Cenex LCV 2017, to be held on 6 and 7 September this year at Millbrook Proving Ground, marks the 10th anniversary of the landmark low carbon vehicle event. Comprising a multi-stream conference, exhibition and ride & drive motor show, the event has attracted growing numbers of delegates over the years.
A preview meeting held this week in Milton Keynes offered a snapshot of what this year’s itinerary has to offer.
Automotive Investment Organisation
Lawrence Davies MBE, Chief Executive of the Automotive Investment Organisation (AIO) – an arm of the UK’s Department for International Trade – provided an overview of the UK’s progress as a cutting-edge car manufacturing nation.
The AIO was set up in 2013 to attract foreign investment to the UK within the automotive sector, helping to outline opportunities for large manufacturers as well their suppliers.
Davies said that the UK remains an attractive place for automotive manufacturing due to its low rates of corporate tax compared to other European countries – a factor he described as “a significant pull” for foreign investment. He also noted that a recent World Bank report ranked the UK first in Europe for ease of doing business.
As a result of these and similar factors the UK has seen an almost 260% increase in automotive R&D spending over the past decade, between 2006 and 2016, to reach £2.7bn, Davies said.
Production levels have undergone a similar expansion, with Davies highlighting that the number of vehicles built in the UK has increased every year since 2008. “We UK built 1.8 million vehicles last year and there’s no reason why we won’t hit two million by 2020” he said, adding that production amounted to only one million in 2009, meaning that output will have doubled in little more than a decade.
Davies also outlined the knock-on impact on the UK supply chain, where the British-sourced content of cars assembled in the UK has risen from 36% in 2011 to 44% in 2017. “Growth is so strong, as we move towards two million vehicles, that some suppliers are running a six-day week” he added.
Transport Systems Catapult
Neil Fulton, Programme Director of the Transport Systems Catapult, described the work of his organisation, one of eleven technology incubators set up by the UK’s innovation agency, Innovate UK.
He noted that over the past decade the focus of the LCV event has expanded from low-carbon transport to intelligent mobility, along with the convergence of work on autonomous vehicles, the electrification of propulsion and the rise of transport as a service.
“The LCV events have shown how quickly things change” Fulton said. “If you look at footage from the 2008 event, things have changed beyond all recognition.”
He noted that the widespread attention paid to Volvo’s electrification plans and the French government’s plan to ban combustion vehicles from 2040 felt like watershed moments, with low carbon vehicles having transitioned from niche topics into the mainstream of public debate.
“With the Ultra Low Emissions Zone in London due to be operational by September 2020, how long will it be before other cities follow the direction in which London is already heading?” Fulton asked. “Advances in technology will inevitably drive change across the UK. It’s coming and it’s coming soon.”
He added that many people within the automotive industry might be wrong-footed by events, with the pace dictated by “unstoppable powerhouses like Apple, Google and Tesla”.
Fulton also discussed the social changes that future vehicles might unlock. He noted that young people already tend to view driving as an inconvenient interruption, during which they are disconnected from their friends, whereas previous generations saw driving as the polar opposite: a liberating means to connect with friends.
The eventual arrival of fully autonomous vehicles will bring “huge societal changes to both an ageing population and to millennials” Fulton predicted.
David Wong, Senior Technology and Innovation Manager at trade organisation SMMT, drilled down into the prospects for connected and autonomous vehicles (CAVs) in his presentation.
From April next year it will be mandatory for vehicles sold in Europe to feature eCall – the capability to automatically dial emergency services in the event of a serious accident. This feature will contribute to an already rising population of connected vehicles, which are expected to outnumber ordinary unconnected vehicles as soon as 2026.
Wong said that increasing capabilities of vehicle-to-vehicle, vehicle-to-infrastructure and vehicle-to-cloud communications will transform future prospects for avoiding accidents and reducing congestion.
“CAVs offer unprecedented opportunities to increase safety and reduce emissions” he argued, adding that even a relatively simple driver assistance system – automated emergency braking, now fitted to 39% of new cars – has “led to a 38% reduction in real-world rear-end crashes”.
Wong said that four major challenges still require plenty of work to bring fully autonomous – or Level 5 CAVs – to fruition. These relate to technology, regulation, public acceptance and appropriate business models.
He argued that the UK is well-placed to contribute to all these efforts, but most particularly within the fields of both simulated and real-world testing. Virtual testing will be key to avoid the need to drive millions of miles to validate every new feature, while the UK has already established an insurance framework that will allow testing of Level 4 and 5 autonomous vehicles on public roads.
Advanced Propulsion Centre
Garry Wilson, Director – Business Development at the Advanced Propulsion Centre UK – outlined the work his organisation is doing to “fill in the gap between proof of concept and commercialisation” in the automotive sector.
Wilson said that APC has supported 31 projects and 121 organisations over the past three years. “We support the later stages of innovation” he explained. “We are investing in risk but we expect most projects to reach fruition. We look at the impact on emissions, jobs created, export and foreign direct investment benefits and developing the UK’s supply chain capability.”
The competition for the eighth round of APC funding, with £35m available, began last week. “We’re still technology agnostic and are looking forward to some very substantial bids” Wilson said. “So far our funding has always been oversubscribed, which is great, and we want to keep it that way.”
Wilson said that new approaches to making vehicles lighter, plus the development of new battery and motor technologies, represent ripe opportunities for UK investment. He highlighted the ‘Faraday Challenge’ that will see the government offer £246m over four years to help UK businesses research, develop and build next-generation batteries for EVs.
Finally Robert Evans, CEO of LCV organiser Cenex, predicted that LCV 2017 is set to be the biggest yet, likely to beat 2016’s record of 3,137 visitors and 226 exhibitors. This year will also see a special evening networking event, celebrating the event’s 10th anniversary.
By Lem Bingley
See the video from Green-Car-Guide Live! 2008, co-sponsored by Cenex
Read our review of the Cenex Hybrid and Electric Vehicle Conference 2011
Read our review of the 2010 Green Vehicle Congress