Last week was the Low Carbon Vehicle Exhibition (http://www.cenex-lcv.co.uk/) hosted by Cenex at the Millbrook Proving Grounds in Bedford. The event is:
- A low and ultra low carbon vehicle and technology exhibition showcasing the innovative R&D from the UK’s leading automotive technology companies and universities
- A low carbon vehicle ride & drive where customers and international VIPs experience driving the latest low and ultra low carbon vehicles
- A Conference and Technical Seminar Programme run in parallel over the two days of the event
- A Business Exchange where visitors have the opportunity to book meetings and interact with UK and international visitors
Kavia Moulded Products Business Development Manager Iain Hill visited the event to research this interesting and fast emerging sector for prospective new customers and to increase knowledge to support our existing customers in this sector. In the exhibition hall the dominant companies were the electric vehicle charging point distributors and manufacturers that had domestic and commercial products on display. It is clear that there is a lot of new business to win away from the traditional petrol station forecourt. The electricity companies are gearing themselves up for new revenue streams of domestic users charging their electric vehicles overnight.
A typical charge of 8 hours costs about £2, giving a vehicle a range of up to 60km. The commercial side is building a network of high speed charging points so drivers can extend their range of travel by recharging as they go. Supermarkets are putting charging stations for customers to use while they shop and businesses are putting in stations for their employees to charge whilst they work. In short, expect to see a lot of charging points appearing as more electric vehicles are sold. This is a major turning point, repositioning transportation away from the petrol forecourts, with ever changing price swings, to pre-bought pricing. It compares to how the typing pool disappeared with the emergence of the word processor. The petrol stations will reduce their market share and EV charging will grow.
Outside the exhibition hall was an array of vehicle manufacturers and opportunities to drive the cars. The Vauxhall Ampera was the most popular and it was great fun to drive around the Millbrook Proving Grounds often seen on 5th Gear. There was a mixture of all electric, range extenders and combination of electric and combustion. The latter was used on the large Jaguars, claiming 87mpg, which gives great opportunities for the larger car. There is not always a cable involved: one company is presenting a wireless charging solution so the car just has to be parked over the charging point or be driven along a charging lane. This is a very interesting concept for drivers with mixed journey lengths. The other two cars creating a stir were the Toyota Infinity concept sports car and the Renault Twizy, the latter having the most affordable purchase price (approx £6k) — but the owners and onlookers will have to get used to the unique look and no side windows.
The all electric car does have some small print, however: the vehicle owner does not own the battery system and has to lease this over a contract period and on the basis of an estimated distance consumption. Typical examples were around £45 per month. The manufacturers claim the batteries would add too much expense to the purchase price, but sceptics might see it as added revenue to compensate for the disappearance of fuel sales. It also raises the question of how the government is going to tax this industry. One car manufacturer was also proposing that a fully charged, all electric car could give back its unused energy back into the household to run appliances, etc.
So what did I conclude about low carbon vehicles and this sector from the exhibition visit?
We are certainly watching the transition to electric vehicles, with a major realignment of industries and consumer behaviour. There are some major companies involved and consumer acceptance and desires for electric vehicles have also shifted. Kavia Moulded Products already has customers serving this sector; it is reassuring that it is a fast developing and growing sector. There is plenty of plastic in the products and plenty of new companies to chase.