Powering into the future

Wednesday, 22 April 2009

An event staged at Oxford Brookes asked how, by 2030, an estimated one-and-a-half billion vehicles could be powered.

With the Government promising motorists up to £5,000 towards the cost of an electric car, a timely event at Oxford Brookes asked how, by 2030, a predicted one-and-a-half billion vehicles will be powered.

Car makers, oil company executives and transport and engineering experts gathered at Brookes’ Wheatley campus to discuss the sustainability issues of propelling vast fleets of cars, vans and trucks.

This was the first in a series of events for 2009 hosted by DRIVENet, the Network for Automotive Sustainability based at Brookes.

More than 40 delegates took part in presentations and discussions during the day.

The panel of speakers, including representatives from Mercedes Benz, Castrol BP and Arup, covered an array of topics.

One key message to emerge was that the ideal energy source of the future is still unclear and will vary from region to region across the world.

Rosemary Albinson from Castrol BP explained fuels should be assessed on a well-to-wheels basis and not purely on exhaust emissions.

Professor Geoff Goddard discussed the key role motorsport research and development may play in shaping future technologies.

Delegates also heard that government legislation as a force for change can be very powerful but may have unintended consequences.

With so much in the news recently about the introduction of electric cars into the UK and the Government’s pledge to subsidise their cost, Dick Stimpson from Arup looked at the future of electrification.

The high price of buying and running electric vehicles and the lack of an infrastructure such as charging points were big challenges, he said.

But perhaps most importantly, public perceptions on the issue of how far a car could travel before recharging had to be addressed.

He told delegates the average car journey in the UK is just 14 km and that nine in ten journeys made in this country were less than 40 km.

“A huge number of people could get electric cars tomorrow and not see a difference,” he concluded.