The automotive industry must take the lead in promoting the electrification of cars

Automotive industry must promote electrification

The automotive industry must become “marketeers” to promote the electrification of vehicles.

This was the message from Steven Sapsford, Global Market Sector Director, high performance and Motorsport at engineering conslutants Ricardo, while speaking at the Royal Academy of Engineering event Innovation in Automotive.

With national and global CO2 targets becoming ever more stringent Mr Sapsford believes electrification and hybridisation will become increasingly important, and key to driving the change is a rebranding of the technology.

“High performance vehicles are likely to exploit overall vehicle performance benefits not just CO2,” he said. “We have to be marketeers. Electric vehicles are perceived as being a bit dull, but stick it in a supercar and call it stealth mode and suddenly it becomes a lot more sexy.”

But with so many technologies to choose from Mr Sapsford thinks the industry must be wary of limiting innovation by jumping on bandwagons.

“Policy makers often go for the simple solution because it makes good headlines,” he said. “After that reality sets in and they say that doesn’t quite work how we thought it would, that doesn’t quite map out the way we expected, this technology barrier is quite big.”

He added: “There are all sorts of technologies we can deploy. Some work, some don’t and we should be careful about some that get rather over egged.”

Lithium-ion batteries are one technology that has caught the imagination of the industry, but he believes alternatives such as super capacitors, flywheels and the possibility of compressed gas energy storage should not be side-lined.

“People fret about where all the gasoline’s going to come from. You also have to fret about where all the lithium comes from,” he said. “There are all sorts of options around to build low CO2 vehicles. They all have challenges and there are no clear winners.”

But for chief technical specialist at Jaguar Land Rover Mark White, who also spoke at yesterday’s event, the industry must be willing to look further than propulsion if they are to reduce their carbon footprint.

His firm have been focusing on reducing the weight of their vehicles, with their newest Land Rover model 420kg lighter than the previous one, but still producing the same 0 to 60mph time.

The major elements of their approach have been replacing spot welding with rivets, downsizing their powertrain and working with lighter metals, but with such innovations pushing up costs Mr White says firms must not lose sight of their bottom line.

“We want to have light weight vehicles but we also want vehicles that are attractive and make money so we stay in business,” he said.

“It’s not just about the environment. It has to be about the environment and value. That is really why the industry has not rushed to composites in mass market cars.”

Mr White said composite materials could achieve 20% greater weight reduction than aluminium, but as they cost 10 to 20 times the amount they are unlikely to be the answer for mass producers.

He believes lighter metals should be the immediate focus for the industry and the only way to make it affordable is to improve the UK’s recycling infrastructure and attitudes.

He said: “We are still landfilling about 30% of all aluminium we are currently using today. We are just throwing it away. We’ve got to educate people to stop throwing metal and plastics away.”

Taking the initiative, Jaguar Land Rover have initiated a closed loop recycling system at their plant in Solihull and 50% of the sheet metal they use is recycled, a figure they hope to raise to 75%.

“We have got a lot better at dividing our waste at home but we’ve got to do the same in industry,” said Mr White.

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