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The Rise of Electric Cars and How Engineering and Technology Students Can Fuel the Revolution

When Elon Musk began designing Teslas, nobody took him seriously. Instead, some leading figures in the car industry poured scorn on Elon's attempt to build green cars. Edzard Reuter, chairman of car manufacturer Daimler, called Tesla "a joke" and labeled Musk a "pretender". Fast forward to today, and Teslas are a common sight on roads across the world. Plus, almost every car manufacturer in the world is looking at ways to increase its electric car output. Even Elon's earliest (and harshest) critics have seen the light: Daimler has plans to introduce ten all-new electric models by 2022. So now green transport has gone mainstream, here's a look at the rise of electric cars and how engineering and technology students can play their part in this electrifying industry!

Sep 6, 2023
  • Education
The Rise of Electric Cars and How Engineering and Technology Students Can Fuel the Revolution

Electric cars are becoming the norm

Earlier this year, luxury car marker Bentley announced plans to stop building fossil fuel cars by 2030. After this, every Bentley off the production line will be 100% electric with zero carbon exhaust emissions. Adrian Hallmark, Bentley's chief executive, said, "We're going through a paradigm shift. Within a decade, Bentley will transform from a 100-year-old luxury car company to a new, sustainable, wholly ethical role model for luxury." Volkswagen, the world's largest carmaker, is also investing billions of dollars in electric car production. At the same time, many other popular automotive manufacturers have promised to go electric by 2030, including Honda, Audi, and Jaguar.

Building back better

Researchers from the University of Birmingham recently shared their thoughts on electric cars at this year's annual CBI conference. Like many other experts, they see a switch to electric vehicles as part of broader plans to build back better following global economic shutdowns due to COVID. They call on governments and big businesses to implement policies to encourage more people to swap their fossil-fuel cars for electric vehicles. They also made some exciting predictions on the long-term future of personal transport and delivery services, including the widespread adoption of AI drones and flying taxis powered by 100% electric engines. “Quantum sensors allow us to take a different look at data-driven processes," the University of Birmingham reports. "It could help us safely control the world's air space and enable safe autonomous flying vehicles in the future."

Norwegians lead the way

During October 2020, 60% of all cars sold in Norway were electric. If we add in hybrid cars, that figure jumps to an impressive 89%. These figures mean Norway now leads the world in the percentage of electric vehicles on the road. So, how did it happen? Well, the Norweigan government went back to basics, because as any first-year economics student will tell you, financial incentives are one of the biggest drivers behind consumer behavior. That's why the Norwegian government introduced significant tax breaks for anyone purchasing an electric car. They included lower purchase taxes and zero road tax. The government also made it easier to get around in electric vehicles by installing a network of charging points throughout its main cities.

Following the Norwegian model

Other countries are beginning to follow the Norwegian model. The UK has ambitious plans to reach net zero carbon emissions by 2050. Tax breaks for electric car owners are just a small part of a new £49 million initiative to stimulate the UK's green automotive industry. It will help more cities transition to eco-friendly public transport networks, such as electric buses. The initiative includes a collaboration with Nissan to ramp up the manufacture of energy-dense electric car batteries and charging points. Nadhim Zahawi, the UK Minister for Business and Industry, says, "These trailblazing projects will help Britain to build back better by creating all-important green jobs, ensuring the sector can make further strides towards an electrified automotive future. It will help address one of the biggest challenges of our time: making transport greener."

Creating new types of engineers

Engineering and design students interested in electric cars can now specialize in the subject while at university. Schools across the world are now offering postgraduate degrees in subjects such as automotive electric engineering and automotive engineering with electric propulsion. Courses last for around two years and are specially designed to prepare students and graduates for the 21st century. Wu Jenkins is just one example. A postgraduate researcher at Cardiff University's Electric Vehicle Centre of Excellence, Wu received a large grant from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) to study grid planning for automated electric vehicle transport networks.

A wide range of career options

You don't have to know much about cars to work in the electric car industry. For example, electric car manufacturers require chemical engineers to design new batteries, computer engineers to write AI algorithms for modeling and testing, and designers with the imagination to develop exciting new features and body shapes. There's also plenty of opportunities for software experts, especially those familiar with packages like ANSYS, Creo, and GOM Inspect Suite. If you don't know what these are, then start learning. They are the most common software programs in the industry, so getting some experience will give you a substantial advantage during the recruitment process.

Pressure from the next generation

A survey by French car manufacturer Peugeot found young people are fully on board with the idea of electric cars. What's more, they are encouraging parents to show the same kind of enthusiasm for a greener future. The data, which came from over one thousand youngsters, found almost 70% of children aged between 7-12 believe electric cars are good for the planet. Additionally, over half have tried to get their parents to invest in one of these sustainable vehicles; and if you don't think these kids have any buying power, then think again. 72% said their parent consulted them before the purchase of a new family car. David Peel, managing director of Peugeot UK, says, "It's great to see the next generation of car buyers so interested in fully electric vehicles, and to know that they understand the positive impact these vehicles have on the environment."

More power equals more mileage

Toyota's top engineers are working on a new battery that will let electric car drivers travel up to 1,000 kilometers on one charge. If successful, they will beat the current record of 965km, held by the Tesla Roadster. Some experts have pointed out that the Hyundai Kona recently covered over 1,000km from one charge. However, this was done on a test track, and the car had to limit its speed to 30mph. As you can imagine, this is unsuitable for both personal and commercial vehicles. In contrast, Toyota's new engine has the potential to remove one of the biggest obstacles to widespread commercial adoption: mileage limitation. Moreover, it could help large vehicles harness electric energy, including giant haulage trucks and construction vehicles that guzzle enormous amounts of diesel.

Canada's first electric car

Several large car manufacturers have a production plant in Canada. However, Canada does not produce any domestically designed cars. Now, thanks to a team of students from Carleton University in Ottawa, all that is about to change. More importantly, the first Canadian car designed in decades is going to be 100% electric. It's called the Arrow, and a full-build concept vehicle should be ready by the summer of 2022. It's unclear if the Arrow will then go into full commercial production. Either way, it's set to create a real buzz that could inspire more Canadian students to focus their talents and skills on building more home-grown, electric cars.

All this positive news means there are loads of exciting opportunities for students interested in electric vehicles. This new global industry is a chance to launch an exciting and well-paid career while also doing your bit in the fight against climate change.

Parked Tesla on charge point for fulling battery on charging station

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