Aston Martin Would Be Finished Without DBX

“I am pleased with our performance in the first three months of the year, delivering results in-line with our expectations of good growth and progress on the path to improved profitability and cash generation,” said CEO Tobias Moers, per Reuters. “We are encouraged by the growth in orders for both GT/Sport and DBX, providing good visibility.”Above all, Aston Martin’s executive team is adamant its 2021 outlook remains unchanged with a 6,000-unit sales goal. Additional income is expected to arrive in the second half of this year following the unveiling of several planned special editions models. All remain closely guarded secrets. The company has probably already reached out to loyal and wealthy clientele giving them the opportunity to buy.

Canada’s Project Arrow project taps Aston Martin’s Fraser Dunn as chief engineer

Fraser Dunn, chief engineer of special projects for Aston Martin Lagonda Ltd., is joining the Project Arrow team, which is developing the first Canadian-made, zero-emission, autonomous vehicle.
Dunn will serve as chief engineer of the project, said Flavio Volpe, president of the Automotive Parts Manufacturers’ Association (APMA).
While at the U.K.-based luxury sports car manufacturer, Dunn worked on such vehicles as the Vulcan and Valkyrie Hypercar.
He’s leaving his post and joining the APMA project full-time.
“We are pulling in a reverse brain drain for this project,” said Volpe. “I’m quite proud of the people who want to be involved in the Team Canada project from within and outside of [Canada].”
Dunn, who officially joins Project Arrow on Aug. 1, will steer the engineering team, said Colin Dhillon, the APMA’s chief technical officer.
Spearheaded by the APMA and with the backing of the provincial and federal government, the initiative aims to sell Canada’s auto-parts savvy to the world and capitalize on an industry-wide transition from gas-guzzling to battery-powered cars.
While the concept vehicle was designed by students, Volpe said it’s not Dunn’s job or intention to change anything about the way the vehicle looks.
“He’s going to take the dream and build it,” Volpe said.
Volpe said 335 Canadian companies have committed $100 million in technology, parts and engineering to the project.
Once completed, the concept car will embark upon a tour in 2022.
Source: autonewscom

Former Jaguar, Geely Designer Wayne Burgess Joins Ola As Head Of Vehicle Design

Ola Electric announced the appointment of Wayne Burgess as its new head of vehicle design. Burgess has previously worked with premium British vehicle manufacturers such as Aston Martin, Jaguar Land Rover, Rolls-Royce and Bentley as well.

Wayne Burgess, former Design boss at Paramex, Geely moves to Ola Electric

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Wayne Burgess, former Design boss at Paramex, Geely moves to Ola Electric

Ola Electric has hired one of Britain’s prolific designers as its new head of vehicle design. Wayne Burgess will be the company’s new Head of Design. What is significant about Ola’s announcement is that Burgess will run a team that will work on Ola Electric’s future scooters, motorcycles and cars as well. Of course the big pull factor was the all EV (electric vehicle) ecosystem that Ola will operate in. Wayne Burgess said, “I am looking forward to my work at Ola Electric and to the opportunity to lead a team that will work on designing cutting-edge electric vehicles for the world. I am thrilled to be part of Ola as it accelerates on its path to become a leader in global EV solutions.” Having spent over 30 years in the automobile industry, Burgess now wants to share the knowledge and experience he has with a wider audience. He also believes the time is right as the industry is moving towards an era of sustainable, zero-emissions connected and at some point autonomous vehicles.

Also Read: Ola Future Factory Construction Underway


Burgess has been responsible for designs like Paramex’s SUV and Hypercar

Burgess comes to Ola with quite the body of work, having previously worked with premium British automotive manufacturers such as Aston Martin, Jaguar, and more recently Lotus as well. His early years were also spent at Rolls-Royce and Bentley, but he is most celebrated for his work at Jaguar, first as Geoff Lawson’s and then Ian Callum’s protégé. He worked closely on the Jaguar F-Type sports car, and was the studio director for the F-Pace SUV project. He has also worked on the design of some other famous cars like the Jaguar XF and XE, the 1998 Bentley Arnage, and the Aston Martin DB9. Burgess will move over from Paramex, a British design and engineering consultancy firm, where he was Chief Design Officer, in charge of the group’s design business. Before that he was responsible for setting up Geely’s vast design centre in Coventry, which is when he worked closely on designs for the Lotus brand.

