Currently reading: Autocar Drivers of Change 2021: winners revealed
In our second Drivers of Change initiative, the entries were better than ever. Here are the winners and their ideas
Autocar
News
6 mins read
23 November 2021

Ideas for an innovative solution for faster electric car charging, a one-box solution to measure aquaplaning and a portable car charging device were all recognised in the 2021 Autocar Drivers of Change initiative. 

Three winners across Retail, Technology and Digital categories have been announced, with each winner receiving a £5000 prize. Run in partnership with automotive executive search specialists Ennis & Co, Drivers of Change seeks to find new talent for the automotive sector across three key areas.

Steve Cropley, Autocar’s editor-in-chief, said: “Despite everything that the last year has thrown at us, it was amazing to see how strong everyone’s ideas were for the Drivers of Change competition. The innovation and ingenuity that people displayed was incredible, to the point where it was really difficult to pick out the winners. I got a real kick out of reading them all - it just goes to show how great this industry is, and the people in and around it.

“Plus of course, congratulations to all the finalists and winners. With the sort of drive and innovation that you’ve all displayed, I know we’ll be reading about all of you over the coming years in Autocar.”

Lynda Ennis, founder of Ennis & Co, said: “Our industry is in the midst of rapid evolution. As global automotive and mobility executive search specialists, we are consistently observing the transformation taking place, and are fortunate to experience it daily as clients engage with us to find their senior leaders.

“What has struck me this year is the sheer level of innovation showcased by our entrants who, in many cases, are brand new to the world of automotive. Our finalists and winners have shown genuine potential to bring forward feasible solutions to some of the sector’s most pressing barriers… and I very much look forward to seeing some of these becoming a reality someday. Our prestigious sponsor judges have been absolutely remarkable in helping to choose our final three winners, which was no mean feat – and I want to take this opportunity to thank them for their ongoing support.”

Mike Hawes, SMMT Chief Executive, said, “Creative ideas drive the automotive industry and these awards lift the lid on some of the incredible concepts that will challenge the status quo. The industry is facing immense and rapid change on multiple fronts, from electrification to digital, and innovations such as these will help address some of these issues and provide tremendous opportunities for their creators. We want to attract the very best ideas and people into the industry and this initiative will help; so my congratulations to the winners and thanks to everyone who entered.”

Technology winner: Magnetic field battery charging - Dr Thomas Heenan

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Despite all the technological improvements and the improved home and public set-ups, charging an electric car is still not as fast as dropping 50 litres of petrol into a tank. The key barrier is resistance that builds up within the battery, preventing the ions from travelling from the cathode to the anode, or the reverse. 

Our Technology category winner, Dr Thomas Heenan, thinks he may have the solution. As part of a wider team of phd students, Heenan has invented and patented MagLiB technology, a system that reduces resistances and allows higher charging rates to be employed safely, without impacting degradation or driving range. They have also set up a company called Gaussion, with a stated aim “to make safe and practical sub-minute charging a reality”.

As the name implies, it uses magnetic fields to help the ions on their journey. 

“The application of magnetic fields to electrochemical devices can be termed magnetoelectrochemistry, and Gaussion is the first company in the world offering Li-ion battery fast-charging through this novel idea.” According to Heenan, MagLiB has demonstrated “up to 67% charging time reductions on commercial cells”, but the really clever bit is how adaptable the system is.

Not only can it be applied to all battery chemistries, but it can also be used on existing cars without “significant alterations to the vehicle,” according to Heenan. 

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It could also be vital in EV factories. Normally, manufacturers have to perform a full charge cycle on the battery before it can leave the factory, but with MagLiB, this process becomes much quicker, potentially significantly reducing the time, and therefore costs, associated with producing an EV. As Heenan states: “MagLiB technology is actively being explored on Li-ion battery manufacturing lines to produce cells faster, thus cheaper, improving the affordability of next-generation EVs.”

Finalists

Designing AI vehicles that can communicate with other road users - Jack Mount

‘Gigafactory as a service’ to enable scalable battery production - Nero Okwa

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Retail winner: Idea Portable EV charging device - Dr Michael Schwertner

While a lot of the focus around EVs has been the public charging infrastructure, home charging for people without a driveway remains a problem. The irony hasn’t escaped many people that while an electric car is the ideal solution for urban journeys, reducing pollution in the UK’s congested towns and cities, charging within those metropolises is not simple for the vast majority of residents. 

Our Retail winner, Dr Michael Schwertner, has proposed a solution. With his device, EnergyShuttle, it’s possible for drivers to easily add 15 miles of top-up range for a compact electric car. As Schwertner explains: “It’s a right-sized portable battery of approximately 4 kWh (20 kg) that’s similar to an in-flight suitcase and is wheeled to the car - typically in the morning.” Utilising existing charging technology and connection points, Schwertner’s device will be compatible with all existing electric cars, with the additional benefit of scalability of manufacture. 

As Schwertner goes on to point out, most car journeys in the UK are only 20 miles, so his device would give the crucial top-up to either enable the user to get to a charger, or complete their upcoming journey.EnergyShuttle can be split into modular parts, each weighing less than 10kg, so that it would be easy to lift and place in the boot. 

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Charging the EnergyShuttle itself could be done at home from a simple three-pin socket, taking advantage of the cheaper electricity available overnight. It should be possible to charge the device in four hours, easily enough time for it to be ready for the following morning’s journey. Without the need for a wallbox, Schwertner believes that the lack of significant infrastructure works should make the EnergyShuttle a more realistic prospect for more drivers. In fact, he wants to encourage OEMs to allow for portable chargers working inside the car, allowing for even greater flexibility.

Finalists

Smartphone-based app to create a more seamless PCP journey for consumers and OEMs - Tom Power

A system to ensure a completely branded customer experience following a car accident - Tony Young

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Digital winner: One-box solution to measure aquaplaning - Ray Collier

Manufacturers are always looking for efficiency savings, and testing cars and tyres before they’re put on general sale is no different. Both tyre and vehicle manufacturers spend millions of pounds a year on their testing and R&D regimes, so any way to reduce this cost would be welcome.

Our digital category winner, Ray Collier, has suggested a solution. Through his work as a tyre development engineer and managing director of Tread Ltd, he has developed a non-contact, one-box solution that measures aquaplaning in cars and light vans. 

The equipment uses the existing wheel speed sensors on the vehicle (connected via the OBD port or CAN bus on older cars) and correlates the car’s forward movement to GPS. Once a predetermined threshold of slip relative to wheel speed is measured indicating aquaplaning, the device records the data in excel, for digital transfer via USB to a computer. Real-time measurements are displayed and cover the data that is needed, such as GPS Speed, GPS Latitude, GPS Longitude, Engine Speed, Throttle Position, Steering Angle, Brake Pedal input and all wheels’ speeds.

The key to Collier’s system is how easy it is to install. With his vast experience, he knows that simple solutions allow tyre engineers more development time. As Collier explains: “I have designed the equipment to be simple to install so any company can use any driver to give repeatable accurate results. The ease of use also reduces development costs, test loops required and minimises the environmental cost of tyre development.

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“Using my experience from working with a number of automotive manufacturers and tyre companies at locations around the globe, I have developed a number of innovative techniques to objectively test tyres on vehicles using data gained from testing.”

FinalistsA fully automated vehicle platform and support network, to collect you from anywhere - Keith Glover

Single network charging system to enable greater efficiency of usage - George Kitchen

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