Here’s how we’d bring innovation to the car industry. Tell us how you’d do better
Entries for Autocar’s Drivers of Change initiative, launched to bring innovation to the motoring industry, will close on 24 September at 11.59pm. The competition aims to attract clever ideas for the retail, technology and digital areas of the automotive world, and the best will win a £5000 prize.
To inspire you, three Autocar staffers share their own suggestions. To contribute your own great idea to Drivers of Change, please enter here.
Smart car chooser – Rachel Burgess
Considering a car against its rivals is an important facet of car purchase, and for us at Autocar it’s crucial to benchmark models and understand how good (or not) a vehicle is. Consumers aren’t always looking for a direct rival to their current car, and instead want something quite different.
A member of my family recently put the Jaguar XE and Peugeot 3008 on his shortlist of two. A Nissan Juke owner/ fan recently contacted us at Autocar because he wanted an electric car and didn’t know where to start.
Car owners typically know what they like or don’t like in terms of brands, styling, powertrain or, for the keener motorists, driving feel, but don’t know how to translate that to their next car – assuming they don’t want to make a repeat purchase. I believe there’s room for a comparison website with a difference, one aimed at addressing car choice questions not rigidly restricted to car classes. This consumer-focused site would have thousands of inputs to help car buyers establish what their next car should be. For example: ‘I really like the VW Golf but I want a sports car.’ The system generates an answer and suggests an Audi TT. Another example: ‘I really like a VW Golf but I want an electric car and something smaller.’ The system generates an answer and might suggest a Mini Electric and Peugeot e-208.
Ultimately, by making it easier for buyers to determine which car they want to buy, the entire carbuying process would be more straightforward for both buyers and car retailers. Thus, the suggested website should be able to become commercially viable because it would attract online display advertising or sponsored links through to car manufacturers/dealerships.
EV lifeline – Tom Morgan
One big issue of EV ownership, especially for those who live in a shared building or with separate parking (terraced houses) – with no easy means of charging – is the risk of being marooned well away from the nearest charging point when your traction battery has run out.
My idea is to develop a transportable EV charging battery that’s big enough to supply an electric car with enough range for a typical commute but compact enough to be brought into the house to recharge while the car is being used.
It would probably need wheels so it could be moved easily because even a 5-10kWh battery can weigh 50-80kg and it would need to supply 7kW charging at minimum. It would be lockable to the car, too, so no one would be able to steal it (a chain-style lock that threads through the car’s alloy wheels or a nearby lamp post, perhaps). It might also be transportable in two parts that unite when in use, so it could be more easily carried up steps or stairs.
It would provide 20-30 miles of range per charge, depending on the car. It’s not the kind of thing that would be carried in an EV every day but would perhaps be shared between owners or bought by dealerships and garages to get local clients out of trouble. It wouldn’t need to be charged itself particularly quickly so could be plugged into a standard three-pin socket, negating any need for an installer to visit your home. A built-in solar panel might even provide a trickle charge to maintain its level.
This would not be a cheap product, given the battery capacity, but could be sold as an option with new cars to people who would otherwise feel an EV wouldn’t suit their living situation.
Modular EV chassis for sports cars – Matt Prior
Making sports cars is expensive. It’s why so few manufacturers make pure sports cars and, when they do, like Toyota with Subaru or BMW, sometimes they have to team up to make the sums work.
The Modular Sports Chassis is meant to change that. It brings back the days of coachbuilding and niche car building.
It’s an EV platform, likely to be developed by a leading OEM. It’s modular and probably skateboardy. The crash structure is complete, the base hardware is chosen and it meets all regulatory standards. The software is open source.
All that’s left is to sell it to smaller car makers or niche builders, who can pick and mix what layout they want – a front motor, a rear motor, or both. They set about the suspension tuning, pick a wheelbase length and choose power outputs. On to the chassis they mould or 3D print or even hand fabricate their chosen body and interior – built over a frame mounted at predetermined points that increase body or nodal stiffness.
The base hardware can – much like an internal combustion engine and transmission do today – sit beneath a number of different models, wearing different badges, aimed at different market segments, at different prices.
The higher quantity of Modular Sports Chassis its originator builds makes it worth producing on modest margins; each first tier builder makes their profit on the value added, so a simple, low-powered moulded-body beach buggy (Volkswagen ID style) would be marketed at less than a bigger, more powerful, longer-range, hand-finished luxury coupé.
And the custom sports car is kept alive by unseen, effective, flexible underpinnings.
How to enter
Write up to 500 words giving details of an original idea or innovation you believe can bring benefit to the automotive business in one of three categories: digital, retail or technology. This must be supported by a 90-second video explaining why you and your idea deserve to be winners.
A panel of judges will invite the authors of the best entries to an assessment day. A winner will be selected for each category, receiving £5000 as well as the opportunity to attend the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) dinner on 24 November, famous for being the biggest UK automotive industry gathering of the year.
Drivers of Change homepage
Find your place in the car industry: Autocar’s Drivers of Change