Also Read: Ola Announces Hypercharger Network


Wayne Burgess was Studio Director on the Jaguar F-Pace SUV design project

Ola Electric has been on a hiring spree – having very recently hired YS Kim as Head of Global Sales and Distribution. Kim also has nearly four decades of experience, and has worked extensively in India during his any years at Hyundai and Kia Motors. For Ola Electric getting Wayne Burgess on board is a huge statement, as it signals a seriousness and intent for moving rapidly towards many vehicle types in its larger EV production plans. Speaking on the decision, Bhavish Aggarwal, Chairman and Group CEO, Ola, said, “Wayne is a fantastic addition to our leadership team and will bring global appeal and design aesthetic to our industry changing electric vehicles. As the world moves to EVs, the vehicle form factors will be fundamentally reimagined. Wayne’s expertise in designing some of the most legendary vehicles will also be helpful in bringing these new form factors to consumers. I look forward to collaborating with him to build the most iconic range of EVs in the world.”

Also Read: Ola Electric Releases First Images Of New Scooter


Ola Electric’s first product will be the Ola Scooter, launching in a few months


Ola will kick start its EV journey with the launch of its Ola Scooter in the next few months. The first product from the brand, the scooter is expected to be aggressively priced, and offer cutting edge tech, and battery range. Anecdotally, last week when we received news that Pratap Bose had stepped down as Tata Motors’ head of design, social media was rife with speculation that he was moving to Ola. Burgess’ appointment puts that speculation to rest.

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New 2021 Maserati Levante Hybrid arrives with 325bhp

The Maserati Levante Hybrid has joined the luxury Italian brand’s line-up as its second hybrid model, with a focus on performance and fuel saving, according to Maserati.

The Levante Hybrid sits alongside the Ghibli Hybrid, and is Maserati’s first hybrid SUV. It’s actually a mild-hybrid set-up that uses a 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbocharged petrol engine and a belt starter-generator (BSG) powered by a compact battery to deliver a total output of 325bhp and 450Nm of torque – 90 per cent of which is available from just 1,750rpm.

This is sufficient for a 6.0-second 0-62mph time and a top speed of 149mph, helped by standard all-wheel drive and an eight-speed automatic gearbox.

Maserati claims that the 48-volt electrics in conjunction with its new eBooster tech – which backs up the car’s turbocharger to improve response and sustain the engine’s power at low revs – delivers a performance level similar to the V6 petrol Levante, but that CO2 emissions have been cut by up to 18 per cent compared with that car.

Fuel economy is yet to be confirmed due to pending certification, but the car’s CO2 output stands at a best of 231g/km.

The brand says in the car’s Normal driving mode performance and efficiency is balanced, with energy recovered by the system when decelerating, while in Sport the BSG and eBooster combine to provide a small extra hit of power.

The Hybrid weighs less than the V6 too, and thanks to the battery’s location at the rear of the car, offers a 50:50 weight distribution. Of course, the four-cylinder hybrid might not quite sound like the V6, but Maserati has tuned the exhaust’s fluid dynamics and fitted resonators to boost the sound signature, rather than resorting to artificial enhancement inside the cabin.

The intelligent Q4 all-wheel drive system helps handling too. It distributes 100 per cent of the system’s torque to the rear wheels, with the front axle only assisting to a maximum split of 50:50 when the set-up senses a loss of traction. There’s also a standard-fit limited-slip differential on the rear axle, while torque vectoring features as well as air suspension, which is also fitted as standard.

