- Jaguar Land Rover is turning to some unexpected sources in its quest to improve future products.
- The British automaker is studying ancient wall constructions and the structure of trees, an approach designed to cut vehicle weight.
- Future cars may be inspired by the construction of centuries-old English buildings.
LONDON — Jaguar Land Rover is studying ancient wall constructions and the structure of trees in its quest to improve future vehicles.
Dr. Wolfgang Epple, Jaguar Land Rover director of research and technology, believes that there are lots of aspects of nature and non-automotive engineering that can be drawn upon for the development of more efficient structures. '
"Cars have been developed for just over 100 years, but nature has been evolving over millions of years," he said.
And architecture has been around a lot longer than the automobile, too.
Epple cites the wall-construction methods used on some centuries-old English buildings as an interesting structural study. The walls of these homes are constructed from wood, straw, mud and other materials, and have inspired investigations into reducing the mass of alloy engine blocks, which may eventually feature weight-saving approaches of the sort found in these buildings.
Speaking at a media dinner earlier this week, Epple said that his R & D department was also intrigued by trees, noting the substantial difference in weight carried by branches in summer when the tree has leafed, and in winter when it is bare.
More conventionally, Epple also revealed that JLR is investigating composite reinforcement for its aluminum body structures, methods of making engines more compact, improving the fuel injection systems of its gasoline engines to enhance economy, reducing the friction in gearboxes and finding ways to harness more of the energy lost to the car's exhaust and cooling systems.
Epple believes that plenty of development potential remains in the internal-combustion engine.
Applying nano-technology to batteries is another research avenue, the potential efficiency improvements to benefit Land Rover's hybrid-model program.
Epple's researches operate in a time frame between 10 and three-and-a-half years into the future, so we can expect to see a number of these enhancements appearing in the medium-term.
Much of this forward research will be carried out at the new National Automotive Innovation Campus to be built on the Warwick University campus in 2014, where JLR will eventually house its R & D team.
JLR needs to compensate for its small size when compared with its Audi, BMW and Mercedes-Benz rivals, says Epple, and working in tandem with universities is one way of doing this.
JLR is not alone in studying nature to improve its cars — Mercedes-Benz produced a 2005 aerodynamic design concept called the Bionic that was closely modelled on the tropical yellow boxfish.
Edmunds says: Jaguar Land Rover needs to find clever and cost-efficient ways of boosting its R & D programs to match its bigger premium rivals.