Electric Vehicles

The transition to EV driving: from electric dreams towards an emissions free reality

We’re still a long, long way from the complete uptake of electric vehicles and plug-in hybrids – less than 1% of the 2.1 million cars registered in Ireland are – but the gradual transition away from fossil fuel powered engines to zero emission electric motors is well and truly underway. It may be moving a little slowly in Ireland, but – finally – after many years of political and economic procrastination around the world, a climate of serious intent – between government, industry and citizens – is now in place to make the mass uptake of electric vehicles a reality. Year on year figures indicate that plug-in electric car registrations are up over 40% in Ireland.

As a member state of the EU, the Irish government is committed to reducing the nation’s CO2 emissions, and has identified transport as a significant contributor to this environmental emergency. Up to one third of all energy usage in Ireland is attributed to transport, so it’s little wonder that they’re aiming for a target of 20% of all cars on Ireland’s roads to be electric or plug-in hybrid by 2020.

Government e-car purchasing incentives – in the form of grants – of up to €5,000 per vehicle, as well as up to €5,000 Vehicle Registration Tax relief, are contributing to the growing uptake of EVs. Local government, private offices, and retail outlets have begun installing EV charging stations too, providing the opportunity for electric vehicles to be charged at times when cars are traditionally left idling.

Across the globe, large automotive and electrification corporations, as well as new technology start-ups, are investing billions on developing the next generation of new tech that’s essential for achieving sustainable and affordable EVs. This is also the case for the vital infrastructure electric vehicles require for recharging. State-owned Electricity Supply Board (ESB) is actively building on the 1,100 currently EV charging stations available for e-cars across the nation.

This ongoing expansion – together with increased installation of home charging points (there are government grants for this, too), battery capacities going up, and charge times coming down – is all part of a growing swell of support for the uptake of electric vehicles.

You can hardly avoid the electric vehicle conversation. High profile brands, like Elon Musk’s Tesla, are regularly featured across news outlets about all things electric, and become synonymous with the drive to electrify the future of motoring. All the global high volume car manufacturers, like Ford and Nissan, now offer fully electric or hybrid cars in their range, and the models available to purchase are continually on the increase. Even many of the small volume supercar marques, like Porsche and Aston Martin, are now developing electric-powered or hybrid alternatives to their traditional, gas guzzling sports cars.

Developments in disruptive technology are going to redefine motoring in Ireland

Just as Tesla is shaking up the car industry, so too is the emergence of Uber. While their normal ride share service is currently banned in Ireland, elsewhere they’re challenging the old, established ways of consuming personal transport. In the process, Uber are disrupting the accepted order around the world. Take their actions in London; having established themselves in the UK’s capital, the high profile private hire provider has announced plans to raise its fares from 2019, for the specific aim of helping drivers finance the purchase of EVs. Uber anticipates that the new clean air charge will raise over €200m, and significantly contribute towards an estimated 20,000 drivers being able to switch to fully electric vehicles by 2021 – and ultimately every Uber car by 2025.

Plug-in hybrid-powered vehicles, like the well known Toyota Prius, marked the beginning of the change in attitude to what many of us drive in Ireland. Uber’s strategy in London signals the start of a societal shift away from petrol and diesel-based combustion engines towards electric vehicles entirely. Not so long ago this would have been impossible. It’s all changed now, because – more significantly than anything else – the citizens have an increasing appetite to either drive – or be driven in – electric cars.

Why? In part, it’s due to the negative impact of fossil fuels on our environment – as most notably experienced in urban conurbations through air pollution. The switch to EVs will contribute considerably towards reducing carbon emissions. This, together with the perceived volatility of future oil supply – many oil producing regions continue to be problematic – and the knock-on effect of increased costs at the petrol pump all mean that the climate is right to fully commit to the electrification of personal transport. A cleaner, cheaper driving experience is not only desired, but underway.

