- Women and their roles in the motor industry
- Electric cars and their future
- Cars on film
The London Motor Show. It’s not only about the cars that are on display for people to study, sit in or, in the case of many, dream about owning, such as the Lamborghini Aventador, Aston Martin DBS Superleggera, the Ferrari Portofino and a very brightly coloured McLaren 720S.
If you want to know about the future of the motor trade then visiting an event where people who work in the industry gather, is definitely a good idea. As well as hearing about upcoming technology and plans for infrastructure, there is the opportunity to see many of the new cars that you often only see in photographs.
Last week we visited the Motor Show for the first time and the number of informative panels was only outnumbered by the number of prize-winning and nominated cars in the World Car of the Year aisle. This was the first time that all the winning cars, and a considerable number of the winner trophies, were together in one place.
The atmosphere was full of excitement, and the smell of burning rubber permeated everything as, on the first day, rehearsals for the Paul Swift Stunt Show were taking place in a nearby hall.
So many cars
Of course, there was also a lot to see if you were there for the entertainment, including a DeLorean made famous for appearing in Back to the Future. This particular model came complete with Flux Capacitor and certification proving it had actually been used in the film.
There was also a car on show from the original Fast and the Furious film, the famous Robin Reliant from Only Fools and Horses, and a replica Mini Cooper, complete with armchair on the roof as seen in the series Mr Bean.
It definitely wasn’t all about the film cars. This year it seemed that the event was strongly focused on two subjects, women in the motoring industry, and electric vehicles.
Electric Avenue, an aisle devoted to nothing but electric vehicles, which included cars currently on the market, ways to charge these cars (including a rather innovative solar panel system), and a very creatively decorated Nissan Leaf which had been driven across the whole of Africa.
As well as the slightly more commonly seen Nissan Leaf, Kia Soul EV, and Renault Zoe, they also included the harder-to-obtain Hyundai Kona Electric, the BMW i3, and the BMW i8 Roadster.
We were also able to take a tour of the three current models in the Tesla range, including the spacious wing-door Model X, the new saloon Model 3 and the stylish long-range saloon the Model S.
It is rare to get the opportunity to see the Tesla models up close, however, they were a large feature of Electric Avenue, giving us the chance to get photographs and try out the interior of the three models they are marketing.
Though Nissan had provided the show with the latest Nissan Leaf model that could be examined by prospective purchasers, there was also another one on show in Electric Avenue. However, this second Nissan Leaf was another beast entirely. The first-generation Nissan Leaf Acenta with a 30KwH battery was the one that managed an incredible feat! Last year, a Polish explorer called Arkady Fiedler drove the 100% electric vehicle across Africa to Western Europe as part of the Electric Explorer Africa Challenge. This was the first journey of this type (in a 100% electric vehicle) to ever take place.
Jaguar had quite a healthy presence at the show. The Jaguar I-Pace has had a very successful year and was awarded both the World Car of the Year and the World Green Car of the Year trophies. The I-Pace was on display with other prize-winners and also in Electric Avenue.
Audi is definitely creative when it comes to using any additional space in their vehicles. We had a chance to look under the bonnet of the Audi e-Tron SUV that the German manufacturers had on show. We recorded a brief video showing what they did with the room usually needed for the internal combustion engine. With the battery only taking up a small proportion of the room usually taken up by the engine, they also placed an additional storage container under the bonnet, the perfect size to keep all the cables stored safely and neatly somewhere you’re not likely to forget.
All these cars were manufactured specifically as BEV (battery electric vehicles), and as you can see, there are a wide variety of models and body types to choose from. However, if you love the classics then you’d be forgiven for thinking that you won’t find something for you. One company based in Wales, called Electric Classic Cars, converts cars older model cars to BEV. On their stand, very near to the Teslas, they were showing cars that they had customised including two Jaguar E-Types and a Ferrari 308 (just like the one Tom Selleck drove in the original Magnum PI).
The company also produces and sells kits so, if you’re adept with the engine of a car and want to do the work yourself then this is an option.
Women and cars
It’s always felt like the motoring industry – in every guise – is a very male-oriented one. However, one aim that the London Motor Show had this year was to prove that not everyone who works with cars, whether it be rally driving, F1, mechanics or design, is a man.
On the first day of the event, Sandy Myhre, a motor racing journalist from New Zealand, and member of the judging panel for the Women’s World Car of the Year was on stage to present Beatrice Simonsson from Volvo with a trophy for the XC40, which was judged to be the Supreme Winner of the awards. She was joined on stage by 11 other female motoring writers from around the world who were part of the judging panel.
This was the first time, since the launch of the awards in 2010, that the prize was publicly presented. The panel for the Women’s World Car of the Year has grown since the award was first established, and now there are a total of 37 female motoring journalists on the panel, but they are always looking to increase this number.
On the second day there were several panels, including one where women who work across multiple areas of the motoring industry discussed how difficult they found it to break through the perception that it is a male industry. Among those who took part were Catie Munnings, a young rally driver who is sponsored by Red Bull, the sort of sponsor drivers aspire to get.
Munnings was joined on the stage by Charlie Martin who, earlier this year, announced she will be competing in the 2019 Le Mans 24-Hours Race, as well as Caroline Clennell the owner and founder of an eco-focused remapping business and Louise Baker, the founder of a, currently, women-only garage called Womanic. These four women are all successful in the fields of motoring that they have chosen to join and are all working to encourage more women to consider the industry as an option, rather than dismissing it as an all-male business.
Looking to the future
If you were asked to put together a design for a vehicle intended for the James Bond of the future, and only given 35 minutes to do it, how do you think it would go?
At the London Motor Show eight design students from universities across the UK were asked to do exactly that. There were no limits to what they could design and the only guidelines they were given were that it was something they could see James Bond travelling in.
These students are the designers of the future, and all the cars sketched were smooth, ergonomic and aerodynamic in appearance.
The winning car was decided by a panel of judges already working in the industry, from Tata Motors Nissan, Land Rover and Bentley. All eight designs looked stunning, but there had to be a winner…
What we learned at the London Motor Show
The atmosphere at the event was, no pun intended, electric. Everywhere you looked there were companies extolling the virtues of the cars and car-related products that they were marketing. A lot of the event is about sales, but the panels were focusing on the future.
Listening to experts from across the industry – drivers, mechanics, and car manufacturers – talk about their perception of the future of the motor industry at the London Motor Show was definitely informative. Hearing how they perceive technology and motoring as a whole will change in the coming years, slowly and steadily adapting to eliminate the regular concerns of the everyday driver.
When it comes to the increasing popularity of the electric car, and the possibility for this type of car to overtake the popularity of the ICE vehicles currently on the road, the main concern that many have is range. The suggestions being proposed as future developments are innovative, including solar panels being fitted solely to charge an electric vehicle, or a pad being fitted to the driveway that can contact charge the car while it’s parked.
One thing that the panel agreed on is that ‘Range Anxiety’ is an unnecessary concern of drivers who are considering making the change from an ICE to a BEV. Though charging points are few and far between in some more remote locations, there are ways around this and more are being developed on a daily basis.
Overall, the event was a well-balanced and smooth-running one that had something for everyone. Whether you wanted to watch carefully co-ordinated and loud stunts, find your next supercar, or find out more about the future of cars.