necessary to drastically reducing the driving resistance. For this purpose, DLR's Transport Business Area is developing a concept for a lightweight vehicle for five passengers with a vehicle weight of 500 kilograms. The aim is to achieve a weight saving of 35–50 percent compared to conventional structures through a design using large amounts of fibre composites in a multi-material design. In addition, highly integrative metallic casting methods for lightweight, crash-resistant vehicle modules, function-integrated active structures and new sandwich structures are under development.
The work on 'Driver Assistance' is aimed at better supporting drivers in planning and making journeys according to their own requirements and possibilities through improved navigation support. The greatest potential for meeting the described challenges is at the level of manoeuvring. Here, the primary goal is to develop instruments that optimally support the driver in safely and efficiently handling the current traffic situation. By taking advantage of innovative communication technologies, individual journey planning is being enhanced in such a way that an optimisation can also be achieved among several road users. Finally, mechatronic chassis allow the achievement of stabilisation of the vehicle even under extreme conditions, which in turn contributes to improving driving comfort, safety and efficiency without increasing costs.
Next Generation Train
Behind the concept of the Next Generation Train are scientific issues regarding high-speed rail traffic from the areas of aerodynamics, structural dynamics, dynamic performance, propulsion technology, material sciences and lightweight construction. The objective is to increase speed by 25 percent without violating existing safety standards. At the same time, the intention is to halve specific energy consumption. Noise emissions will be reduced and passenger comfort will be increased with regard to cabin pressure, climate control, vibration and acoustics. Modularisation and improved system integration will allow significantly more cost-effective construction of rail vehicles, similar to road vehicle construction.
In addition, there is considerable potential for increasing the efficiency of development, validation and certification processes. The work will contribute to unlocking this potential by identifying options for integrated modelling of the total system and providing specific recommendations on harmonising requirements and processes in Europe. This will significantly reduce development cycles.