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The Future of the Future

04 March 2019
I recently attended the Southern Manufacturing and Electronics Event at Farnborough and listened to an interesting speaker from IDTechEx; Dr Peter Harrop.  His topic was on Electric Vehicles over the next 20 years and where is everything going.

The IDTechEx have performed a lot of research and analysis and paint an interesting picture of where we will be with regards to Electric Vehicle technology. Remember that electric vehicles are not just cars, they are any mode of transport and electric bikes are the dominating technology at the moment.

Global Sales of plug in electric vehicles passed the 1 million mark in 2017 with 6 main manufacturers standing out amongst the crowd; Nissan, BYD, BAIC Group, Geely Group, Tesla and BMW (Source IDTechEX). I am not aware of some of these manufacturers and it turns out that these are based in China. China and Europe are now the largest markets for plug in EV sales and USA has not grown which is possibly why Elon Musk (Tesla) has progressed his market diversification sooner than expected.

In the UK, HEV and PHEV sales hit 120,000 in 2017 (Source SMMT), we don’t have the data for 2018 as yet but the government reduced subsidies so it will be interesting to see the figures when released.

What is really interesting is to align this data with consumer trends and habits, it appears that as the internet shopping trend progresses more and more people are buying vehicles over the internet. People are not going out to vehicle showrooms to purchase vehicles, they would rather sit in front of the computer, select the car they want and hit the buy button. There are legal arguments from Elon Musk in the USA about car franchises and he is adamant he does not need them, I was always under the impression that this is because the EV’s do not need as much maintenance, however, it might also be that people are happy just to buy the car online and not visit the showroom. Consumer trust into an expensive item I staggering, would you ever buy a house without going and seeing it?

EV’s are getting better and better each year and the range is getting better and better as technology advances, they are also getting quicker to charge which reduces the burden of owning a fully electric vehicle. Personally I find it frustrating to go to a petrol station every few days and would rather just plug my car in at night and be charged by the morning. I know it isn’t much time but I would probably save around an hour a week by not going to petrol stations every other day. 

However, governments are now experimenting with charging vehicles through the road a bit like wireless phone charging but for your cars. With this technology being introduced you will never have to charge your car at home or at service stations, they can just keep going and going. The added benefit of this is you do not need large batteries which are not only expensive but not very environmentally friendly. The more EV’s there are being produced the more batteries we need to manufacture so if we remove the battery then there are benefits all round.

Every piece of technology will hit a peak and then downturn, they estimate that the car will peak in 2029 and the electric vehicle will peak in 2036. So what happens then? What are we going to use as I don’t think teleportation is on the cards anytime soon. Research shows that around 70-80% of people will live in cities over the next 30 years which removes the need for many people to own a vehicle, we will either rent a car when needed or us public transport and public transport will be electric vehicles which possibly even drive themselves. We can hail electric vehicles to go wherever we want when needed, this technology is being developed by a large number of organizations including the largest car hailing company in the world; Uber. EV won’t stop there as buses etc will also be fully electric, I am not convinced on aircraft yet as you will need tremendous amounts of energy but I would never say never.

Governments globally are also focusing on removing traditional vehicles from city centres altogether; London has their LEZ and Congestion Zone which is putting taxes and fines on polluting vehicles inside London. This will eventually become all vehicles which are not electric. London is not the only place to take these actions as it can also be seen in Europe, China, Japan and some of the USA. How are we going to make deliveries to all of the shops (if shops still exist in the future, online shopping may kill that)?  Trucks, vans and buses will become electric. Construction and agriculture plant is also moving over to electric vehicles.

Author: Mike Venner, NQA UK Aerospace and Automotive Director