Sir James Dyson has revealed what many automotive industry insiders already knew by rumour – his company is developing an Electric car ! The fact that Dyson have no automotive precedence or manufacturing facility should not be seen as a show stopper – there is plenty of subcontract capacity available (at a price) although his timescale of 2 years to volume manufacture is probably over ambitious.
Many current Automotive specialists will laugh at the idea of Dyson moving into this arena with its complex & demanding legislative requirements but perhaps that is missing the point.
Dyson recently bought innovative Solid State battery development company Sakti3 for $90 million & half of Dysons $2.7 billion will be spent on battery development.
The batteries developed by Sakti3 are Solid State which offer much higher energy densities & battery life than current Lithium Ion batteries.
Perhaps the likely scenario is that Dyson will use his Electric car to showcase the real diamond in the rough – a vastly superior battery technology which will then be licensed to the main automotive players enabling the Wiltshire Innovator to truly ‘clean up’
The UK Governments recent announcement to ban the sale of new diesel & petrol cars by 2040 is just another exercise in ‘smoke & mirrors’ & puts most of the onus on Local Authorities – “The government will require councils to produce local air quality plans which reduce nitrogen dioxide levels in the fastest possible time.”
By 2040 Technology may have advanced to the point where we no longer even drive ‘cars’
Looking back 23 years ago was when the world wide web was born. No iPhones, No Google, no Netflix, mobile phones had batteries bigger than the phone & we watched movies on VHS tapes. Back then only 7% of cars were diesel – that was before the Government encouraged the production & purchase of diesel cars in an effort to reduce Carbon Dioxide emissions in the face of global warming.
There is no doubt that in the next few years Electric cars will begin to dominate the market; all of the big players already have plans in place to make at least 50% of all new models Electric.
The biggest challenge is having the infrastructure in place to keep pace, charging points at workplaces & in Cities will be a massive bottleneck in the near future. They are committing 100 million GBP to this in the way of grants & this is a good start but unlikely to deliver the required changes fast enough. Anyone who has driven on the M6 regularly will tell you they have been building a ‘smart’ motorway for 4 years & it is not due for completion until 2019.
Read about the Government Plan for Clean Air Quality here & form your own opinion.
As we move towards an era of electric autonomous vehicles the biggest threat to the manufacturers will be that of ownership. If I can summon a car on my mobile & get driven anywhere – a grander form of ‘Uber’ – why would I want to ‘own’ one.
By 2040 I may be able to teleport via quantum entanglement – no doubt the Government will have to invent a new tax to replace that currently used to tax the roads.
Despite claims to the contrary there is little doubt that the Automotive Industry has lagged behind major social trends in terms of energy efficiency, global climate change & emissions.
For decades the industry did little to improve fuel efficiency until the oil crisis of the early 1970’s brought about the demise of gas guzzling V8’s & V12’s.
The industry now faces a perfect storm of stricter emissions controls particularly regarding Nitrous Oxide emitting Diesels & consumer pressure for a ‘green’ alternative.
This has all been exacerbated by the Volkswagen emissions scandal although to be fair to the Automotive suppliers they have been reacting to social pressure to reduce carbon dioxide emissions (from petrol cars) backed by Government incentives to increase diesel motors at the expense of petrol. This has been promoted in the U.K & elsewhere by reducing Road Tax on Diesel cars & making petrol relatively expensive.
Governments seem to conveniently forget it takes 5-7 years to bring a new model to market from initial concept to volume sales.
Whereas most of the major manufacturers have invested heavily in electric & hybrid alternatives they face disruption from ‘new’ players in the market like Tesla. Indeed future competition will come from the Technology sector & not the traditional Automotive sector.
It has been estimated that up to 80% of new cars are bought via ‘cheap’ finance, readily available due to historically low global interest rates. This cannot last & already there is talk of a finance bubble ready to burst.
The Auto industry faces many challenges over the coming years & needs to be fleet of foot & responsive to customer needs if they are to survive the next decade when technology & social changes will only become more pronounced.