This controls a double wishbone layout at the front and a multi-link rear axle. It’s adaptive depending on driving mode, which along with the Levante Hybrid’s Q4 set-up, means the car can be set-up for sporty driving on road, or light off-roading away from the tarmac.

The air suspension also boosts comfort and efficiency, according to Maserati. The system automatically lowers itself at speed to reduce drag, while the ride height can be manually selected for entry and exit in its lowest position, or boosted by 85mm when off road.

There are more driver assistance systems, including a new adaptive cruise control with Active Drive Assist that will steer for you, as well as an updated 8.4-inch multimedia system that is powered by Android Automotive, boasting more connectivity and Amazon Alexa compatibility.

The Levante Hybrid will make its debut in GT trim and with a new metallic blue Azzuro Astro paint finish. It’ll feature cobalt blue detailing for the three air vents on each side of the car, the brake calipers and the new C-pillar logo, while the Hybrid ushers in different badging around the car and on the inside for the infotainment screen.

GT spec features the GranLusso external styling features from the regular Levante, while inside standard leather and piano black trim are standard.

The Levante Hybrid will go on sale in July, and while prices haven’t been confirmed, expect the Hybrid to start from around £69,000.

Click here for our full in-depth review on the Maserati Levante SUV…


New 2022 Nissan X-Trail SUV makes Shanghai Motor Show debut

A new version of the Nissan X-Trail has been unveiled at the Shanghai Motor Show, with the large SUV set to go on sale in Europe next year using similar technology to Nissan’s Qashqai family SUV.

The brand has also confirmed some Europe-specific information for this fourth-generation X-Trail, with the car available in this market with Nissan’s e-Power hybrid powertrain from launch.

It moves onto the CMF-C platform that underpins the latest Qashqai. Designed with the adoption of the brand’s hybrid e-Power powertrain in mind, it uses the same set-up as the Qashqai. A variable compression ratio 1.5-litre turbocharged four-cylinder engine that charges a compact battery, which supplies an electric motor for a total of 184bhp and 330Nm of torque on offer.

This allows the combustion engine to run at its optimum level for efficiency, lowering emissions and improving fuel consumption, while also, according to Nissan, giving the feel of driving an electric car, given the wheels are driven by electric motors. 

Nissan says the four-wheel drive version will give the new X-Trail “rugged versatility” and improve ability off-road, with the all-wheel-drive system configurable for snow, gravel or mud, helping boost confidence in bad conditions.

The styling follows the latest Qashqai’s too, with a more pronounced V-Motion grille and narrow headlight units. The SUV boasts some strong, angular styling lines giving it a chunkier look to its softer-surfaced predecessor, while at the rear shallow tail-light units, a big silver insert for the bumper and a contrasting roof complete the look.

The new CMF-C platforms means the X-Trail will also be available with a third row of seats, offering seven-seat capability for larger families.

The interior will pack more advanced kit, including more driver assistance systems to help safety in this family-oriented machine, while the upgraded platform will also help boost refinement and dynamic performance, according to Nissan.

The fourth-generation X-Trail completes Nissan’s overhaul of its SUV line-up, which started in late 2019 with the second-generation Juke, followed by the Ariya all-electric model and the exclusively hybrid new Qashqai, revealed towards the start of this year.

With the X-Trail’s on-sale date some way off in 2022 and the car only just unveiled, Nissan hasn’t yet revealed pricing, but given the new platform and the increase in technology on offer, expect the new car to rise over the outgoing model’s £26,835 starting price.

Click here for our in-depth review of the latest Nissan Qashqai SUV…


New Audi A6 e-tron concept unveiled at the 2021 Shanghai Motor Show

This is the Audi A6 e-tron concept, which has made its world debut at the 2021 Shanghai Motor Show. The concept previews an all-electric model that will join the A6 family in 2023, based on Audi’s new PPE Premium Platform Electric architecture for electric cars.

