PhD Studentship: Automated Optimal Control Strategy Generation

University of Bath - Department of Mechanical Engineering

Powertrain and Vehicle Research Centre

Applications are invited for a PhD studentship to assist in the development of an Advanced Powertrain Architecture Optimisation Tool. The position is for a three-year research programme.

The studentship is fully funded by McLaren Automotive and the Advanced Propulsion Centre UK (APC) via the Digital Engineering & Test (DE&T) spoke, hosted by Loughborough University within their London campus. The successful candidates will be based at the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park in Stratford London. The candidate will be expected to travel to McLaren Technology Centre (MTC), Woking, to fully integrate with the engineering teams there (cost of travel is included within the project).

The PhD will be supervised by academics from the Powertrain & Vehicle Research Centre, part of the Department of Mechanical Engineering at the University of Bath. The PVRC has recently been announced at the APC spoke for Engine Systems efficiency and are also collaborators in the DE&T spoke.

This is a highly collaborative project led by McLaren Automotive and supported by Ricardo Consulting Engineers and the University of Bath.

Decisions regarding propulsion system architecture occur during the very early stages of vehicle development, and are ideally based on the results of simulation or tests.  The more advanced a propulsion system becomes (e.g. internal combustion engine augmented by some form of electric drive) the more complex the interactions of attributes, and the more difficult and time consuming the determination of merits and drawbacks of a specific system in comparison to another becomes, and the larger the range of simulation tools required.

Automated Optimal Control Strategy Generation

In order for simulations/tests to deliver the best possible performance for a given propulsion system, an optimal control strategy is needed. For a fair and representative comparison of the real-world performance of architectures, each one requires and individual, optimised strategy. Manual derivation of such strategies is very labour intensive, and is often not carried out until after the powerunit architecture has been defined, limiting the number of architectures that will ever be investigated.

The high level aim of this workstream is to implement a tool that is able to automatically generate an optimal control strategy for a given propulsion system and given situation. This can then be used in simulations and testing to ensure that results are representative of what the propulsion systems are capable of in real life.

The PhD programmes will be supervised by Dr Sam Akehurst ( and Prof Chris Brace ( of the Powertrain & Vehicle Research Centre at the University of Bath (

Funding is provided by McLaren Automotive and supported by Ricardo Consulting Engineers and the University of Bath. Funding will cover Home/EU tuition fees, Training Support Fee, enhanced stipend (£17,000 pa)

Overseas students who can fund the difference between the Home/EU and overseas fees are welcome to apply.

Applicants should be of outstanding quality and exceptionally motivated, and should have:

  • A First Class or Upper Second Honours degree (or equivalent overseas qualification) in Automotive/Mechanical Engineering or a closely related discipline.
  • A background in internal combustion engines, transmission systems and vehicle powertrain systems.
  • Ideally practical experience of working in an automotive powertrain sector, for example a placement year or graduate experience.
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