TSU Seminar Series - Hilary Term 2013

Electric vehicle. © Dennis Schroeder, NREL (2011).

This year the TSU seminar series focused on the prospects and challenges of transitioning to electric vehicles. Four seminars were organised in January and February, each with one speaker from academia and one from industry, government or the media. The transition to electric automobility was examined from different perspectives: the first seminar focused on the automotive industry, the second energy use and emissions, the third governance, and the last urban planning and user experiences. All seminars were well attended but also showed that many challenges need to be overcome if the electric vehicle is to displace the conventional car.

Seminars were delivered during Hilary Term (January - March) 2013 in the A J Herbertson Room, School of Geography and the Environment, Oxford.

For more information on this seminar series, please contact


Week 1: The Automotive Industry - 4pm, 15 January 2013, A J Herbertson Room, SoGE

Electric Automobility - Revolution or Evolution?

Dr Paul Nieuwenhuis, Centre for Automotive Industry Research, Cardiff University.

The transition from internal combustion to electric automobility is inevitable, but will not be easy. The automobility system has considerable inertia. This presentation will assess the different perceptions of the risk of such a transition among different players along the value chain, in order to explain why the barriers to change to electric mobility exist, but also to suggest how they might be overcome.

The existing industry was built on two core technologies: internal combustion and the all-steel body. With both of these increasingly under threat, resistance is inevitable. The existing players often have the resources to enable this transition, although some resource-rich new entrants with expertise in newly emerging automotive technologies may also have a role to play, creating a new kind of competition - competition on the basis of sustainability. This will inevitably lead to the need for new business models, something for which the existing industry is ill-prepared.

Dr Paul Nieuwenhuis is co-Director of the Centre for Automotive Industry Research (CAIR) and a founder member of the ESRC BRASS Centre at Cardiff University. CAIR studies economic and strategic aspects of the world motor industry. His main interests have been historic and environmental and publications have been in these areas, e.g. The Green Car Guide (1992), The Death of Motoring? (1997), The Automotive Industry and the Environment (2003), as well as a string of articles and book chapters, while he also contributed to the Beaulieu Encyclopaedia of the Automobile which won a Cugnot Award from the Society of Automotive Historians.

Managing the Transition to a Low-Carbon Future: Prospects for Electromobility

Mr Jason Reakes, Head of Government Affairs, BMW Group UK.

Demand for alternative drive forms, such as electric propulsion and hybrid technology, is steadily growing. In megacities in particular, many people already use different types of transportation and are looking for options that intelligently combine the advantages of different forms of mobility. The new BMW i sub-brand stands for visionary vehicles and mobility services, inspiring design and a new concept of premium that is increasingly defined by sustainability. The BMW i3, to be launched in 2013, presents an innovative and compelling concept for electric mobility for urban areas, offering emission-free driving, new levels of connectivity and an extensive range of complementary mobility products and services. The BMW i8, thanks to its plug-in hybrid drivetrain, combines the performance of a super sports car with the frugality of a compact vehicle.

Jason Reakes joined BMW in 1987, working in the company's PR department in Regensburg, Germany, until 1999. He then returned to the UK to become Head of Communications at the BMW engine plant at Hams Hall, near Birmingham, before taking on his current role in 2009 as Head of Government Affairs for BMW Group UK.

  • Podcast not available

Week 3: Energy and Emissions - 4pm, 29 January 2013, A J Herbertson Room, SoGE

Life Cycle Assessment of Electric Vehicles - Recent Insights and Developments

Prof. Anders Hammer Strømman, Department of Energy and Process Engineering, Norwegian University of Science and Technology.

From a local perspective, the replacement of internal combustion engine vehicles (ICEVs) by electric vehicles (EVs) clearly has the potential to reduce urban air pollution, as EVs have no tailpipe emissions. The life cycle sustainability of electric vehicles proves more complex, however, and is the object of vivid debate. The introduction of electric vehicles seems more beneficial in certain areas and under certain conditions than others. Even beyond these contextual considerations, however, important differences in results separate the different life cycle assessment (LCA) studies. This is not only true for LCAs of electric vehicles but also for LCAs of EV components, such as the traction batteries. This presentation will synthesize the current understanding provided by recent life cycle assessment of electric vehicles. It will combine the LCA research at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology with that conducted elsewhere and synthesize the main outcomes of this research. It will then build upon this assessment to discuss some of the many parameters and design choices that will determine the sustainability of EVs as they penetrate the market, for example, electricity mix, desired driving range, battery life, post-mobility battery re-use, material recycling, etc.

With the rapid development of EVs, we are faced with a complex technological change that couples the transportation, the electricity, and the electronic manufacturing sectors in an unprecedented way. Our informed design and policy choices must live up to this complexity.

Anders Hammer Strømman is a Professor in Industrial Ecology at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology. He has worked in the field of environmental assessment of energy and transport systems for more than a decade. He is also recognized for his contributions to methodological developments in interface between life cycle assessment and environmental input-output analysis. In total, he has published more than 45 peer-reviewed journal articles. In recognition of his work, Professor Strømman received the Laudise medal in industrial ecology at UC Berkeley in the summer of 2011. At NTNU he leads his own research group and teaches graduate and post graduate courses in life cycle assessment and environmental input-output analysis.

  • Podcast not available

The Work of the Office of Low Emission Vehicles

Mr Ben Davison, Head of Energy Issues, Office for Low Emission Vehicles and Department of Energy and Climate Change

The core work of Office for Low Emission Vehicles (OLEV) is to support measures designed to promote uptake of the next-generation of ULEV technologies for three key symbiotic reasons: first, their decarbonisation potential; second, the economic opportunity that they represent; and third, the contribution that such vehicles might make to the broader energy system in terms of system balancing, the efficient use of energy by consumers and energy security.