It’s the first Audi on PPE we’ve seen, although it’ll be the second model to arrive because the firm’s Q6 e-tron is expected to go on sale next year.

The new PPE architecture allows what Audi calls “flat” cars – think saloons, coupes and estates – rather than just SUVs and higher-riding hatchbacks like those we have seen on the VW Group’s smaller MEB electric car platform. Audi’s own Q4 e-tron SUV and Q4 e-tron Sportback use that technology.

Platform, size and styling

The PPE platform’s clever packaging allows for a flat floor, which means a lower roofline is also possible without compromising space inside, and the A6 e-tron is a strong example of this concept, according to Audi.

At 4.96m long, 1.96m wide and 1.44m tall, the A6 e-tron is positioned at the heart of the executive saloon market. For reference, the current A6 is 4.94m long, 1.87m wide and 1.46m tall.

The eventual production model will form part of the A6 family as well, but it’s not thought that the rest of the range will be updated to reflect the A6 e-tron’s styling, so while there will be an electric alternative badged A6, it will still keep some distance from Audi’s ICE and plug-in hybrid executive saloon line-up.

The PPE platform features a specially optimised five-link front suspension set-up, with a multi-link axle at the rear, both of which are controlled by adaptive air suspension on the A6 e-tron concept.

It’s a sleek-looking four-door saloon that Audi refers to as a “Sportback” – the term it uses for the current A7. The A6 e-tron has more than a hint of that car’s looks in profile, with a sporty, sloping rear screen, which along with blanked-off grilles helps to achieve a very low drag coefficient of just 0.22Cd, improving aerodynamics and therefore efficiency.

The German brand hasn’t revealed any info on boot space yet, but given the PPE platform’s flexibility, with the wheels pushed to the extremes of the car’s bodywork to maximise packaging, the A6 e-tron should be the most spacious and practical member of the A6 family when it joins the line-up.

We’re told that the concept’s styling relative to the eventual production model is “pretty close, around 95 per cent finished,” with features such as the car’s door handles the final design elements to be signed off. Don’t expect many large changes for the eventual production version.

At its unveiling of the A6 e-tron, Audi also hinted heavily that an all-electric Avant estate model will likely join the line-up too, with Johannes Arneth, part of the PPE platform’s development team, admitting, “PPE is definitely ready for that car and can serve that need.”

Battery, range and charging

Even in this “flat” car, as Audi calls it, the PPE platform still houses its battery in the floor between the front and rear axles. The A6 e-tron uses a 100kWh battery, which gives the car a range of “more than 700km” – or in excess of 434 miles. It’s the most we’ve seen yet from any Audi EV.

The battery feeds a pair of electric motors in this concept, giving four-wheel drive and delivering a total output of 469bhp and 800Nm of torque.

Audi hasn’t revealed a kerbweight for the A6 e-tron but says that “the most powerful members of the [A6 e-tron] family will sprint from 0-62mph in less than four seconds,” while the instant torque of an electric motor means that “even entry-level models designed for efficiency will accelerate to 62mph in less than seven seconds”.

Audi will offer other motors for its entry-level A6 e-tron production offerings, with a rear-drive version sitting underneath quattro all-wheel-drive models.

The PPE platform has been designed with 800-volt electronic architecture, which means that the A6 e-tron offers DC rapid charge capability at up to 270kW. As a result, the 100kWh battery can be charged from five to 80 per cent in just 25 minutes, while in just 10 minutes owners will be able to add 300km of range (186 miles).

Although the A6 e-tron will launch after the as-yet-unseen Q6 e-tron, with that SUV also based on the PPE platform, we’d expect similar range and charging technology when it makes its debut later this year.

Lighting and technology

Audi has been a pioneer when it comes to lighting – and the A6 e-tron concept is no different.

The car uses digital matrix LED headlights and digital OLED technology for its tail-lights, with a full-width bar that connects the two clusters. It means the lights can deliver plenty of brightness thanks to their power, but the signature can be slim and sleek. There’s even the possibility to customise the light signature.

