R.I.P. I.C.E? Debate – The race towards electrification

The past 5 years has seen a sharp uptake in the number of EV’s across the world, with over 1.2 million on the world’s roads at the end of 2015. The UK has seen a rapid uptake in EVs with 31,433 plug in vehicles registered so far in 2016. The growth rates illustrate that electric vehicles are slowly transitioning from a niche product to a desirable clean mode of transport.

Meanwhile the internal combustion engine is slowly becoming demonised for the high amount of harmful emissions it releases. Last week it was reported that the 2nd successful legal challenge on the UK government led by Client Earth has opened up the possibility of diesel drivers being taxed to enter certain UK cities. As a result of these pressures, work is being done to significantly reduce the amount of harmful emissions that are released by I.C.E technology. The UK is a global leader in the development and production of next generation internal combustion engine technology, producing around 2.5 million engines a year. Jaguar Land Rover recently opened their engine manufacturing facility in Wolverhampton in 2014 and Ford has continued their investment plans in the Bridgend facility. As evidenced in the APC’s recent Low Carbon Automotive Technologies Report, the UK is well placed to develop internal combustion engines optimised for hybrid applications. For example BMW’s engine plant at Hams Hall supplies the 3 cylinder engine for the BMW i8 sports car. However the key question is can the UK supply chain take advantage of an electric future as much as it has done from the internal combustion engine?

The UK’s electric vehicle supply chain is growing and the Low Carbon Automotive Technologies Report also highlighted that the UK possesses a unique opportunity to build on its existing strengths and deliver a range of low carbon technologies. Partnerships developed in the UK such as Nissan’s significant collaboration with Hyperdrive demonstrate the high quality capabilities in the UK. The Electrical Energy Storage Spoke at the University of Warwick hosts some of the globes leading academics in battery technologies, who are helping solve problems in collaboration with UK battery developers.

Whilst the majority of vehicle manufacturer’s current range is powered by an internal combustion engine, more and more manufacturers are providing zero emission options amongst their fleet. At the Paris Motor Show, Mercedes-Benz announced the introduction of a new all-electric EQ range which is slated for release before 2020. Similarly VW are aiming for 20-25% of their model range to be electric by 2025 and reports from Nikkei suggest even Toyota are planning a long range EV. In the UK, there are now approximately 20 models of electric vehicles available with even more existing models being available as hybrid electric vehicles. The internal combustion engine will play an important role in the short to medium term so it is crucial we work together to provide efficient solutions that can cut emissions from current technologies. However as the performance of electrified powertrains improves and the as the cost decreases, we’ll see the dominance of the internal combustion engine be questioned.

Come and join the Advanced Propulsion Centre at the ‘R.I.P. I.C.E?’ debate held at the Royal Institution on the 14 November 2016 to have your say on the future of the internal combustion engine. Leading industry and academic figures will have their say on what the road ahead holds for the internal combustion engine and the rise of its competing technologies.