In today’s Guardian Newspaper there is an article which describes Jaguar Land Rovers plans to invest millions in Electric car & battery technology creating up to 10,000 extra jobs in the UK. According to Greg Clark the Business Secretary this Technology will form a key component of the Governments Industrial strategy which is to be revealed in the coming weeks. Part of this will no doubt involve the development of autonomous vehicles which will whisk us from A to B with hardly a conscious thought. In fact current concerns regarding mobile phone texting & driving will disappear as our motors transform into mobile offices & the commute we used to gather our thoughts and prepare for the day ahead is lost forever to the ever encroaching working day – whatever happened to ‘working from home’ ?
Anyone who travels regularly on the UK’s roads realises that the ‘joys of motoring’ were probably last experienced in the 1960’s. Most roads are so congested it is virtually impossible to put your foot down & enjoy the thrills of the road unless you journey to remote parts of Scotland.
The increasing adoption of autonomous vehicles will kill off the ‘petrol head’ forever – as the act of driving becomes more passive & our senses are cut off from the experience.
Fairly soon driving enthusiasts will join their steam train colleagues in the anorak brigades.
But hang on; maybe, just maybe, there are enough of us out there who hate the idea of autonomous vehicles & want to buy a car to drive. Perhaps we are many & some of the Automotive manufacturers will realise that a sizeable proportion of their customers actually enjoy driving when the conditions allow & want to buy a car to drive it, not the other way round.
The main constraints of electric car technology – range & charging time – have been surmounted by an exciting ‘new’ technology developed by research company Nanoflowcell.
Using a liquid battery technology originally developed in the 1950’s & perfected by NASA their Quantino concept car combines positively & negatively charged fluids in fuel cell to generate electricity & harmless water vapour.
The car has achieved a range of over 600 miles on one ‘charge’
Major OEM’s have shown a lot of interest in the technology and the company is in talks with one ‘large manufacturer’ to put the technology into production.
Time will tell but there is little doubt – the automotive future is electric.
Mercedes Benz has joined the herd of Automotive companies who have followed Google’s lead in developing autonomous (driverless) vehicles for use on public roads.
But where is the demand coming from ? Who actually wants driverless cars ? It may surprise but, according to a recent Government survey, over 46% of us do!
Maybe its the thought of an extra hours sleep on the daily commute or the desire to squeeze another couple of hours work time in our already busy days; perhaps we imagine driving on our congested roads will be more pleasurable if the car takes the strain instead of us – whatever the reasons there is no doubt that some time soon autonomous vehicles will be a common sight on our roads and the investment decisions of the major motor manufacturers will begin to make sense.
Once again Google will be praised by some & cursed by others, but there will be no denying the Organisations prescience.
This year has been an extremely exciting & challenging one for me personally. In January 2014 I signed a 12 month contract with Tata Technologies as Lead Engineer in Exterior Trim developing & bringing to production Jaguar Land Rovers’s Freelander replacement the new ‘Discovery Sport’.
In January I was based in TTL’s Coventry office but spent a lot of time at JLR’s Browns Lane plant in the West Midlands, historical home of Jaguar Cars & now utilised as a Pilot Plant for small scale production.
Walking into Browns Lane was a great experience personally as I met many old friends from JLR having worked on the Range Rover Sport Programme. Although it is a large organization employing many thousands its amazing how many people you get to know working on a project for 18 months.
The pilot build is known as VP build & this stage of the process is very much a learning process. Some trim parts are still not ‘off tool’ & its all about capturing issues via the Automated Issues Management system. This AIMs system is used to track issues & ensure the proper fix is put in place before closure. It provides visibility to Senior Management & its administration is one of the Lead Engineer’s key tasks along with developing engineering solutions & working with key suppliers to ensure timely delivery of quality parts. Most issues require a PACN (to support financial justification) & a Engineering Release to implement the change. As most Engineers are responsible for numerous parts time is rapidly eroded before its time for the next build – Hard Tool Functional Build (HTFB)
This build took place at JLR’s Halewood plant where the Discovery Sport is to be mass produced & which was to be my base for the next 8 months.