The clever lighting extends to some safety features too, as the A6 e-tron features projectors on the sides and the corners of the car that display an image on the ground. This can include signals to warn cyclists that a passenger is about to open the door, or that the car is about to make a turn when on the move.

There’s an element of fun and personalisation to the system as well, as there are lighting effects to welcome users into the car when the doors are opened, with the projectors shining an image or a message onto the ground.

The headlights can actually project a picture onto a wall in front of the car too, so if parked up while charging, users can play video games using a blown-up picture on a surface in front of them, rather than on just the in-car multimedia screen. Players use their smartphone as a controller for the specially developed Audi game.

The rear digital OLED lights can be tailored so users can create custom animations and light signatures, with even Audi’s four-ring emblem made up by the LEDs. Tweaks to the lights have also allowed Audi’s engineers to add a 3D effect to the lighting.

Not all of this technology will likely make it to the production-ready A6 e-tron, but expect much of the lighting advances to be carried across when we see the final car; it’s likely to make its debut in 2022, with sales starting in 2023.

These are the electric cars with the longest range…


Facelifted Lexus ES saloon unveiled at Shanghai Motor Show

Lexus has unveiled a facelifted version of its Mercedes E-Class rivalling ES executive saloon at the Shanghai Motor Show. 

The hybrid-only ES has been the recipient of some slight styling changes, while the updates are said to place an even greater focus on quieter and more comfortable performance.

At the front there’s an evolution of Lexus’s spindle grille design and new headlights, while the updated ES boasts new wheel designs ranging from 17 to 19 inches. New paint colours are available, as are interior colours and walnut inlay trim options, with different upholstery shades and combinations added for more customisation potential, too.

To boost comfort, refinement and dynamic ability Lexus has increased the rear suspension’s rigidity, which the brand claims gives a sharper response to high-speed manoeuvres. F Sport models with adaptive variable suspension also feature a new actuator and different internals to further improve these characteristics.

The hybrid’s regenerative braking system – and the shape of the brake pedal – have been tweaked for better control. Regenerative braking is possible thanks to the ES 300h’s hybrid-only powertrain. This comprises a 2.5-litre four-cylinder petrol engine, a small battery and an electric motor for a total combined output of 215bhp for a 0-62mph time of 8.9 seconds.

In the outgoing ES the powertrain returns a best of 53.2mpg and 119g/km CO2; as yet there is no information on any efficiency changes for the new ES.

Last year the ES received new digital wing mirrors, and Lexus is equipping this new car with even more tech. The ES will adopt Lexus’s BladeScan adaptive LED headlights, which the brand says means “more accurate lighting control and wider forward illumination.”

The car will also feature Lexus’s latest Safety System+ equipment, which includes driver assistance features such as Emergency Steering Assist, Pre-Collision Safety – which now recognises pedestrians at night and cyclists in the day. Intersection turn assist will help prevent collisions by turning across oncoming traffic, too.

The updated ES range goes on sale in the UK later this year, with prices expected to rise marginally over the outgoing car to around £36,000.

Now read our review of the outgoing Lexus ES here


New Toyota bZ4X previews electric SUV on sale in 2022

Toyota was quick on the draw with hybrids, but the Japanese company has been relatively slow to introduce battery-electric models to its line-up. Now it’s getting serious with EVs, though, and it all starts with this car, the Toyota bZ4X.

Previewed here in concept form, this SUV will be the first of seven bZ EVs that will appear between now and 2025 as part of a 15-model all-electric push by Toyota. The car will sit on e-TNGA, the fully electric version of the company’s modular platform, and it has been developed in conjunction with Subaru, which is said to have had input into the car’s four-wheel drive system.

Toyota has declined to provide any dimensions for the bZ4X Concept, beyond labelling it a “medium-sized SUV”. But it says the ‘4’ in its badge stands for its size, and it appears similar in overall dimensions to the company’s own RAV4. 

