Green technologies: Making light work of climate change

Posted on 26 Aug 2012 by Tim Brown
Drayson Racing's all electric race car at the Goodwood Racetrack

“Within the manufacturing sector, green technology and the opportunities and products around that are increasingly important. Not only do they have the opportunity to provide jobs, they have the opportunity to address the single biggest challenge we face in our future – climate change.” These were the words of Lord Drayson during a recent interview with TM’s Tim Brown.

Drayson is passionate about safeguarding the future against climate change. He is also passionate about UK manufacturing and a proponent of the argument that these two interests can not only co-exist but in fact complement one another (p10).

Perhaps in proof of this, his company, Drayson Racing Technologies, partnered with Lola Group earlier this year to produce the fastest yet allelectric race car.

The current economic situation has meant that many industrialists, unlike Drayson, have become distracted from their environmental responsibilities and, worse still, a good number of ‘tree sluggers’ still aggressively deny the very existence of global warming.

Is global warming a natural cycle? Or is global warming caused by human actions? Both are true say the OSS Foundation, an environmental research firm. In the natural cycle, the world can warm, and cool, without any human interference. For the past million years this has occurred over and over again at 100,000 year intervals.

The difference now is that in the natural cycle, CO2 lags behind the warming because it is mainly due to Milankovitch cycles. The Milankovitch theory holds that the orbital cycle of the Earth is the major contributor to the Earth’s warming and cooling cycle.

Now CO2 is leading the warming which means that the current thermal rise is not part of the natural cycle.

If human industrial output had not been involved, the Earth would be near or slightly below thermal equilibrium, possibly slightly cooling. In reality, May this year was the 327th consecutive month in which the temperature of the entire globe exceeded the 20th century average.

Climate change attribution - graph created from published data by Robert A. Rohde

But even for the most hardened sceptics who hold that the 1300-odd scientists and climate researchers who originally influenced the opinion of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change have it wrong, it is difficult to deny that working to improve the environment is a good thing.

Cleaner air, ensuring a consistent supply of clean water and a more secure supply of energy should be considered very close secondary goals to the prevention of global warming.

Denying these secondary goals achieves nothing for the environment or the economy. Even in the present period where water and energy supplies are reasonably resilient, good environmental business policies still make economic sense and can help companies save costs on energy bills, raw materials, waste disposal and regulatory compliance.

Green technology innovations in the automotive industry

Ford

At Ford’s European plants, one of its main wastes is metal sludge from work such as engine and transmission production. The company has developed two different strategies for dealing with this waste stream. One is to prevent it from being created and the other is to find better ways to separate and reclaim the materials.

During normal metal working, it is possible to use thousands of litres of coolants and oils to cool down and lubricate the metal and the tooling. For several years now, Ford have tried to implement more dry machining technology which only uses a small fraction of the coolants and oils to perform the same task. The advantage is that by reducing the oil use to almost nothing, the resultant swarf is dry and easier to recycle. The disadvantage is that it is very expensive and difficult to retrofit to an existing line. Therefore it can only economically be introduced when setting up a new production line.

The company has also trialled a new system in its Dagenham engine plant where the metal swarf is compacted and the oil squeezed out. From that, Ford is able to achieve total recycling of the metal content and is able to return the lubricants back to the producer.

A conceptual image of the a Nederman system

Honda

When Honda UK wanted to increase the ROI in its swarf purification and recycling, the company turned to environmental engineering business Nederman. A single factory, such as their engine plant in Swindon, generates over 1,000 tonnes of swarf waste annually, so increasing efficiencies in production recycling is critical to its bottom line and the overall success of the site.

Nederman has been at the forefront of improving the production recycling process for many years.

Rather than send swarf waste off site for reprocessing, Nederman’s solution was to clean all the material onsite, separate the tramp oils and fines from any coolant and purify it by separating the aluminium from ferrous materials. Once this process is complete, the Nederman solution compacts the material, via a briquetting process, so it is easier to handle and transport by lorry to a scrap metal or recycling operator.

The Nederman solution has opened up major opportunities for reduced costs and increased revenues at Honda and has helped them to improve its environmental credentials and increase its profits.

For more information about the Nederman solution please contact James at PR Agency One on 07793 441 686

Green technology

Assuming that climate change is a reality and that humans are causing it, Drayson says we must do a better job to get the issue discussed as part of everyday business and politics. “The majority of the general public have been convinced, but we do not see that reflected in decision making relating to energy generation,” says Drayson. “There is simply no way in which we can keep the lights on unless we invest to tackle this problem.”

It is in investment that Drayson hopes to see improvements within industry. He says that manufacturers should realise there is an opportunity to hit two birds with one stone by applying themselves to developing green technologies which will help the environment and the economy.

Drayson is well placed to promote the benefits of going green but says that companies need to realise that many hands make light work. He believes that the partnership approach his company took in its racing car project, which also included Cosworth and BAE Systems, was essential to the successful creation of the car, which completed the famous Goodwood track in 53.91 seconds. The fastest time for an electric vehicle and 11th fastest record for the 2012 Festival of Speed.

“The UK is the world leader in motor racing and we have a very strong industry. What we don’t have is enough companies of scale that allow us to develop products quickly. This is why forming partnerships, consortiums and teaming up together is really quite important.”

In addition to the potential offered by business partnerships, in October 2010 the Government announced an investment of over £200m into a network of elite Catapult Centres to help commercialise the outputs of Britain’s worldclass research base and bridge the gap between universities and businesses. These centres are being established and overseen by the Technology Strategy Board and have the potential to drive future innovation in a multitude of areas including green technology.

@BrownNewsUK

 

For more information visit http://bit. ly/catapults or scan the QR code.