Future transport discussed in depth at New Mobility Live

Future transport discussed in depth at New Mobility Live

Many interesting themes emerged from the first New Mobility Live conference, held at the Coventry University Technology Park on January 23, where speakers and delegates from across the world gathered to discuss the challenges of moving personal transport forward

Presentations and panel discussions examined such issues as the ‘chicken and egg’ situation of EVs and infrastructure - how each needs to drive the other, the need for investment to be borne by government as well as by the OEMs and infrastructure providers. Safety and security in the vehicle, and the privacy of data harvested by and stored in the vehicle were also strong topics of debate. Another significant talking point among the speakers and delegates was the sentiment that clean air is seen as a particularly desirable aim by much of the UK and European population but that the route to a cleaner environment needs greater clarification for the transport user to embrace greener and more sustainable mobility solutions.

Setting the scene

The conference was opened by Justin Benson, Head of Automotive at KPMG (main pic) who set the business scene and spoke of changing vehicle ownership models and the consequent effects on the supply chain, changes in the OEM and supplier share of components in EVs, connected and autonomous vehicles.

The UK government view

Lawrence Davies MBE, CEO of the Automotive Investment Organisation at the Department for International Trade spoke of past, present and future OEM output in UK, and also supplier output, showing slides on vehicle production in the region and how it has grown but also how suppliers’ output is at an all-time high. He showed slides on composite production in the UK and talked of how McLaren and Penso have moved their composite centres to the UK, where they were formerly in Germany.

He spoke of the regulatory environment for connected and autonomous vehicles and how favourable the UK is in legislative and government incentive terms. He pointed out the favourable tax regime for new mobility innovators in the UK and how companies in the industry will pay only 10% on the profits from their activities in the UK.

Natalie Sauber, Market Intelligence and Mobility Services Lead at Arcadis took the stage next and talked of the enormous scale of the Connect Autonomous Vehicle (CAV) market - projected to generate more than $200 billion by 2025, and the need for companies like Arcadis to help implement major infrastructure programmes. Arcadis is working with partner Techstars to bring mobility solutions but also working with startups.

Partnership was very much a watchword at the conference; Dr Jo Dally, Strategic Partnerships Lead, Advanced Mobility Unit at BP spoke of how the erstwhile oil company is working with Chargemaster - who charged our team’s transport to the event, an e-Golf from Volkswagen - and how BP is working on integrating energy solutions in petrol and diesel, and electric vehicle charging. Dally spoke of how cities have particular needs for energy stability due to their explosive growth rates in various parts of the world, and how cities focus the minds of energy providers like BP on supplying sustainable mobility solutions as well as major power networks.

Motorsport and Jaguar Land Rover

Bryn Balcombe, the Chief Strategy Officer of Roborace showed some video footage of motorsport, including a clip of a pile-up in a sports car race in Macau. He pointed out the sequence of the accident and how connected vehicles could have given their drivers earlier warning of the crash ahead or even negotiated the car around it, avoiding the pile-up. He showed slides of the world’s first autonomous racing cars, Robocar and DevBot. These cars and other autonomous race cars will be able to race on (closed) public roads with all the everyday obstacles in place. Balcombe showed an exciting video of an autonomous electric racing car tackling the hillclimb at Goodwood Festival of Speed, equipped with LIDAR and camera technology which allowed the car to ‘learn’ the route and take it at the highest possible safe speed.

Parham Vasaiely, Senior Manager, Automated, Self-Driving Car Engineering at Jaguar Land Rover rounded off the presentations with some very pertinent observations on the needs and the education of the vehicle user, how to not only connect the vehicle to its new power sources and the driving environment but also to the consumer. 

Left to Right: Justin Benson, Bryn Balcombe, Dr Jo Dally, Parham Vasaiely, Natalie Sauber and Lawrence Davies.
Questions of sourcing and investment

Simon Duval Smith, editor of Automotive Purchasing and Supply Chain magazine, another Three6Zero publication, started off the question and answer session by asking the panel about how the OEM-supplier content of vehicles might shift from the current 70% supplier and 30% OEM input. Lawrence Davies answered this by giving the Department for International Trade’s response, saying that it is working hard to ensure that the extra input from suppliers is being nurtured and encouraged by the UK government, to come from UK vendors. He said that UK-based OEMs are clear in their message to him and his department that they do not want to be importing parts, particularly in the light of the uncertainty surrounding Brexit.

Parham Vasaiely said that JLR is, like most OEMs, still “figuring out the value chain of tomorrow’s vehicles”, and said he believes that in the future there will be influencers and suppliers from outside of the current automotive world. 

Graeme Cooper, Project Director - Electric Vehicles at the National Grid asked the panel how and where investment in infrastructure will come from. Natalie Sauber answered that there may be an issue with the ongoing levels of investment that will need to continue to grow and that in 10 years time we may be surprised to look back and think that we knew how much investment was needed and how those figures have grown.