The new arrival’s front and rear overhangs both look short, though, so the wheelbase may well be longer than the more conventionally powered model’s. Indeed, Toyota says the rear legroom in the bZ4X Concept is similar to that of the Lexus LS limousine. It’s fair to say that the car should be a rival for the likes of the VW ID.4 and Skoda Enyaq.

The exterior styling builds on the approach of recent hybrid Toyotas, with plenty of sharp creases and a cab-rearward design that gives the bZ4X more of a bonnet than it actually needs. The surfacing along the flanks is complex and made more so by variations of materials, with more glossy plastics at the wheelarch surrounds. 

Toyota hasn’t released a clear top-down image of the car but the company says the bZ4X incorporates solar charging, and this is almost certain to be achieved through roof-mounted panels.

The front of the car does away with a conventional grille but still has a ‘mouth’ just beneath the leading edge of the bonnet, and ultra-slim daytime running lights that act as brows over quadruple-lens headlights. A light bar runs right across the rear of the bZX, and it’s framed by louvred-effect tail-lights.

The cabin arguably marks a bigger departure from Toyota’s current designs, with a small instrument panel, a neatly integrated widescreen infotainment system and the use of fabric on the main fascia. 

There’s also an unusual take on the steering wheel – a reflection of the fact that the bZ4X will be offered with steer-by-wire technology. Toyota says that the system’s calibration will mean the driver no longer needs to move their hands around the wheel while making a turn – and this has allowed a new design that lacks the top half of the traditional circle. The technology will be made available in China first, but Toyota says it plans to roll it out worldwide.

The other components of the new model’s name are bZ – standing for Beyond Zero, Toyota’s vision of carbon-neutral motoring – and X, denoting a crossover body style. The company has already previewed a line-up of all-electric models, showing that there will be a more conventionally shaped hatchback and a larger people carrier-style vehicle alongside a number of SUVs. 

As revealed in Auto Express last year, Toyota has trademarked bZ with a variety of numerical suffixes, and in many cases it has also registered the ‘X’ variant.

Toyota says the bZ4X should arrive in showrooms by summer 2022. It’s hard to put a figure on pricing until the company opens up on the car’s battery sizes, but we’d expect it to be in the same ballpark as the ID.4, with a starting figure of around £40,000.

What range can we expect? 

Realistic, dependable range could be a key selling point for the Toyota bZ4X when the all-new pure-electric SUV reaches showrooms in 2022, the brand’s European marketing and product boss has suggested.

Unveiled this morning, the bZ4X is the first Toyota to be based on e-TNGA, the all-electric development of the modular platform that has underpinned everything from the well-received Yaris and Corolla to the RAV4. 

Toyota has yet to divulge any technical specifications for the car – beyond saying the concept has motors on each axle to deliver four-wheel drive, so battery capacities and charging speeds remain unknown. But speaking to Auto Express, Andrea Carlucci, Toyota Europe’s head of marketing and product development, suggested that achievable range could be more important for the company than headline-grabbing ‘claimed figures’.

“I think we should provide the right range at the right cost,” Carlucci said. “That is the basic philosophy. We want to be competitive with the D-SUV [RAV4-sized] category but we also believe it is important is to stay in the way of making cars at Toyota. So you get what is promised.

“We started 25 years ago making electrified vehicles, so we know how to build them correctly, how the system interconnects with the different components. Below 5deg batteries tend to be unstable in their performance, and in very hot countries durability can be affected when the car is exposed to more than 40deg for a long time.

“This is where I think we can really provide a unique point of going to market, with the perception consumers have of our brand. We want to say if you promise ‘x’ kilometres, it’s not about promising something that maybe on paper is much more than what, in reality, you’re going to get. That’s a signature of these new vehicles and the bZ brand.”

