Work experience: the two week period of making tea and coffee, photocopying papers and violent boredom. Or so I thought.
I am Zack, a student going into year 11, currently finishing a work experience placement at Digital Greenwich. At its core, Digital Greenwich endeavours to maximise the benefit of new technologies in the world that we live in, and has given me insight into the fields of smart cities, technological innovation and in particular, the future of mobility.
Since arriving at Digital Greenwich I have been exposed to a multitude of ideas regarding technological advancement and innovation and have gathered a collection of the ideas I found the most compelling and exciting.
One topic that I have warmed to in particular is Electric Vehicles (EVs), specifically electric Connected and Autonomous Vehicles (CAVs). In the future, autonomous vehicles will perform tasks typically undertaken by humans, the obvious ones being driving and charging its battery. A large portion of the research I have undertaken during my time at Digital Greenwich is related to this topic, as I have outlined the advantages, disadvantages and maintenance of EVs and CAVs and how they would integrate themselves into our day-to-day lives. This really helped me to understand how these vehicles will revolutionise the way that we think about the transport and mobility sector, and the huge benefits that they will bring.
A concept that thoroughly interested me was the idea of inductive charging, where a CAV would independently drive over an inductive plate, and the inductive plate would begin to conduct and charge the vehicle. After the vehicle had finished charging, the owner of the vehicle would be invoiced with the electricity bill for that journey. I found it so cool that an EV could charge so easily and hassle-free, without the need for any wires to connect the vehicle to the power supply. If this could be implemented on a wider scale, who’s to say that CAVs won’t replace all cars?
Another idea I stumbled across that dazzled me was regenerative braking. Utilising kinetic energy in order to extend the period before an EV needs to recharge, the kinetic energy produced when a car brakes can be transferred back into the car’s battery, recharging the battery where it would have just been wasted. This idea resonated with me in particular as I am very passionate about preventing further damage to our ecosystems, being environmentally sustainable and putting an end to global warming. By reusing energy instead of simply sucking up more, we are contributing to the stability and health of our earth. There is no Planet B and if we waste what we are given, then in seemingly no time at all, we will have nothing left to waste.
When I think about vehicles, I am always drawn to electric cars over internal combustion engines (ICEs). While both cars primarily run on energy derived from natural resources at the moment, EVs don’t emit harmful carcinogens into the air and don’t contribute to the rising levels of carbon dioxide in our atmosphere. ICEs, on the other hand, release toxins galore into our air and are a piece of the rapidly growing problem of our ice caps melting due to rising temperatures, and subsequently, the extinction of many animal species.
As we progress into the future, I hope that we will pioneer new methods to generate electricity sustainably and renewably, as well as refining our current methods of producing green electricity, such as solar and wind farms. However, I can see no possible long-term future for ICEs, as all they do is guzzle our natural resources and spew toxic gases into the air we breathe – hooray!
Furthermore, to combat the hindrance of long charging times, which is a deterrent for many to make the switch from ICEs to electric cars - Stockholm in Sweden have trialled an interesting idea to potentially solve this problem. They have introduced an electrified road, which can recharge an electric car’s battery as the car drives down the road, and once the vehicle has become fully charged, or the vehicle disconnects from the road, the owner of the vehicle will be charged with the electricity bill for that journey. It is estimated that the construction costs for the road is approximately 50 times cheaper than a standard urban tram line of the same length, and by 2030, Sweden hopes for these electrified roads to be implemented throughout the country. I think it’s brilliant.
Another product that really captivated me was the Lightyear One, an EV partially powered by sunlight. The entire roof and hood of the car is covered in solar panels, which capture the sun’s energy. This product intrigued me especially as it was such a relief to finally see that we were making more use out of all of this energy constantly being dumped on our heads by that big, bright, burning ball of gas in the sky, instead of totally disregarding it and scrambling for all of the yummy cancer-provoking morsels in the ground.
All of this untapped potential staring into my face behind the locked door of current technology is incredibly frustrating. However, progressing into the future means progressing in a field of revolutionary and rapidly emerging technology that aims to change the way that we think. That, I believe, will be the key to unlocking what we seek, hiding behind the door. I am itching to see this unfold and I’d love it if I could play a part in making it happen.