Engineless cars, driverless trains and Brits in space

Jason Ford
News Editor

What isn’t there to like about electric vehicles? They are currently rather small compared to their petrol and diesel brethren, they make little noise and they don’t belch vile fumes onto the streets.

Briefing can’t wait to see more EVs on the road, given the amount of tailpipe emissions inhaled over the years pounding the pavements, and environmentalists will no doubt provide a body of evidence backing up their arguments regarding CO2 emissions and climate change.

However, it seems that headaches induced by fumes are set to continue, given a report published today by industry analysts GfK Automotive.

Their study is said to find that electric cars have failed to generate sales among British motorists because of consumer confusion about the realities of their cost and performance.

Back in January this year the same firm of analysts reported that EVs are set to be worth be worth £7.2bn to the British motor industry by 2014, but this figure was predicated on a number of caveats, some of which are repeated in the new report.

Their new findings show that the lack of understanding about the practicalities of electric cars is deepest amongst those who say they are keenest to purchase one.

While eight per cent of motorists plan to buy an electric car, the vast majority of this group underestimate the cost and time it takes to charge the vehicles and overestimate their range, according to the data.

From road to rail and the thorny issue of automatic train control systems on London Underground trains.

The Engineer’s Sam Shead is set to interview David Waboso, London Underground’s capital programme director and director of engineering in early December to discuss this and other issues.

In the interim, IET recently hosted an event at the new Victoria Line Control Centre.

Developed over 40 years ago, the Victoria Line was claimed to offer a ‘world first’ automatic train control system using electro-mechanical and first generation electronic devices.

The line has since introduced new trains and a new train control system with new trains (controlled by new signalling) progressively replaced the old trains (still controlled by old signalling) over a period of a year, while inter-running at two minute intervals.

The issue of rail automation still makes the headlines and only last week Time Out London magazine ran an article with Mike Brown, managing director of London Underground and Bob Crow, RMT general secretary and arguing for and against driverless trains respectively.

Brown believes automation will help the mass transit system modernise in order to cope with an expected rise in demand, noting that 70 per cent of the network will be automatic by 2018. Crow, however, fears a combination of automation plus proposed cuts to maintenance and inspection will act to the detriment of underground services.

IMechE this week hosts its Manufacturing Excellence Awards, where 21 short listed companies will compete for 11 awards designed to honour the very best in UK’s manufacturing.

The awards, to be held at The Dorchester hotel in London on Wednesday, will be compered by Alastair Campbell and features a speech by Mark Prisk, minister for business and enterprise.

In a statement, Rachel Pearson, project manager for Manufacturing Excellence said: ‘Manufacturing is crucial to the UK economic recovery and it has been proven that taking part in Manufacturing Excellence can improve the way businesses work.’

Finally, we take to the skies with IET and a free lecture celebrating the past, present and future of space exploration.

In a very short space of time space exploration has led to scientific and technological advances for satellite applications including security, defence and telecommunications. The lecture will ask, however, what is next for the space industry?

Topics for discussion developments in propulsion systems for space, space tourism, current and future satellite projects, and the importance of continued British involvement in space.