Are you excited about Toyota’s electric future? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section…


Former Ferrari F1 Boss Marco Mattiacci Could Join Aston Martin 

Mattiacci has experience working in British motoring companies like Jaguar which he joined at the age of 19

Mattiacci was fired in 2014 after a short 8 month stint

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Mattiacci was fired in 2014 after a short 8 month stint

Tech News

Marco Mattiacci is best known for his short 8-month stint as Ferrari’s team principal in 2014 which culminated in the exit of Fernando Alonso from the team. It now seems the 50-year-old Italian could be on his way to Aston Martin in a consultancy role. Mattiacci was assigned the role of Ferrari’s F1 boss after current F1 CEO Stefano Domenicali stepped down from the role.

After Ferrari Mattiacci joined the ill-fated EV venture by LeEco founder called Faraday Future. Mattiacci was best known for his role as the president and CEO of Ferrari in North America where he grew sales of the legendary Italian marquee. 

faraday future ff91

Faraday Future was one of the most hyped EV start-ups for Mattiacci was the global brand officer 

This is where he reportedly developed a relationship with Lawrence Stroll the excretive chairman of Aston Martin. Stroll has been a lifelong Ferrari collector and Mattiacci would have been the go-to person for the Canadian billionaire. 


Mattiacci has experience working in British motoring companies like Jaguar which he joined at the age of 19 and worked for a decade in its marketing department. Aston Martin is considered to be the Ferrari of Britain and with it rejoining F1 for the first time in 50 years, it could use an experienced hand especially for its growth and marketing. 

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“Electric cars have zero emissions, but we must consider how we generate electricity for them”

Throughout the arc of human history, there has been one constant that determines a people’s success or failure: the ability to capture and harness energy. From early homo sapiens, who learnt to control fire for warmth and food, to the Georgians’ reliance on steam power to usher in the Industrial Revolution, history is defined by the progress made in sourcing and deploying energy. Today, we find ourselves at the crossroads of history once again as we grapple with our own generation-defining relationship with energy.

As humanity becomes more aware of its impact on the environment and planet earth, the past decade has seen an intense acceleration towards net-zero transportation, with electric vehicles becoming the default and most understood emerging transport mode of choice for many. In 2011, just 1,082 electric vehicles were registered on Britain’s roads. At the start of 2021, that figure stood at more than 150,000. 

Not only are consumers opting for electric in their droves, the push towards EVs is also being advocated for heavily by governments around the world, who are under pressure to meet their own self-imposed deadlines to protect the environment. In the UK, the aim is to reach a net-zero economy by 2050. To help reach that objective, the government has mandated that no new internal combustion engine vehicles will be sold from 2030 onwards (although hybrids can continue until 2035). Last year, I wrote for this magazine with my reaction after this move was announced, and ultimately it’s something I welcome. Big, bold and ambitious were the words I used to describe the policy announcement at the time, and I stick by them. However, since then the UK has negotiated a new trading arrangement with the European Union, which throws a sizeable spanner in the works. 

The ‘rules of origin’ component of the negotiated UK-EU deal stipulates that, by 2027, battery packs for electric vehicles will only be allowed to contain 30 per cent international content (materials and components sourced from outside the UK and European Union), or 35 per cent at the battery cell level, or face substantial tariffs, ramping up the cost of the finished vehicle when exported. This dictates the need to build battery gigafactories across Europe, including the UK. The EU has already nominated this as their second Important Project of Common European Interest (IPCEI) to support research and innovation in the battery value chain. It will provide up to 2.9billion Euros of public funding, unlocking an expected additional 9billion Euros in private investment.

Without electric vehicle batteries made in the UK, this country’s auto manufacturing industry risks being enticed away to China, Japan, America and Europe. This would risk the 800,000 British jobs linked to the UK automotive sector. Business sense dictates that the automotive industry will move to where the batteries are (to avoid long logistic chains of heavy and expensive inventory), and without batteries made in the UK it is unlikely that EVs assembled here will be economically viable.