Industry intelligence - make or buy?

Answering a question from Tom Donnelly of Productiv Ltd., about who will provide a lot of the new intelligence needed for new mobility, Lawrence Davies talked of his days at General Motors when he started to visit small companies - startups - and was slightly surprised by their casual appearance but realised that they were a significant part of the future. He said that these small companies may not be large enough to take on major supply contracts but that they were definitely part of the future of mobility.

Ben Waller of ICDP asked which new mobility concept would be the first to turn a profit. Justin Benson answered that he thought EVs and the the EV charging infrastructure would be the first profitable business area. Dr Jo Dally said that her observations of consumers in the UK led her to believe that car sharing concepts may be not far behind but that there was still great resistance in the UK to sharing passenger vehicles. Natalie Sauber said there is an important interplay between what industry wants and what consumers want and that the whole mobility ‘space’ needs to heed users’ wants very closely if it wants to become profitable.

Parham Vasaiely rounded off the session by asking the panel what they wanted to see from future transportation; the general consensus was that among the public, clean air was the most important factor, followed by the use of new technology to increase safety through such initiatives as virtual driving instructors or ‘guardian angels.

Left to Right: Stephen Irish, Graeme Cooper,  Dr Colin Herron, Francisco Carranza and Jonathan Quinn.
Industry intelligence - make or buy?

Graeme Cooper of the National Grid started off Session Two - Electrification by outlining the need for a strategic backbone of rapid charging infrastructure in order to de-risk the uptake of EVs. He said that the National Grid has identified 54 locations for strategic ultra rapid charging along the existing motorway network in the UK and that the ideal is for 99% of all EV users to be within 50 miles of an ultra-rapid charging station with the ability to charge in the time it takes to buy a cup of coffee. He spoke of how 60% of the 165 motorway sites in England and Wales are within 5 km of the power transmission network infrastructure. He urged the government to invest as the market alone will not drive the investment required. He likened the already over-subscribed charging network in the UK to the problem of mobile phone network infrastructure when one’s phone signal drops out or one cannot download a document quickly enough - it is the fault of the infrastructure, not the device, he underlined.

Nissan’s Electric Eco-System

Francisco Carranza, Managing Director of Nissan Energy took to the stage and posed the point that electric cars could be part of the problem in networks and charging access or they could be part of the solution. He talked of how used EV batteries will disrupt stationary power storage and thus be an integral part of energy solutions in domestic and business applications. He said that being a leader of electric mobility goes hand in hand with taking responsibility for energy issues that extend beyond the car. Carranza spoke on the Nissan Electric Eco-System and how it can be integrated into solar power generation on small and large scales, using second-life batteries for storage for the car and for the home. He talked of how this holistic approach to energy is not just an option for OEMs - it is the future.

A battery back-up innovation

Jonathan Quinn, CEO of Quinnovations Group demonstrated a lightweight small suitcase-sized auxiliary powerplant that can used for range extending of EVs. Powered by a rotary cycle engine, the mini generator can run on many different fuels and can be integrated to an EV’s wireless control system to run on demand as the EV’s battery needs topping-up.

Bouquets and brickbats

Stephen Irish, the founder of Hyperdrive, and now Commercial Director gave some historical perspective on electric vehicles, showing a slide of Thomas Edison with an early electric car, from a time when there were more EVs on the road than internal combustion-engined cars. He spoke of how Hyperdrive has been nominated as a supplier to JCB, working on the British OEM’s compact excavator project.

Dr Colin Herron CBE, Managing Director of Zero Carbon Futures gave some quite blunt points on the successes and failures in electric vehicle adoption in the UK, citing some UK cities’ attempts at zero emission zones and their relative failures. He talked of the ‘infrastructure puzzle’ and that the average utilisation of the UK EV charging infrastructure is 4% and that there is no business case for expanding the facilities and how local authorities are scrambling to install EV charging stations without recognising the slow sales of pure electric vehicles and the lack of batteries available in Europe.

Material shortages and mindset changes

Dr Herron chaired a panel discussion at the end of the session which saw questions on the expected shortages of lithium and cobalt raw material to which Francisco Carranza answered by talking about the importance of planning by OEMs and battery makers, to stimulate further mines being opened and the shortages being alleviated. Graeme Cooper said there was a great need for more collaboration and ‘joined-up thinking’ between all players in the sector.

