Students put their questions to SPAL UK MD Matthew Morris
SPAL is committed to nurturing young engineering talent and is particularly proud of its partnership with award winning agricultural university Harper Adams.
Having been on the selection panel to pick the winner of the exclusive 2021 SPAL Scholarship, last month it was time for students to put their questions to SPAL UK MD Matthew Morris on the hot topic of the moment, the engineering challenges of adapting to the biggest technological shift in over a century, the switch from the internal combustion engine to electric powered vehicles.
Beaming in live to 12 enthusiastic engineering students (including the 2020 winner of the SPAL Scholarship, Emily Jones) Matthew painted a global picture of the EV revolution, some of the key issues and how the designer and manufacturer of high-performance fans (and blowers) for engine and battery cooling, was responding.
Highlights include debate about climate change and consumer attitudes
The EV Revolution
As climate change continues to dominate the agenda and targets are set to lower emissions, sales of electric vehicles (EVs) are increasing at a rapid but steady pace. At the same time, consumer attitudes towards owning an electric car have turned towards the positive prompted in part by the pandemic.
One of the key players in the drive towards electric, the VAG Group has confirmed an investment of $49Bn for the development of EVs and connected vehicles through to 2023. The Chinese EV market is the main source of growth in the automotive Industry. Over 200 Chinese start-ups now exist with billions of dollars invested. Existing Chinese OEMs are also focusing their production on PHEVs and EVs.
For established manufacturers the focus is on advances in battery technology that will add additional range to EVs and battery charging times will also be reduced.
Bus & Coach Sector
For other sectors – Bus & Coach and Off-highway there are different issues to resolve. EVs are typically driven for a few hours a day and can be charged overnight from the household mains or for 3 to 4 hours from a wall mounted box. Buses on the other hand can be operational for over 18 hours a day which leaves limited time for charging.
For long range buses and coaches with faster speeds, battery capacity becomes an issue. A large bus garage could hold up to 100 buses, but charging them at the same time could require a massive connection to the grid.
Along with other infrastructure concerns, the high-capacity electrical supply required for higher volumes of electric buses will be incredibly expensive and that is assuming the local grid can cope with the demand.
For Off-highway and Agriculture the same issues apply, but with the added problems of packaging.
Hydrogen fuel cells could provide a solution, particularly as hydrogen can be delivered as a mobile service, while for longer range travel additional tanks could be installed.
For heavy duty construction and agricultural machinery, where electric can’t provide the necessary staying power, hydrogen would probably be the most efficient and workable solution especially with the option of refuelling on the go.
Currently there is no official date for the cessation of sales of new bus, coach, agriculture, or construction vehicles and machines powered by ICE, but it must come.
In the meantime, the current solution of increasing efficiency by switching from hydraulic cooling to SPAL’s electric cooling is helping the industry meet emissions targets. Going forward, any propulsion system will require some degree of cooling which keeps SPAL on its toes.
Impressed with the intelligence of the questions put to him during the discussion, Matthew Morris surmised that it was certainly an interesting time for engineers, as they faced not simply problems, just interesting situations. It was evident from the students who had tuned in to the talk that they would be more than capable of responding to the requirements demanded of those interesting situations.
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