Attending the LCV2018 show at Bedfordshire’s impressive Millbrook Automotive Testing Facility along with 5,000 other eager attendees for what was the best-attended show on record, it was hard not to be overwhelmed by the industry’s apparent rush to embrace all things electric.
Indeed, 24 hours earlier - at the Prime Minister’s behest - a gathering in Birmingham heralded the inception of the Electric Vehicle Energy Taskforce as the standard-bearers-in-chief of the Government’s drive to embrace a zero emissions future. An impressive line up of Government agencies dominated the main exhibition space reflecting the immense push to eliminate fossil fuel technology with all possible haste.
Surprising indeed, then that amidst all this enthusiasm for futuristic carbon-free green solutions, one of the key themes to emerge from LCV was that clearly we have a long way to travel on the “Road to Zero” before we finally witness the smoky demise of the grand old Internal Combustion Engine (ICE).
Speaker after speaker in the well-attended seminar sessions queued up to point out that by 2030-40, around 70-80% of all vehicles on the nation’s roads will still be (at least to some extent) reliant on ICE technology albeit mainly in hybrid form. Those same authorities were, however, also keen to point out the enormous efficiencies still to be gained from further development of the ICE, work to a large degree building on the pioneering early work of the University of Bath’s Powertrain and Vehicle Research Centre (PVRC).
The PVRC continues to conduct internationally prize-winning research into the efficiency and emissions of diesel and petrol engines, as amply demonstrated by the presence at LCV of the university’s pristine BMW i8 equipped with an eye-catching array of Cambustion Fast Engine Exhaust Gas Analyzers.
This crucial work will doubtless continue apace when the University’s ground-breaking £130m+ Institute for Advanced Automotive Propulsion Systems (IAAPS) investment enters the fray in 2020. It remains to be see what technological advances spring from IAAPS’ 17 state-of-the-art powertrain testing labs but petrol, diesel, hybrid, battery and fuel cell technologies will all have a prt to play in where we go from here.
The speed of roll-out of supporting infrastructure for the EV market was also a key concern and reflected in the swathe of energy companies, charging networks and battery producers prominently represented at the show.
Collaborations across fields and disciplines also featured. MacLaren, Hewland and Integral’s new co-branded self-contained CTU-400 e-axle system - designed for simplicity of installation and scalability in low and high volume applications - epitomised the best of collaborative design and development on show.
Connected and Autonomous Vehicle (CAV) technologies also featured in abundance although it was clear from many of the seminar sessions that a truly autonomous driving future is still some way off as there are numerous technical challenges to be overcome before those nagging public safety concerns can truly be allayed. Strong progress is being made in some crucial areas and the industry looks set fair to continue to cope with the engineering challenges with renewed optimism confident of implementing the Automotive Council roadmaps introduced almost five years to the day earlier.