Something called Moore’s Law helps explain why. It is a widely accepted principle in computing, theorising that computer processor speeds will double every two years because computer manufacturers can double the number of transistors on the motherboard. Ultimately, it’s Moore’s Law that led to computers becoming faster and cheaper, and widely available to consumers. One transistor cost roughly £6 in the early 1960s, when computers were in their infancy. Today, billions of transistors can be squeezed onto a chip roughly the size of a five-pence coin, and the cost of these transistors has dropped to no more than fractions of a penny.

Many in the auto industry are applying Moore’s Law to the evolution of electric cars, arguing that batteries improve (faster charging, longer-lasting) by around three per cent each year. When I began developing the Leaf at Nissan a decade ago, it was the first generation of advanced batteries used in the vehicle. We used Lithium Manganese Oxide (LMO) 10 years ago and today the batteries found in the Leaf are Nickel Manganese Cobalt (NMC), a much more efficient and effective battery that lasts longer and charges faster. Many vehicles in the early years opted for LFP (Lithium Iron Phosphate) batteries with lower costs, but lower energy density. The evolution of the lithium-ion battery will continue down the Moore’s Curve, reducing the reliance on cobalt and deploying silicon. With this roadmap, it’s not unrealistic to predict that by the end of this decade we could see commercially viable solid-state batteries, and that will herald the maturity of battery technology. 

So, the batteries used in cars are coming down in price significantly, whilst simultaneously being generally better at what we are asking them to do. For governments, this can’t come soon enough. The UK government recently announced it’d be cutting the grant for electric vehicles from £3,000 to £2,500; too early in my opinion, with a more sensible approach being to offset the costs of EV grants with a rise in fuel duty. In time, however, these grants will be rendered obsolete and electric vehicles will be readily affordable to the masses, without the need for expensive subsidies. 

That’s all well and good, so long as the government can deploy a strategy that enables the UK to manufacture batteries domestically using our own chemistry. This is one of the key challenges for the politicians to get their heads around – and they need to do it soon. 

Their starting point should be to define the problem they are trying to solve. Are they trying to reduce CO2? Or are they chasing clean air? If it’s the latter, then clearly electric vehicles are the obvious solution because tailpipe emissions are eradicated, despite the legitimate environmental anxiety around how the materials for the batteries are mined and sourced, and the CO2 that’s produced in the manufacturing process. If it’s the former, then they should be focusing their energy and brainpower into hydrogen, fuel cells or synthetic fuels. Whilst synthetic fuels burn carbon, the CO2 is captured in the manufacturing process, thereby becoming ‘net zero’. It may be that, actually, politicians are trying to capture CO2 and chase clean air, in which case they (and we) must be prepared to pay the premium, because the only viable option currently is to look at fuel cells from a clean hydrogen source, which are notoriously scarce. 

The truth is that we should not legislate to make electric vehicles the only solution to reaching net zero, but adopt a Darwinist approach and enjoy the best of all. Hydrogen, for example, could outshine batteries for efficiency when it comes to heavy goods vehicles and long-haul transportation. Synthetic fuels may well continue to provide the drama, noise and excitement that we associate with sports cars, not to mention the convenience for manufacturers, who’ll be able to convert traditional internal combustion engines to work with synthetic fuels relatively easily. And there is no doubt in my mind that engineers and scientists are working on technologies right now that could result in the application of an environmentally friendly fuel that no one previously thought possible.

It is no exaggeration to say that the decisions made over the coming years will define the next era of human advancement. We must get the economics of batteries and other net-zero fuels right and, with all the upheaval we are seeing in the modern world, this is far from certain to happen seamlessly. 

As we find ourselves in the fourth iteration of the industrial revolution that started 260 years ago through the power of steam, the fifth iteration could well be powered by our ability to identify multiple net-zero modes of transport that work across land, sea and air.

Take a look at Stellantis’ first steps into hydrogen fuel cell technology here…