21% of UK domestic carbon emissions in the UK are from transport, of which 92% are from road transport - and so transport decarbonisation is critical to the success of UK climate change mitigation. Clearly, a sound, prudential view of the scientific evidence from different life cycle assessment (LCA) studies about life cycle emissions from ULEVs is critical to judging the contribution that they can make to broader decarbonisation goals. The UK Government recognises that the switch to ULEVs will happen because the regulatory landscape across the world is dictating it. The implication of this is that this shift to novel forms of power represents a significant and one-off opportunity for the UK economy. The presentation explains the ambit and rationale for Government intervention including the provision of over 400m to support the early market for electric and other ULEVs for the lifetime of this Parliament.

Ben Davison is Head of Energy Issues in OLEV, on secondment from Department of Energy and Climate Change strategy unit, where he most recently worked drafting the Government bioenergy strategy. Ben is a policy official, who has previously worked in Cabinet Office on Civil Service management and organisation, BIS on better regulation and health and safety law reform; and Communities and Local Government on several policy briefs including building regulations and emergency planning. He holds a Bsc in Government from LSE.

  • Podcast not available

Week 5: Governance - 4pm, 12 February 2013, A J Herbertson Room, SoGE

Who Leads, Who Follows? A Multi-level Perspective of Energy Transitions in the Transport Sector

Prof. Greg Marsden, Institute for Transport Studies, University of Leeds.

The electrification of the vehicle fleet involves a mass of actions to be taken by European, national and local government, a range of industries and consumers. It involves coordination between transport and energy policy if the benefits of decarbonisation are to be realised. The changes must also fit (and compete for resources) with broader policy imperatives such as the economy and health. This talk draws on results from a study of climate change governance which explored the roles and expectations of decision-makers in different organisations at different governance levels working upwards and outwards from four city regions in England and Scotland. It examines the balance between bottom up innovation and top-down steering and makes recommendations about the sorts of policy tools that may facilitate or accelerate uptake and the policy pre-conditions that must support these.

Greg Marsden, MEng (Hons), PhD is Professor of Transport Governance and Director of the Institute for Transport Studies at the University of Leeds. His research interests relate to understanding decision-making processes within local and national government, issues of governance and acceptability. He is currently working on issues relating to carbon governance, disruptions and energy demand reduction. He is a member of the Independent Transport Commission and has acted as specialist adviser to the UK Parliamentary Transport scrutiny committee.

Governing Electric Automobility in London

Ms Rhona Munck, Transport for London.

The Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, announced his Electric Vehicle Delivery Plan in 2009. It outlined his plans to make London the EV capital of Europe through installing infrastructure, encouraging the uptake of vehicles, and providing marketing and incentives. This presentation will discuss progress to date on the Mayor's aspirations, and in particular the delivery of the Source London network of EV charge points. TfL is leading a London consortium of over fifty public and private partners involved in the Government's Plugged-In Places (PiP) initiative. The consortium was awarded 9.3m from the PiP initiative to support the roll out of charging infrastructure in London, and aims to deliver 1,300 charge points by 2013. This presentation will focus on TfL's experience of developing the infrastructure required to support the uptake of EVs, and how this contributes to addressing sustainability issues in urban transport.

Rhona Munck joined TfL in 2007 having previously worked in strategic management consultancy. Since then she has worked in strategy and project management roles delivering key Mayoral priorities including the London Low Emission Zone, the Barclays Cycle Hire Scheme, and the Electric Vehicles Delivery Project. Most recently she has been involved in the delivery of the Source London electric vehicle charge point network, and is now working on future strategy for electric and low emission vehicles in London. She holds a BA in History and Modern languages from Oxford University, and is currently completing an MSc in Public Policy and Administration at the LSE, focussing on sustainable cities, climate change, and environmental governance.


Week 7: Urban Planning and Everyday Life - 4pm, 26 February 2013, A J Herbertson Room, SoGE

Electric Automobility: How Might (or Should) It Influence Urban Planning in the UK?

Dr Peter Headicar, Oxford Brookes University.

Planning policy in the UK over the last 20 years has incorporated elements designed to promote more sustainable travel behaviour. The prospect of electric automobility invites a very wide range of possible responses. At one extreme it could be seen to lessen the constraints otherwise imposed in the interests of carbon reduction. At the other it could be seen as an opportunity to contribute to the realisation of urban forms and functioning in the compact city tradition. This paper reviews these possible futures in the context of current trends in urbanisation, planning policy and travel behaviour and the potential influence of transport policy itself.

Peter Headicar was formerly Reader in Transport at the Department of Planning, Oxford Brookes University. He specialises in the relationship between land use and travel and impact on this of UK public policy in the fields of planning and transport. He authored 'Transport Policy and Planning in Great Britain' published in 2009 and contributed to the report and practitioner guide 'Planning for Sustainable Development' published by the Commission for Integrated Transport. Recently he has studied the changing spatial distribution of the population as a factor in the 'peak car' phenomenon.

Electric Cars Do Work

Mr Robert Llewellyn.

Having driven over 35,000 miles in electric cars in the last 2 years, Robert has a slightly different take on the future of transport debate. Electric cars are cleaner than fossil burners, the batteries won't be thrown into landfill after 6 months and he doesn't get range anxiety.

For the last 30 years Robert Llewellyn has appeared on British TV countless times, primarily in the hugely popular BBC comedy series 'Red Dwarf' and the long running engineering series 'Scrapheap Challenge'. He has published 12 books, hundreds of newspaper and magazine articles, produced podcasts such as 'Carpool' and 'Fully Charged' and is a very keen proponent of electric and hybrid vehicles and sustainable energy technology. Robert is married with two children.