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Auto Futures Live: The Future of Fuel was held at the Thomson Reuters HQ in London on October 29th. The event brought together journalists, leading brands and industry professionals, including an inspiring panel. 

The discussion and Q&A session featured a thought-provoking discussion, including policy-making, the air quality crisis, infrastructure and, of course, which fuel will rule. From hydrogen and battery electric vehicles to synthetic fuels and the internal combustion engine, our panel and audience explored the pros and cons of each propulsion. 

Our panel included Riversimple CEO Hugo Spowers; Head of Electric Vehicles and Connected Services Groupe PSA, Helen Lees; Professor of Turbomachinery at Imperial College London, Ricardo Martinez-Botas and Business Lead, Clean Air, ClientEarth, Dominic Phinn.

The panel was moderated by radio news reporter and presenter Rachel Burden.

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From an OEM’s perspective, Lees said that the automotive industry needs to change now, as the clock is ticking: “Our timeline in terms of products starts now. Every single car that any of our brands ever launches will have a plug-in hybrid or full-electric version from launch, alongside the traditional petrol or diesel variants.”

She also stressed that although EVs are not a direct result of Dieselgate, the scandal has definitely had an impact on the industry; a wakeup call to manufacturers around the world. 

Helen Lees, Groupe Psa

From a ‘new-age’ automaker’s outlook, Spowers called for a change in business models, from selling cars to selling mobility. After all, if you swapped every petrol and diesel vehicle for an EV, there would still be huge problems to face. 

“You could say dinosaurs weren’t replaced by better dinosaurs. It came from a completely different direction. That’s why we place such emphasis on the changing business model as well as the technology,” he stressed. 

Hugo Spowers, Riversimple

Phinn added to Spowers’ comments, identifying a whole mosaic of solutions out there, including mobility-as-a-service. 

“There are a number of trends at play; electrification of vehicles but also shared mobility, car clubs and micro-mobility which are all going to go a long way towards tackling air pollution.” 

In addition to helping solve the worrying air pollution levels around the world, Phinn also voiced that hydrogen and battery electric vehicles are, in fact, superior to drive to conventionally-fueled cars. 

Dominic Phinn, Clientearth

Analysing the wider market, Martinez-Botas voiced his concern that companies have to do a lot more to gain consumer demand, through technology and the infrastructure that surrounds zero-emission vehicles.  

“The social acceptability has to be earned. It will not be imposed,” he stressed. “It has to be earned by the technology, by the battery development and by the infrastructure availability.” 

He also added that there was not enough talk surrounding sustainable synthetic fuels, which provide many benefits that would require much less disruption to the industry. 

Prof. Ricardo Botas, Imperial College London 2

Following the panel discussion, Burden opened the floor to questions from the audience, which sparked debate over how the industry could encourage individuals to be more environmentally-aware, how to make zero-emission vehicles attractive to consumers and enforcing punishments for larger less-efficient cars – such as popular SUVs. 

Overall, the morning briefing provided an expert insight into the fight against the climate crisis and the automotive industry’s role in the wider picture, making our world cleaner and safer. 

We’ll see you next time!

Copyright-free images of the event are available to download.

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