Acquiring knowledge, building strength

Updated: 2015-09-05 07:42

By Cecily Liu(China Daily Europe)

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He says the battery is the most important and most expensive part of an electric car, accounting for over half of the car's overall cost. Thermal management of the battery system is directly relevant to the cost of the car.

"The optimal operating temperature of the battery in an electric car is between 25 C and 40 C. But the battery environment is often as high as 60 C to 70 C in the summer, and in some parts of China where the climate is cold in the winter the battery starting temperature can be much lower than 25 C. Sometimes, for example on motorways, when the car is fully accelerating, the battery can be hotter than 40 C," Yan says.

The second aspect of the research, which focuses on energy harvesting or improving thermal efficiency, aims to recover a larger percentage of energy, retrieving it from exhaust gases, for example, and turning it into electric energy.

He says with the current engine technology for hybrid vehicles, less than 30 percent of the fossil fuel consumed by the engine is turned into useful energy for the wheels, and a small fraction of this energy is then turned into electric energy.

However, because more than 70 percent of the original energy is lost through the exhaust and other heat losses, recovering this energy and turning it into electrical power could be beneficial.

Yan says his researchers have finished the first phase of work, which has produced viable technology. They have just started the second stage of collaboration with FAW, which focuses on further development of the technology and commercializing it for testing and mass production in FAW's vehicles.

The second phase will take place in both Nottingham and China with much closer collaboration with FAW's R&D center.

Lancaster University is pioneering a project that brings together Chinese and UK businesses for joint R&D projects in academia, with support of the university's academics and students. The Lancaster China Catalyst Project started last year. More than 40 UK companies now take part.

Mark Beresford, the program's UK-China project manager, says the matchmaking process that brings Chinese and British companies together is important, and his team seeks to give companies support on both sides through facilitating trust, confidence, mutual respect of differences, flexibility in approach, and overcoming language and cultural barriers.

"For collaborations to be successful and add value long term, UK-China company partnerships need to be grounded in a strong commercial logic and not just set up for the purposes of a short-term project," he says.

The project focuses mainly on small and medium-sized businesses that might otherwise lack the resources to invest in cross-border R&D collaboration.

But despite booming Chinese R&D investment in Europe, many challenges remain. In terms of acquiring R&D capability through mergers and acquisitions, it is crucial for Chinese firms to understand how much of a target's technology and R&D capability is included in the blueprint of contracts, says Fu Xiaolan, professor of technology and international development at the University of Oxford.

In addition to the codified knowledge that can be specified in contracts, it is vital to understand there may be "passive knowledge" - experience and knowledge held by senior managers and key employees of a company - that is worth trying to acquire, too, Fu says.

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