Continental are at the forefront of shaping the future of electric cars and driving

Renowned premium tyre manufacturer, Continental, is front and centre of the EV revolution. While it’s true that they’re better known in Ireland for their unrivalled range of award winning premium tyres, as well as their football sponsorship of the FAI and WSL, in reality Continental are a leading global automotive safety and technology company. For almost 150 years they’ve been at the vanguard of automotive technology innovation, developing both mechanical and electronic systems for all sorts of vehicles, as well as their better known tyres. Only Continental knows the entire braking process in every detail – from pedal to tyre.

The electric car you drive – or will drive in the not so distant future – depends on a wide range of new technologies and innovations. Continental’s electricfication solutions focus on technologies for both hybrid and fully electric vehicles, and include power electronics, axle drives, smart actuator platforms, and thermal management. Without these, driving an EV would be impossible.

There’s also the vital technology required to integrate the EV’s propulsion with its power source, such as high voltage battery boxes and management systems, converters, inverters, and powertrain domain control units, to name a few. The list goes on and on.

And what of the tyres needed for EVs? If you thought that those fitted to traditional petrol powered cars would do, think again. Given the unique characteristic of electric-powered cars over those with combustion engines – their superior torque – a dedicated, purpose built tyre is essential. With much more power passing from the electric motor to the ground so quickly, developing a tyre that can not only cope with increased rotations but harness this power efficiently was vital. Unveiled in 2012, Continental’s superb Conti.eContact™ was the world’s first dedicated e-car tyre, created to not only harness and control the additional torque generated by electric motors, but also providing EV drivers with minimal rolling resistance (which results in potentially higher mileage), unrivalled braking performance, and lower noise emissions – essential for silent driving e-cars.

One possible driving future: electric, connected and autonomous

In the not so distant future, there’s a pretty good chance that personal transport vehicles will not only have evolved into fully emissions free electric cars, but also be autonomous and connected. Sceptical? Many are, but the initial foundations for a hands-free, driverless future are already being laid. Why? Because there are many influential people who believe that, at the end of the day, getting from A to B is merely a necessary function of achieving an intended goal and, as such, should be automated – just as for cleaning clothes or washing kitchen items.

In the main, we’re typically motivated to travel from one place to another because we want to do a specific activity once we reach our destination, whether for business or leisure. As such, some argue, shouldn’t this journey be as stress free and uninvolved as possible? Why should Ireland’s drivers continue to waste their precious time with such a consuming task? Couldn’t the time saved be used for something more enjoyable, while travelling? Autonomous, connected driving will make this vision real, and Continental are at the forefront of this mobility transformation.

Continental initiatives, such as BEE – their “Balanced Economy and Ecology mobility concept” – not only foresee an autonomous driving future, but one where we no longer even need to own our own vehicles. Instead, we’ll only consume personal transport – and everything associated with it – as and when we need it, doing away with the hassle and expense of parking and running costs. They envisage a connected network of electric, autonomous vehicles – available to all, as and when required, and in constant use twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week.

The potential social and environmental benefits are a game changer. Rather than just being used infrequently – and simply left idling – connected cars could be infinitely more productive, as well as doing away with the need for hard to find, space-consuming roadside parking in built up urban centres. Not only that, a connected network of autonomous vehicles could also result in a vast improvement to traffic flow – doing away with congestion and the possibility of accidents.

This final point is very significant, since Road Safety Authority (RSA) figures reveal that there were 157 fatalities on Ireland’s roads in 2017. Although this represents a reduction on 2016 figures, this remains a devastating, unacceptable level of loss, and is something that Continental – through their worldwide Vision Zero safety initiative – are determined to help bring to an end, once and for all.

A connected network of autonomous vehicles – removing the possibility of human driver error – can radically reducing the amount of accidents and fatalities on the world’s roads – if not end the possibility entirely. Now that’s a future we all want to achieve, right?

Continental Tyres and Vodafone have begun a series of collaborations, featuring joint tests that focus on 5G, V2X, mobile edge computing, and artificial intelligence.

Advance Pitstop – Caring for your car from the tyres up