Department of Mechanical Engineering

Energy and Fuels Research Unit (EFRU)

We are focused on excelling in the areas of teaching, research and development in energy utilisation and efficiency for the benefit of New Zealand - with an emphasis on environmentally favourable systems.

The Energy and Fuels Research Unit (formerly the Vehicle and Fuels Research Unit) was established in 1982 at the time that New Zealand was introducing alternative fuels (CNG and LPG) for passenger cars and commercial vehicles. Over the years the unit has evolved and now undertakes research and development in a large number of energy related fields.

The unit focuses on energy utilisation and conservation. This includes:

  • Engine and vehicle fuel consumption reduction.
  • Exhaust emissions research and reduction.
  • Engine performance improvements.
  • Alternative fuel research and development.
  • Appliance energy optimisation.
  • Alternative refrigerants.
  • Low temperature chiller systems.
  • Modelling of domestic appliances, heat exchangers and heat transfer processes.
  • Modelling and testing of solar panels.
  • Modelling of air and gas flow in residential and commercial buildings and systems.
  • Minimum Energy Performance Standards (MEPS) testing for refrigerators and freezers.

Engine and vehicle research and development

In the early 1980’s the unit was responsible for the development of the NZ fuel consumption Standard NZS5425 and undertook extensive testing for vehicle suppliers committed to the fuel consumption labelling scheme in place at the time.

In more recent years the unit has concentrated on the measurement of exhaust emissions and economy of petrol, diesel and biofuel engines. Comprehensive studies were undertaken for the New Zealand government in preparation for the introduction of exhaust emissions legislation and certification tests were undertaken for importers of vehicles into Australia. Substantial studies have also been undertaken for local government assessing the potential impact of biodiesel on emissions from heavy duty vehicles.

The unit has the most comprehensive test facilities for automotive R&D in New Zealand.

Appliance and thermal systems optimisation



The heat transfer research in the unit aims at improving the energy efficiency of thermal systems through modelling, better design and more efficient operation.

The refrigeration group is very active in research related to the design, development and performance analysis of energy systems, domestic/commercial equipment and innovative cycles.

Research facilities include an environmental chamber for the testing of domestic appliances under controlled conditions, a refrigeration/heat pump test facility for testing alternative refrigerants and improved component designs, the liquid desiccant dehumidification system and a low temperature cascade CO2 refrigeration system.



Vehicle Research Facility (VRF)

Photograph of the Vehicle Research Facility

The University of Auckland’s Vehicle Research Facility (VRF) is well equipped to undertake a wide range of vehicle related research. Exhaust emission measurement is a speciality, being the only such laboratory in New Zealand.

Facility equipment

  • Schenck chassis dynamometer, 200 kph, 230 kW, with fully programmable road load simulation and inertia simulation.
  • Beckman constant volume sample system (CVS) for certification type emission testing.
  • Laboratory grade exhaust gas analysers for carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, methane, total hydrocarbons and oxides of nitrogen.
  • Two stage particulate dilution tunnel for diesel vehicle particulate emission measurement.
  • Computerised drivers aid for transient cycle testing, and computer based data acquisition.
  • Sealed housing for evaporative determination (SHED).

Facility capabilities

  • Certification vehicle emission testing to various international standards for petrol and diesel light duty vehicles; eg. US FTP75, Australian ADR37/01, European NEDC, Japanese 10.15 mode.
  • Development of drive cycles representative of “real world” driving conditions.
  • Fuel consumption and exhaust emissions testing for petrol, diesel, alcohol and gaseous fuels.
  • Emissions control device assessment and development.
  • Performance optimisation of gaseous fuelled vehicles.

Engine research facility

Photograph of a Ricardo E6 Research Engine
Ricardo E6 Research Engine

The engine research facility is located within the Thermodynamics Laboratory of The University of Auckland and is well equipped to conduct a wide range of engine and fuels research and development. Emissions and performance characterisation, management system mapping, fundamental research and component and engine testing are just some applications.

Facility equipment

  • Borghi and Saveri FA200/30SPV eddy current dynamometer
    • Maximum power 150 kW.
    • Maximum torque 620Nm.
    • Maximum speed 10000 rpm.
  • Borghi and Saveri FA100/30SL eddy current dynamometer (with Mazda 1600cc engine)
    • Maximum power 75 kW.
    • Maximum speed 12000 rpm.
  • Ricardo E6 Research Engine
    • Variable compression ratio.
    • Spark ignition or diesel.

Any of the above dynamometers can operate with any of the following equipment:


Fuel consumption
Liquid fuels (petrol, diesel, alcohols) ± 0.5 % accuracy
Gaseous fuels (CNG, LPG) ± 0.5 % accuracy


Exhaust Emissions
CO, CO2, CH4 NDIR, O2 paramagnetic, THC heated FID
NO/NOx heated chemiluminescent


Air flow measurement
Laminar flow elements (50, 100, 400 & 1000 cfm)
Combustion Pressure: Piezo electric transducer system and high speed data acquisition.


Facility capabilities

  • Engine performance and emissions mapping
  • Fuel testing
  • Engine development



Environmental chamber

Photograph of the environmental chamber


The environmental chamber test facility is located within the Thermodynamics Laboratory in the Faculty of Engineering, and is available for commercial contract research work.

The chamber enables control of ambient temperature and humidity for product testing, development and evaluation. MEPS testing for energy labelling is a speciality.

Chamber specifications

  • Chamber size 2.85 m long x 1.95 m high x 2.05 m deep.
  • Temperature range 5° to 50° C, control to ±0.5°.
  • Humidity range 40% to 95% (dependent on operating temperature).
  • Computer based data acquisition, 32 channels.
  • Variable voltage power supply with power consumption transducers.

Chamber applications

  • Energy labelling testing to requirements of MEPS per AS/NZS 4474.2.
  • Testing and development of refrigeration products and systems.
  • Testing and development of humidity control devices.
  • Testing of electronic components.
  • Any application where controlled environmental conditions are required.

Examples of projects

  • Refrigerator and freezer efficiency testing to a variety of international test standards.
  • Evaluation of alternative refrigerants and refrigeration components.
  • Efficiency test standards correlation and harmonisation.
  • Effect of ambient conditions, door opening and food load variation on refrigeration power consumption and efficiency.



Our staff

Dr. Rajnish Sharma

Expertise in:

  • Fundamental and Applied Fluid Mechanics.
  • Aerodynamics.
  • Heat Transfer.
  • Mass Transfer.
  • Thermodynamics.
  • Introduction To & Applications of CFD.

Stephen Elder
Unit Manager

Expertise in:

  • Fuel consumption and performance testing of vehicles and engines.
  • Evaluation of various parameters on fuel consumption and emissions, eg. engine tune, external factors such as tyre pressure, road surface, aerodynamic devices.
  • Investigation of techniques for the optimisation of the performance of alternative fuel engines.
  • The development of the technology required for the conversion of diesel to spark ignition engines fuelled by alternative fuels.
  • The development of computer models for economic and emissions studies of vehicles running on petrol, diesel, gaseous and biofuels.
  • Detailed studies of vehicle and emissions characteristics.