Prime Minister Boris Johnson's announcement that new cars and vans powered wholly by petrol and diesel will not be sold in the UK from 2030 has brought electric vehicles into sharp focus.
Colin Herron, MD of Zero Carbon Futures and a Visiting Professor at Newcastle University explores what the announcement may mean.
We need to start by asking "What exactly is an Electric Vehicle?"
We know what a conventional car is but what exactly is an EV?
Well, there are different types so here is a simple guide.
A "full version" is a Battery Electric Vehicle. It has no Internal Combustion Engine back up, therefore it has to plug in to charge.
The next level is the Plug in Hybrid. it does have an Internal Combustion Engine but can run without it. When running on the battery, a Plug in Hybrid can't go quite as far as a Battery Electric Vehicle.
The next type is known as a Mild Hybrid. It has a small battery but it relies, primarily, on the Internal Combustion Engine to function.
The announcement today would ban new Internal Combustion Engine sales from 2030. It would allow Plug In Hybrid Electric Vehicles and Mild Hybrid Electric Vehicles until 3035 . After that, Battery Electric Vehicles only.
What needs to happen in the vehicle industry?
I'd like to draw a comparison here to the Covid-19 vaccine development. This has happened considerably quicker than one might usually expect a vaccine development to be. How? The key has been:
- Parallel developmental activity
- Using existing knowledge.
This approach will have to be replicated in the vehicle industry.
But it's not just about cars. Internal Combustion Engines are also used in trains, buses, heavy goods vehicles, and aircraft.
Even the breadth of variation within the car category is enormous: from tiny single-seater city cars to large MPVs which more often resemble minibuses.
So, what must happen to meet these directives?
- Many things will need to be smaller and lighter in the next generation of vehicles - we need to reduce the draw on batteries to extend vehicles' range
- Millions of batteries need to be produced. this will bring about large, new high-capacity factories with ever-evolving chemistries
- Infrastructure has to be adapted and, crucially, training for people to both assemble and repair the products.
With the focus on development of new cars and new technologies we absolutely must not lose sight of the requirement to dispose of the batteries when they come out of the cars in the most environmentally friendly way that we can. Recycling and reusing as many of subcomponents of the batteries as possible.
An exciting but challenging time for Engineers and Researchers
Our University is already part of national programmes looking to tackle the challenges.
We are working on the development of the components and the end of the life of the batteries with innovative energy storage and recycling.
Parallel projects are pushing the horizons of the drive systems and the power electronics technologies which drive vehicle efficiency.
Zero Carbon Futures - a company that the University has recently acquired - brings infrastructure knowledge and strategies to help local authorities make this transition as well as a wealth of experience in workforce training.
Locally, our University has already delivered numerous projects and continues to work closely with the Envision AESC battery factory, the Nissan manufacturing plant in Sunderland, as well as numerous automotive SMEs.
This is an exciting time for researchers and engineers, but a lot must change in industry and business to make it happen.
Newcastle University through its leading role in Driving the Electric Revolution Industrialisation Centres programme and the expertise now afforded by ZCF, combined with existing capabilities and expertise in the North East region make this the ideal place to make this happen and benefit the economy.
The Driving the Electric Revolution Industrialisation Centres (DER-IC)
Newcastle University is leading a national network of four cutting-edge centres to enable faster collaborative research and development of power electronics, electric machines and drives including cars, planes and ships.
The DER Challenge, and the reduction in carbon it will help bring about, is a key focus for research at Newcastle University as we progress towards achieving the Government’s carbon-neutral target by 2050.
The Driving the Electric Revolution Industrialisation Centres (DER-IC) are backed by £33m Government funding and will provide open access facilities with state-of-the-art equipment, bringing together the UK’s technology and manufacturing expertise in electrification research and development.
The network will help propel UK manufacturing to the forefront of global efforts to tackle climate change and ensure the UK can reach net zero emissions by 2050.
About the author
Dr Colin Herron has over 40 years’ experience in the automotive industry. He established Zero Carbon Futures in 2011 to support the growth of the electric vehicle industry and input into e-mobility policy. He has worked with the Mayor of London and Transport for London on their EV infrastructure requirements for the future.
You might also be interested in
- Zero Carbon Futures - a Newcastle University-owned Electric Vehicle consultancy
- The Driving the Electric Revolution Industrialisation Centres (DER-IC) - a national network of four cutting-edge centres to enable faster collaborative research and development of electric machines
- Advanced Electric Machines - an award-winning Newcastle University Spin Out company
- Newcastle University - One Planet - we understand One Planet to mean that resources are finite and that current practices and consumption levels are unsustainable
- Based at our innovation district, Newcastle Helix, Connected Energy develop second-life applications for used Electric Vehicle batteries. Find out more.