I was talking to a Programme Manager for a future battery electric vehicle (BEV) and the only thing she knew for certain was whatever she designed would be wrong! It’s difficult predicting the future and it seems that predicting the right way to go in the electrification of vehicles is an art not a science.
“If it is so difficult to predict the future, why are you interested in EV’s and Formula E when you have spent most of your career designing and racing Formula One cars?”, I was asked by one of my colleagues.
There are a couple of reasons.
If I take the advice of my programme manager friend and focus on what I believe is the most interesting future scenario then I have a very intresting picture in my mind. Vision, or strategic intent is how it was described to us on our MBA; the kind of vision that Honda displayed when they enterred the US market with a step through motorcycle on its way to becoming a global automotive leader, is the only way to go!
Lets see if I can articulate my vision for the future of vehicles: or perhaps I should describe it as future mobility.
Start with the powertrain.
If you apply F1 thinking, then the most efficient controllable, nimble vehicle would be 4WD for traction and torque vectoring, powered by very small light responsive hub mounted electric motors (reverse torque and regenerating capability) with a high density power source, an efficient control system and a power unit that could convert from its storage medium to electricity fast and efficiently.
I saw the benefits of torque vectoring in relation to my work in vehicle dynamics: traction control, launch control and active differentials when I was Head of R&D at Arrows Grand Prix and later as Technical Director at Super Aguri F1 Team. The amount of control that can be afforded the driver using torque vectoring to its ultimate capability is astounding and I hope that the Formula E vehicles that we can develop over the coming years of competition will deliver on this promise: I certainly look forward to driving one!
What should the energy storage system of the future be? The long term solution seems to be hydrogen because of its energy density capability plus the fact that the hydrogen can be created using alternative forms of energy and burned cleanly at the place of use. Storage and distribution are holding this back, but I am sure it will come at some point in the future.
But in the meantime, one idea is to use fossil fuels in the most efficient way possible. A combination of battery storage and ICE’s as a range extender seems to me to be the best short term solution. In fact for the highest efficiency system, why not take a small super efficient high revving engine, like a Honda generator, that can be packaged in a very small space?
So in summary, the powertrain is made up of a combination of batteries, high efficiency ICE running on fossil fuels in the short term and hydrogen created with alternative energies in the longer term, powering 4WD in wheel electric motors with torque vectoring and regeneration capabilities: hopefully the future of Formula E!
The next post will look ideas around connected vehicles and the total mobility package of the future and how this ties together to create future mobility solutions.