Halewood is a large plant which covers several square miles & employs over 8,000 people. Most of the Product Coaches & Line Engineers were involved in the Browns Lane builds so there were many familiar faces at Halewood as well as plenty new ones. Halewood is one of JLR’s centres of excellence & the Engineering knowledge here is second to none.
Over the next 8 months we embarked on a number of builds increasing in numbers & complexity. This is a very stressful period for all & the nearer Volume Launch approaches the pressure piles on.
It was with a mixture of relief & a great sense of achievement when Volume Launch in December was achieved and cars began rolling off the production line at a rate of one every 40 seconds !!
It is important to recognise the economic importance of this model; Tata have invested hundreds of millions of pounds in this venture which has created several thousand jobs at Halewood & employed hundreds of thousands in the wider supply chain. With JLR’s commitment to source 60% of parts within a 40 mile radius the importance to the Regional Economy cannot be underestimated.
To play a small part in this great venture & to help take the Discovery Sport from initial concept to volume production brings a great sense of pride & achievement. email@example.com
Engineering is boring right ? All that clanking with spanners & hammers & getting covered in grease.
This is a common view of people who haven’t got the first clue what engineering is or what it involves.
In the automotive industry there are thousands of engineers working on all kinds of projects & products. The job may involve design using autocad, working with suppliers to develop new components, building prototype cars, testing them in Alasks or the Sahara, getting involved in the manufacturing process, generating business plans and a whole host of other activities. It is tremendously fulfilling to be involved in the design & development of a new car model & see it come to fruition.
There are some fantastic opportunities in Engineering which are highly paid & offer the option to travel which are simply not available in other industries so next time someone says “Engineering is boring” ask them what they do which is so damn exciting.
This week Jaguar Land Rover released the following press statement:-
‘JLR creates 250 new jobs as Halewood is confirmed as the home of the new Discovery Sport
The Land Rover Discovery Sport has been confirmed as the latest model to be produced at Jaguar Land Rover’s Halewood plant. The additional jobs announced to support Jaguar Land Rover’s newest model will see the Halewood workforce reach 4,750 – more than treble the number employed there in 2010. The Halewood plant has benefited from a £200 million investment to support introduction of the first member of the all-new Land Rover Discovery family, taking the total amount invested in Halewood over the last four years to almost £500 million.’
So why are JLR doing so well when volume manufacturers like General Motors Vauxhall and other Marques are struggling:-
1) JLR are taking advantage of a global rise in premium SUV’s driven, to a large extent, by the Chinese market.
2) Their customers are relatively well off & have higher disposable income.
3) They have targeted the export market, with over 80% of sales destined for overseas.
4) Their Quality standards are superior, the attention to detail is exceptional .
5) They have an excellent engineering pedigree with a stable workforce with many, many years experience. There is no other company in the World knows as much about four wheel drive systems as Land Rover.
At the heart of the Toyota Production System (sometimes referrred to as #Lean Production System) is the principle of ‘Jidoka’.
According to Toyota “Jidoka means that a machine safely stops when the normal processing is completed. It also means that, should a quality / equipment problem arise, the machine detects the problem on its own and stops, preventing defective products from being produced. As a result, only products satisfying quality standards will be passed on to the following processes on the production line.”
But there is more to #Lean than this. The key component is the empowerment of the Operator to stop the process immediately a defect or potentialy defective process is discovered without referring the issue upward. The Operator can stop the production process without fear of retribution and is empowered to do so. This is a great responsibility and one which is not granted lightly, the Operator must be fully trained and the Organisation steeped in the culture of #Lean & #Kaizen (continuous improvement)
Granting this autonomy is absolutely key to the success of the TPS philosophy & unleashes immense forces of creativity & quality improvement.