The case for CASE
Steven Armstrong

Kevin Kelly

After an excellent lunch courtesy of sponsors Magna, Kevin Kelly, Senior Consultant, Mobility, Frost & Sullivan presented the consultant company’s view of the total Connected, Autonomous, Shared and Electric (CASE) enterprise. He showed examples of revenue growth, highlighting various OEMs’ estimates of the size of the CASE market in the future. Kelly talked of the progression of Level 3 and Level 5 autonomous vehicles and how the higher levels of autonomy will ramp up on an accelerated path once Level 3 autonomy becomes more accepted. He discussed non-ownership and car sharing, talking about the success of Uber, BlaBlaCar and peer-to-peer sharing and how non-automotive companies do and will move into this mobility space. He broke CASE down by showing a flow chart of how electric vehicles will cause a significant ‘Platform Shift’ - using dedicated electric vehicle architectures or skateboards that can be used by these non-automotive companies, and how connectivity and safety considerations will contribute to greater acceptance of autonomous vehicles.

Infrastructure and solutions

Christopher Burgahn, Product & Partner Management at the Share&Charge Foundation opened the last session with some observations on charging infrastructure creation and management and touched on the use of Blockchain and how it might contribute to efficient fiscal as well as electric charging.

Ex-Nissan executive Karl Anders, now Managing Director of Innogy eMobility UK then took to the stage and talked of how Innogy eMobility is working with several car makers to speed the introduction of charging points. He spoke of the rumour that car makers are restricting the supply of EVs and said this was a misunderstanding - it was a classic case of supply and demand, he said. He talked of evolving EV charging networks and how it will be driven by the proliferation of purchased EVs expanding in the UK. Anders also pointed out that the infrastructure in the UK is quite different to that in Europe, with three-phase power having much wider availability elsewhere on the continent and thus supporting a lot more rapid charging. His overriding messages were that the industry needs to analyse and act now, prepare for the future and being accepting of change, and that the car industry is still driven by the customer’s tastes and their desire to own a premium vehicle and not just rent or share one.

Left to Right: Michael Talbot, David Hudson, Karl Anders, David Wright, Christopher Burgahn. Chris Perry
How future car tech will stretch infrastructure

David Hudson, Head of Propulsion at Tata Motors European Technical Centre gave an interesting insight to how vehicle development and design will impact on such topics as smarter cities and highways, 5G coverage for connectivity, and geofence zones, in autonomous vehicles.

He discussed vehicle to infrastructure connectivity and pay per use. On EVs, Hudson talked about the implications for infrastructure of increasing the number EV charging points, impact on the electrical grid, dynamic charging and connecting the vehicle to the home and to the grid plus the need for either more generation or more storage capacity. He spoke on how sharing will require a better public acceptance of switching to alternative personal transport models, including the need to improve public transportation and ride sharing.

The human element and government policy

Michael Talbot, Head of Strategy at Meridian Mobility took to the platform and showed slides of human interaction with autonomous vehicles and then discussed how UK national policy needs to make and encourage investment in connected vehicles to reach its goals. He spoke of Testbed UK, a set of virtual and physical testing facilities, within two hours drive of one another. 

Next on the stage was Chris Perry, Head of Partnerships - UK at MaaS Global, the Finland-based transport solution organisation behind the whim app, whose investors include Toyota. He described the aim of the company to do for mobility what Netflix has done for television viewing choice. Perry talked of the freedom of the open road that was the tenet of the personal car and how MaaS, through its whim programme, will reinstate some of the freedom that has been lost through increased congestion by offering alternative services such as car sharing and intelligent and economical use of all available transport solutions. The whim application is aimed at users all over the world, enabling them to use whatever mobility solutions are local to them.

Design and debate

David Wright, Director of Strategic Initiatives, Coventry University rounded off the last session with an insightful presentation on the importance of design and the need to combine the highest standards of innovation and development with a constant recognition of the needs of the end user. He showed slides of good and bad design and questioned some of the autonomous vehicle designs, asking whether these passenger cabins actually served the comfort and safety needs of users. Wright also encouraged the audience to consider the challenges they face in providing new mobility solutions from different angles, asking if there might be some quite different answers if the issues were considered from the point of view of aesthetics as well as functionality and why some brands have risen to the fore while others have wilted over the years.

David Wright chaired the panel discussion at the end of the last session which drew some interesting questions from the delegates on subjects varying from data management to personal mobility tastes and preferences and how they might be changed and developed to reach more efficient, safer and greener solutions. Investment and who should make it was another talking point with Karl Anders saying that there is a finite limit on what local authorities and governments can spend on developing new mobility infrastructure and that more investment will have to come from the industry.

National Transport Design Centre visit

As the main forum finished, David Wright invited delegates and speakers to take a tour of the National Transport Design Centre, which is situated next to the TechnoCentre, a short walk away. Visitors saw some exciting projects, including the ‘cabled’ project car, a hydrogen-battery powered city car that was completely engineered and built at the Centre, using parts almost totally manufactured at the facility. An autonomous ‘vehicle lounge’ with facing table seating was also demonstrated, with a virtual reality headset bringing it to life in an extraordinarily realistic experience. Other projects included an electric motorcycle and various designed and fabricated major interior and exterior components, all demonstrated by a most enthusiastic student body, truly showing the new mobility minds of tomorrow at work.  

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