The University of Southampton

SESM6037 Automotive Propulsion

Module Overview

Motorised transport has transformed many aspects of human life over the past 120 years. Today’s automotive engineers, however, face the unresolved challenge of continuing that transformation in a sustainable manner. Therefore this module develops the student’s ability to engineer efficient and lowemission automotive propulsion solutions.

Aims and Objectives

Module Aims

Enable students to improve the operation of internal combustion engines and (hybrid-) electrical propulsion systems through system-level analysis, and analysis of the underlying (electro-) mechanical, fluid-dynamic and thermo-chemical processes.

Learning Outcomes

Knowledge and Understanding

Having successfully completed this module, you will be able to demonstrate knowledge and understanding of:

  • Factors driving development of automotive propulsion technology.
  • Combustion chemistry, flame theory, and pollutant formation and mitigation.
  • Fuel properties and fuel performance in combustion engines.
  • Spark-ignition and compression-ignition engine operation and performance.
  • Methods for improving performance and reducing emissions from internal combustion engines.
  • Electro-mechanical and electro-chemical components used in hybrid electric power trains.
  • Configuration of hybrid powertrain for automotive applications.
Transferable and Generic Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • Analyse experimental data and summarise findings.
  • Use computer simulation to develop and evaluate alternative designs.
  • Devise appropriate plots for analysis, communication, and justification of design decisions.
  • Communicate in a clear, structured and efficient manner.
Subject Specific Practical Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • Undertake experimental evaluation of internal combustion engines and power-train components.
  • Perform computational simulations in order to predict and to optimise the performance of automotive power-train for a given drive-cycle.
Subject Specific Intellectual and Research Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • Compute flame temperatures, chemical equilibria
  • Estimate engine performance metrics using air-standard analysis, computer simulation, or experimental data.
  • Explain the role that engine design features and operating parameters have on engine performance.
  • Design propulsion systems for improved performance using engineering analysis.
  • Select electro-mechanical components to meet design objectives.
  • Evaluate the performance of alternative hybrid drivetrain configurations in specific applications.


Context • Design requirements for automotive propulsion, on and off highway; Technical, energy, environmental, policy constraints. Trade-offs between electric-grid-powered vehicles and combustion-engines. • Overview of automotive powertrain technologies (combustion engine configurations and after-treatment, battery-electric systems, KERS, hybrids). Combustion and fuels: • Flame temperature and governing equations of combustion (revision; absolute enthalpy; species and temperature equations). • Chemical kinetics and chemistry of combustion (Global and elementary reactions; reaction mechanisms; hydrocarbon chemistry). • Dissociation and equilibrium (Equilibrium constants; combustion product composition). • Autoignition (also, the well-stirred reactor). • Laminar premixed flames (premixed flame theory; laminar burning velocity; spark ignition and flammability limits). • Laminar non-premixed flames and droplet combustion (Conserved scalars and the mixture fraction; droplet evaporation and combustion). • Pollution from combustion (Zel’dovich and extended NOx formation chemistry, CO and HC chemistry, particle formation and oxidation mechanisms). • Flames and turbulence: (characteristic time and space scales; regimes of turbulent combustion; approaches to modelling turbulent combustion). • Fossil fuels and alternatives: (fuel ratings, knocking and flame speeds; LNG, LPG, gasoline, diesel, methanol, ethanol, bio-diesel, Fischer-Tropsch). Design and performance of Spark-Ignition (SI) and Compression-Ignition (CI) engines: • SI performance and limits to performance: - Mean effective pressure; efficiency; performance maps. - Limits to efficiency and pressure: autoignition, rate of combustion, heat losses. •SI enhancing performance and emissions: - Improving performance: scavenging efficiency, flow exchange processes and tuning, direct injection. - Emission control; catalysts and cycle control. • CI performance and limits to performance: - Mean effective pressure; efficiency; performance maps. - Limits to efficiency and pressure: autoignition, rate of combustion, heat losses. • CI enhancing performance and emissions: - Fuel injection systems and spray structure - Multiple injection in CI engines. - Principles and performance of particle trapping and oxidation systems; Selective Catalytic Reduction. • Turbocharging: Turbocharger technology and intercooling; turbocharger matching. Low-carbon propulsion: • Anticipated developments in combustion engines: downsizing; low-temperature combustion / HCCI; alternative fuels; continuous/longer gearing; hybridization. • Series and parallel hybrids, and power management. • Electric motor drive technology (review of technology suited to automotive propulsion –induction, permanent magnet brushless, VRPM, SRM, DC) and performance metrics • Automotive battery and fuel cell systems – balance of plant requirements, performance metrics. Power-train testing and simulation: • Experimental investigation of engine design: performance, combustion behaviour, and emissions (engine dynamometer, fuel maps, mini-map testing; chassis-dyno; legislative drive-cycles). • Emission measurements (HC, CO, NOx and particulate emissions). • Optical diagnostics: Data required for in cylinder flow structure, Optical diagnostics (PIV, PTV, LIF, LII, etc.) • Thermodynamics models, CFD models, averaging techniques, in-cylinder flow and combustion models, modelling flame propagation in SI engines, spray structure and modelling techniques • Calculation of heat transfer (Eichelberg approach, dimensional analysis, Annand and Woschni models. • Chemical rate kinetics. • Hybrid propulsion case-study: Southampton University Peace of Mind Series Hybrid Electric Vehicle. Revision

Special Features


Learning and Teaching

Teaching and learning methods

Teaching methods include • Lectures including examples, with lecture hand-outs provided. • Set example questions and group problem solving sessions with staff support. • Laboratory briefings Learning activities include • Directed reading • Individual work on examples • Laboratory measurements, analysis, and reports.

Practical classes and workshops3
Wider reading or practice10
Supervised time in studio/workshop3
Follow-up work70
Completion of assessment task10
Preparation for scheduled sessions8
Total study time150

Resources & Reading list

Wesbrook, M.H. (2001). The electric car: development and future of battery, hybrid and fuel-cell cars. 

Turns, S.R. (1996). An introduction to combustion: concepts and applications. 

Rogers, G. F. C., Mayhew, Y.R. (1995). Thermodynamic and transport properties of fluids: SI units. 

Heywood, J.B. (1988). Internal Combustion Engine Fundamentals. 

Simulation software provided via blackboard.. 

Cengel, Y.A., Boles, M.A. (2011). Thermodynamics: an Engineering Approach,. 

Stone, R (1999). Introduction to Internal Combustion Engines. 


Assessment Strategy



MethodPercentage contribution
Exam  (120 minutes) 80%
Laboratory Report 20%


MethodPercentage contribution
Exam 100%

Repeat Information

Repeat type: Internal & External

Linked modules

Pre-requisite: SESM2017 Thermodynamics or equivalent.


To study this module, you will need to have studied the following module(s):

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