“This is an arms race - you’re going to see a new age for the automobile.”
Larry Burns - Professor of Engineering University of Michigan
When I joined Ricardo a few years ago, I was tutored by some of the best engineering brains in the world on what the technology roadmap for automotive probably looked like. Inevitably, much of that material is confidential so I can't expand in detail.
However, it was clear was that amidst the array of refinements on areodynamics, vehicle structures, powertrains, power-electronics, NVH, and much more that help deliver client requirements on emissions, performance, efficiency et al - one major aspect had the prospect to deliver a monumental leap forward.
That isn't to say that all of the other developments were in vain.
Far from it - they are all complimentary, and almost always, essential.
That one 'aspect' ?... you've probably already guessed dear Reader...
The much-ado-about-something debate in regard to emissions testing reveals a lot about where we're heading perhaps...
Real World v The Lab.
The 'Real World' is where a host of things impact on your vehicle, - the terrain, gradient, ambient temperature, payload, traffic, and driving style etc.
The much maligned lab-test is a 2 hours 20 minutes dot to dot driving cycle on a computer screen.
Energy consumed in transit - be it fossil fueled or renewably charged electrons - has a wide variation relative to all of the real world conditions. However, most of the time most of the difference is how 'well' the vehicle is driven.
What kind of driver are you?
I bet you just said - a good one!
An answer I suspect most of us give.
If you were challenged specifically to get from point A to B as 'efficiently as possible' in regard to fuel consumption - as you focussed on that task you'd almost certainly drive slower, anticipate better, and maybe even arrive less frazzled than usual.
Those of a certain age will remember the 1970's Oil Crisis and the consequential government edicts. The speed limit in the US was set at 55mph max to save fuel...Huge financial savings were made by individuals and the prospect of the pumps running dry was mostly mitigated. I wasn't driving at the time but I suspect people still arrived at their destinations - and probably only a few minutes later than they would have 'normally' done. Or maybe they arrived at the usual time - or even sooner?
Crisis over - step on the gas pedal again...
"Follow The Money" - is a principle more engineers, designers, and entrepreneurs are adhering to in their ambition - and it is this principle that is driving the move to vehicle autonomy - connectivity - and electrification.
Put simply, there is huge value/revenue/profit to be harvested in engineering out the driver and engineering in the most effect 'drive style' for any and every journey. This delivers maximum fuel economy, minimises emissions, mitigates congestion, and combined with the host of other market dynamics such as shared platforms, an ageing population, and increased urbanisation - is the direction the money is flowing in - and much of it flowing from China...
"Development is the absolute principle - without it we will all be swept down stream"
Quantifying and Commoditising that value is the 21st Century Corporate battleground coming into focus right now. I'm not a super smart VC or an industry guru - but I truly get why start-ups like UBER have such monumental values. It's not for a business as usual platform - it's for a business as never seen before value.
I can envisage a time in my dotage where internal combustion engine motorsport offers the hands-on experience both for racers and spectators. Where the sound of piston pumping action is an exciting recreational activity and a celebration of the epic 1st century mass mobility revolution.
The 2nd century revolution may have been slow to start, but be assured it's well on its way!...