“Designing a new BEV: all I can predict is that I will be wrong!”

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?

EU10I honda generator
Imagine a high efficiency, high volume manufactured power unit based on a standard generator.

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.

Published by markandrewpreston

Demonstrating his exceptional skills in engineering and design, alongside evident drive and business acumen, Mark Preston went from a degree in Mechanical Engineering and working for GM and Spectrum Racing Cars, to obtaining key roles in both the Arrows and McLaren F1 teams, and then creating the Super Aguri F1 team in just 100 days. Now the Team Principal of Team Aguri Formula E racing in the second season of the FIA Formula E championship. Completing his MBA at Oxford in 2006, Mark has also worked with Oxford University researchers who’ve benefited from his expertise in composites and high-tech design: he has consulted in commercializing spin outs from their research in marine energy and electric motor technology. Such developments of his management skills in and beyond the realm of motorsports shows Mark to be an exceptional team player and innovator, ideally placed to manage and motivate workforces. Together, his skills and experience combine to ensure that Mark delivers first-class business planning and start-up advice covering technical due diligence, operations management, and more – offering as he does a unique balance of commercial and technical understanding, achievement and ability.

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