The first on-board battery came to be in 1859. Soon after, interest in electric vehicles increased and we started to see electric cabs in major developed cities of the time. London lead the way in the early 1900 with Walter C. Bersey's fleet of what later came to be knows as the "hummingbirds" due to the idiosyncratically humming noise generated by the vehicles. Meanwhile in New York City, the Samuel's Electric Carriage & Wagon Company also started to operate and grow the electric vehicle footprint.Read More
Meet Lucid. A luxury alternative to Tesla, oh and it can go 400 miles without a charge. Let there be no mistake, this is a deal changer. Whether you agree with Elon Musk’s way of doing things or not there is no doubt that Tesla Motors has dragged the electric car industry kicking and screaming to the next level. Created to service the sporting/luxury end of the electric car market, Tesla is now making affordable electric cars available to the masses.
When serial entrepreneur Richard Branson suggested this week that all vehicles will be electricly powered by 2030, he was ridiculed in some quarters. While this may be something of an ambitious target, going from 0.1% of total car sales up to 100% in just 15 years, he does have some knowledge of developments in the industry which the public may not be aware of.
It is worth noting that he was talking at the London ePrix, which is a showcase race for the Formula E calendar. Richard Branson has his own team, DS Virgin Racing, and is well aware of the fact that the new technology being introduced to racing cars will eventually find its way onto the public highways.
Is Formula E really having an impact?
Formula E has now been going since 2014 and while there were a number of false dawns over the years it is continuing to grow in popularity and is attracting enormous investment and a growing number of teams who want to participate. Even from a distance, the fact that Formula E is grabbing vital press headlines is great for the industry as a whole and will make the wider public more aware of electric travel options.
The number of races on the Formula E calendar could become slightly cluttered with an array of countries now desperate to get involved.
If you look at Formula One you will see that much of the technology used over the years on F1 racing cars has often been transferred to the public domain. What we now see as simple things such as regenerative braking systems are more commonplace, but did you know that this technology emerged on the race track?
While Richard Branson’s suggestion that all cars will be electric by 2030 grabbed the headlines, it is also worth noting that he believes ongoing and future technology improvements to Formula E will make a massive difference to the industry. This sport has become something of a test arena for new ideas, new technology, and (most importantly), significant research and development investment. This investment will only grow as time goes on and if all of the positive lessons from F1 can be translated to Formula E, then the introduction of innovative technology should take far less than it did from the F1 test arena.
Is Formula E the finished article?
While there is no doubt that Formula E continues to grow in popularity there is also no doubt that further development and changes will be needed to increase general exposure. Fairly basic areas such as the sound emitted by Formula E racing cars and “refuelling” activities could be “jazzed up” to make the sport more appealing to the wider public. However, it is worth noting that these elements are more cosmetic as opposed to radical changes and more targeted towards giving the general public more enjoyment.
Whether or not Richard Branson is correct with his suggestion that all cars will be electric by 2030 remains to be seen but the more exposure for formula E and electric cars in general the better for the industry going forward. It is easy to forget we have seen some monumental developments in electric car technology in recent times and there is much more to come. The EV market that we see today will be very different next year, in five years, and the following decade will likely be almost unrecognisable. Strap yourself in and get ready for the ride of your life!
While the political environment in the UK is "volatile" to say the least, the same cannot be said of the U.K.'s appetite for autonomous vehicles. So far, the government has put forward tens of millions of pounds in funding to assist companies looking into research and development in this area. Indeed the concept of autonomous vehicles on the roads of the UK was also mentioned in the recent Queen’s speech, clearing a passage for various law changes and new regulations. It will surprise many to learn that autonomous vehicles in the UK are much closer than you might expect and it could be just a matter of months - as opposed to years, before they are allowed on the UK transport network.
Is the technology good enough?
Whether you are in favour of autonomous vehicles are not, there is no doubt that the technology associated with self-driving vehicles is there for all to see. We only need to look across the pond to see the likes of Tesla Motors, which has introduced its own form of autonomous driving to the roads of the U.S. Critics will highlight a recent death which was connected with an autonomous Tesla vehicle but the company has made numerous responses to these allegations, most of which revolve around the fact drivers are still advised to keep an eye on the road and their vehicle. While of no benefit to those who have suffered from autonomous vehicle crashes the fact remains that autonomous vehicles could save literally hundreds of thousands of lives in the U.S. and across the world. The technology is here and it is working and while there may need to be more tweaks, the idea of autonomous cars will not go away.
Laws and regulations
The UK government is currently pushing through a number of amendments to transport laws and regulations which will allow the use of autonomous vehicles in the UK. They should be fairly straightforward but one area which has caused some controversy is insurance for autonomous vehicles. Surprisingly, the UK government has been fairly sensible in its approach to the area of insurance stating:
Progress but more to do
There has been great progress in the areas of technology, road regulations and potential changes to the insurance industry; but make no mistake about it there is still much work to be done. One area which has hardly been touched yet is that of the court of public opinion which is very sceptical of autonomous vehicles and the recent accident in the U.S. involving the Tesla autonomous system does not help. If the UK authorities are able to push through the various law and regulatory changes and research and development funding is maintained, then the UK could actually become a competitor to the U.S. market which has stolen a march in the area of self-driving/autonomous vehicles. Let the battle commence!