Interview: Roger Griffiths, Team Principal Formula E Andretti Autosport

Roger Griffiths, Team Principal Formula E Andretti Autosport
Roger Griffiths, Team Principal Formula E Andretti Autosport

The latest of our interviews with experts from the world of electric vehicles brings in Roger Griffiths, who heads up the Formula E development activity at the famous Andretti Autosport team. We appreciate Roger taking time out from his busy schedule and we know that his insight into the world of electric cars will be of great interest to EV enthusiasts. Enjoy his very informative and very interesting interview below:-

Question: How long have you been involved in the electric vehicle market?

Since April 2014 when I joined Andretti Autosport – prior to that I was at the other end of the spectrum as Technical Director for Honda Performance Development running amongst other things their IndyCar programme. However, since joining Andretti I have headed up the Formula E development activity so almost exclusively EV development.

Question: Do you think that electric vehicles will outnumber their gasoline/petrol counterparts in the next 20 years?

I think that all the while that there is a plentiful supply of fossil fuel it would be hard to see EV’s outnumbering hybrids. Ironically as more EV’s / more hybrids / more efficient ICE cars are on the roads and as mainline industry becomes more efficient, the actual available fossil fuel will go much further than it would have done 20yrs ago. If you read the Exxon Mobil report 2015 Energy Outlook, which covers the period now through until 2040, it shows conventional gasoline cars peaking around 1000M in 2035 but full EV’s are on shown to be around 5% of that number. The real growth comes in the hybrid sector.

Question: Are governments doing enough to support the electric vehicle market?

I think governments generally do what is in their best interests for the period they are in office, combine that with a strong lobby from the oil industry, it makes any significant support challenging. I think more will come from the private sector. It would take major changes in the regulations that govern fuel economy and emissions to impact this. Perhaps that is their strongest weapon. Governments could also encourage the supply chain (OEM’s Charging Stations, Utilities companies etc.) to do more to promote EV through other incentives.

Question: Why has the electric vehicle sector seemingly failed so often in the past?

I think there are several reasons; performance, range, reliability are the most often thought about but also the visual appearance of EV’s. Only recently with cars such as the Tesla have we seen exciting looking EV’s. Too often the styling of the cars lack a lot. Cars such as the Chevy Volt and Nissan Leaf have not done enough to excite visually – too close to a conventional car, but compromised by the packaging requirements of an EV – they just end up looking awkward. BMW took a more unique approach with the i3, throwing convention out of the window and designing a car that understood the packaging requirements of an EV and combined that with a style that is more visually striking and unique which then doesn’t end up looking like a poorly designed crossover / SUV.

Question: Is battery charging technology the final piece of the jigsaw?

Certainly it is very important – the convenience of refilling your car with petrol / gasoline and being on your way in just a few minutes is a far cry from having to wait an hour or more to top up your EV. When you set out on a journey of any length today, you would have to carefully plan your route with an EV to ensure that you were able to find charging stations that would get you to your destination – while this is improving all the time with more and more charging stations being put in to use – however, if the numbers of EV’s in use grow so that they far out weight the number of charging stations (especially on popular routes) you could find similar images to the fuel crisis pictures of the early 70’s, when you had lines of cars waiting to refuel – only this time to get a charge. So it needs to be a combination of more stations and faster charging. But faster charging brings other challenges down the line as the battery pack needs to be able to cope with the high rates of charge without long term damage.

Question: What other general comments would you like to make about the electric vehicle market?

I believe for most families, the EV would likely remain as the second car; the primary one being the conventional ICE powered (and / or hybrid). It for the most part would be the short range/commute, inner city mode of transport.

Additionally, while in service the EV is clearly a winner when it comes to the emissions, a more broader outlook of the emissions from ‘the cradle to the grave’ needs to be addressed to ensure that the overall pollution created by the EV is less that the fossil fueled counterpart. It is often overlooked that the manufacturing process to create ‘green technology’ can potentially create worse overall emissions.

Interview with Roger Griffiths, Team Principal Formula E Andretti Autosport