Why pioneers are required to create the cars of the future

Earlier this year the French government declared that it will end sales of petrol and diesel vehicles by 2040 and swiftly the UK government followed suit, announcing the same target as part of measures to address the environmental risk that poor air quality poses to public health.

Of course, automotive manufacturers will have a huge part to play in meeting these objectives and Swedish firm Volvo was the first to commit to cranking up its production of alternatively powered vehicles, saying all new models from 2019 will be hybrid or electric vehicles. But it doesn’t end there; yesterday British technology company Dyson announced it is expanding into the automotive sector with a electric vehicle that will be launched by 2020. Despite having been the staple of the automotive industry for over a century, it seems support for a cleaner future has increased and the days of internal combustion engines are numbered.

Les Hewlett Matchtech’s Divisional Head of Automotive comments:

“Recent announcements from both industry and Government represent an exciting advancement for the automotive industry. The developments created through the UK Government’s Faraday Challenge which will see the formation of a ‘Battery Institute’ bringing together top talent in the field will surely help to further the existing efforts of the industry."

“With the increased focus on battery technology the automotive industry could see more innovation and change in the next 10 years than it has in the last 100. However, to deliver on the 2040 commitment and truly propel the electric vehicle revolution we will need to see a tangible strategy from the Government and industry to make this ambition a reality.” 

A short history of electric vehicles

Whilst electric vehicles are often seen as a thing of the future, they have been in the making for quite some time. Inventors have been exploring batteries and electric motors since the 1800s and by 1900, electric cars accounted for around a third of all vehicles on the road in the U.S (The History of the Electric Car, U.S. Department of Energy).

With the more affordable gasoline fueled cars offered by Ford in the early 1900s, sales of electric vehicles began to fall. At a time when people living out of cities rarely had electricity, by 1935, electric vehicles were almost a thing of the past. Attention returned to alternatively powered vehicles when oil prices began rising in the 70s.

Twenty years ago Toyota introduced the world’s first mass-produced hybrid electric vehicle – the Prius – and since then, industry and commercial interest has steadily increased.

More recently interest in electric vehicles has been seen within the motorsport industry with a number of automotive giants signing up to the all-electric racing series Formula E. Porsche have even made the decision to quit the Le Mans’ top tier to join the competition, following Mercedes-Benz and Audi who had already announced their intention of participating in the Formula in 2019.

Consumers in the headlights

In recent years, electric and hybrid vehicle take-up has increased with the number of battery-powered vehicles globally exceeding 2 million last year following an impressive 60% increase in sales (Global EV Outlook 2017, International Energy Agency).

These figures demonstrate the mass movement of the technological and socio-political mass-market who are steering towards cleaner, more fuel efficient and more cost effective methods of personal travel. With incentives such as free parking, low cost recharging and congestion charge exemption, an increasing number of drivers are expected to ‘go electric’ in the coming years.

The automotive industry may have the consumer market’s attention but making alternatively powered vehicles more affordable and more reliable in terms of energy density is key to winning them over.


Inventing the cars of the future


One company working on the limitations of today’s electric vehicles is global engineering consultancy Ricardo.

Often adopting a clean sheet approach to design, much of the work Ricardo undertakes is top secret, but one innovation they can share is that they’ve developed an integrated electrification methodology – which they term ‘R-Intelect’ - to deliver the next generation of cost-effective, clean, high fuel efficiency vehicles through the intelligent use of available electrification technologies.

This innovative work relies on a range of specialist engineering skills as Les explains:

“Key to the hybrid and electric vehicle ramp up will be engineers with specialist skills in 400-1000 Volt electrical engineering, battery systems engineers and power electronics engineers, as well as a greater number of more conventional automotive electronic engineers and electrical design engineers."

“Aside from those with skills and experience in vehicle power systems the cars of the future will also rely on those with skill sets which support the design, manufacture and development of other vehicle parts such as chassis engineers with upper and lower body structure, steering, brake or suspension experience, as these conventional areas of automotive engineering are changing with the introduction of the electrified powertrain.”

If you’ve got the inquisitive, creative and practical skills to help Ricardo create the cars of the future, feel free to browse and apply for their current job opportunities here.

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