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Getting Excited about Going Electric

Strategic Innovation were delighted to be interviewed by Bristol City Council for a series of short documentaries about electric vehicles to be shown on local channel Bristol TV. Director of the company Paul Frobisher faced the camera. The interviewers wanted to hear from EV owners about their personal experiences of life with EV’s and businesses about the commercial possibilities. Paul Frobisher, a self-confessed petrolhead with a background in the automotive industry went electric in 2018, dumping the diesel and buying a Nissan Leaf together with his wife for her new 20 mile commute. I knew within 5 seconds of a test drive, that EV’s solve many issues that car companies have spent decades, and a great deal of money struggling to deal with. Electric motors are fundamentally better at powering vehicles, smoothly and quietly with hardly any moving parts. The Leaf is now the “go to” car for the family and on its commute is charged at the workplace using rooftop solar. This has netted savings of over £1200 in fuel in the first year. With a real world range of between 120 and 160 miles, the Leaf does most of the family’s journeys and range anxiety is not a major issue. EV’s won’t be suitable for everyone, but they are surprisingly practical for many and with dozens of new models due to hit the roads in the next few years, people will have plenty of choice. Strategic Innovation have been working within the automotive industry to advise clients on the implications of electrification. The question is typically “we supply parts into the car industry that are to do with internal combustion engines.  How long have we got?” This is not the easiest question to answer as it is not yet clear.  But Strategic Innovation use a methodology that helps to predict disruptive shifts in technology, and using this approach we can provide a good idea of what is likely to happen, and when. There are questions about the charging infrastructure and electricity grid. And also about the purchase costs and range potential of future vehicles. Both of these factors are highly dependant upon advances in battery technology. For vehicles, the charge density and costs are still not where they need to be, and for grid scale storage, huge batteries are required to deal with intermittent renewable generation.  Although there are many promising battery developments in the pipeline, the question is how many, if any will make it into production and take over from Lithium-ion technology.  If they do, then the industry will tilt towards electric and the change could be more rapid than many observers are currently predicting. From an environmental standpoint, the question in the future will be how quickly the fleet on the road will change over.  As existing vehicles last for over 10 years, it will be a couple of decades before petrol and diesel are no more. The best question though is about miles driven. From a city perspective, the best thing that policy makers can do is to encourage electrification of buses and taxi’s as a priority. Although electric vehicles will still create dust from brake, road and tyre wear, the improvement in noise and air pollution will be dramatic when the majority of miles driven in our city are electric. Managing this transition will create winners and losers. Being in the former category is better, and Strategic Innovation like nothing more than helping clients find the best way forward to make that happen.
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