Being Margate-based, with friends in the amazing Rise Up Clean Up community initiative, this new beach cleaning robot very much caught our attention – meet the BeBot – it would certainly be busy after a bank holiday weekend here!
To be clear, this little battery-powered machine is currently remote controlled rather than self-driving. It can cover 3,000 square metres of sandy beach per hour, picking up all manner of small debris – from seaweed to bottle caps and cigarette butts – rubbish that can be hard to see and therefore very time consuming to pick by hand.
Searial Cleaner robots
Part of the Searial Cleaner range, which also includes the Pixie Drone, an aquatic drone that picks up debris on water surface, the Collec’Thor, a fixed waste collector for marinas and ports, the BeBot was developed by Poralu Marine, a world leader in aluminium marinas. Poralu Marine is a partner of 4ocean, a company dedicated to ending the ocean plastic crisis.
With other big-name partners, including the BlueFlag international tourism label, Searial describes beach cleaning as “an essential and fundamental civic act that transforms mindsets and practices”.
Successfully tested on the shores of Lake Tahoe in America, we’re in discussion about getting a BeBot over here for a demo – watch this space.
Self-driving charger robots could remove the need for dedicated EV parking spaces.
“In order for the transition from petrol or diesel to electric to be successful, the UK must be able to meet the demand and provide ample charging points for drivers,” she said.
Unfortunately, back in December, The Guardian noted that: “The government has quietly backtracked on proposals to require every shop, office or factory in England to install at least one electric car charger if they have a large car park, prompting criticism by environmental campaigners.
“The original plan required every new and existing non-residential building with parking for 20 cars or more to install a charger. However, the Department for Transport (DfT) has now revealed it will only require chargers be installed in new or refurbished commercial premises amid fears over the cost for businesses.”
The name Ziggy of course brings to mind David Bowie’s fictional alien rockstar, who, according to Wikipedia, “arrives on an Earth that is dying due to a lack of natural resources”.
Self-driving EV charger
This ZiGGY, its LA-based maker EV Safe Charge say, represents “A cost-effective EV charging solution unlike any other. ZiGGY is a robotic mobile EV charging platform that serves all parking spaces, not just a few.”
It goes on to assert that 500 million chargers could be required globally by 2040, up from fewer than six million today, representing nearly $1.6 trillion of cumulative investment in EV charging infrastructure.
This nifty robot can be contacted via an app whereby it will secure a parking spot and wait for you.
It will notify you once you’re charged before moving on to the next EV or heading back to base to recharge.
This removes the need for dedicated EV spaces and the addition of video advertising on ZiGGY’s side means there’s a bonus revenue stream as well.
All very clever, but can it play guitar?
Self-driving related highlights from Elon Musk’s keynote conversation at the FT Future of the Car Summit 2022
Following Volkswagen CEO, Herbert Diess, and Volvo Cars CEO, Jim Rowan, on day one of the FT Future of the Car Summit 2022, there was no doubting the biggest draw on day two: an hour-long “keynote conversation” with Tesla CEO, Elon Musk, covering Twitter, Tesla, SpaceX, self-driving and more.
The part live, part digital session was hosted by The Financial Times’ Global Motor Industry Correspondent, Peter Campbell, from The Brewery in London.
Tesla early days
It started with JB Straubel, formerly chief technical officer at Tesla, now Founder and CEO at renewable energy company Redwood Materials, joining Campbell on stage to discuss the origins of Tesla, with Musk contributing via video link.
EM: “We got together for lunch and the conversation turned to electric vehicles. JB said I should test drive the tzero prototype from AC Propulsion, that was in 2003. I tried to convince them to commercialise the tzero and, after a while, they said they really did not want to. I said, do you mind if I create a commercial electric sports car?”
JBS: “That’s pretty close to how I remember it. My perspective was us trying to chat with you about this electric hydrogen aeroplane concept, but our conversation completely turned to talking about lithium ion batteries… stringing together large numbers of small lithium ion batteries to potentially have hundreds of miles of range, which seems commonplace today, but in 2003 was absolutely unheard of. You understood that concept better than anyone else.”
They went on to cover the early work on a Lotus Elise chassis with the AC Propulsion drive train.
EM: “An insane nightmare, basically… almost everything about the first design of the Tesla Roadster was wrong. It was just an important thing that needed to happen to move to a sustainable technology future.
“At the time we created Tesla, there were no startups doing electric cars, and the big car companies had really no electric car programmes going. Therefore, unless we tried, they were not going to be created. It wasn’t from a standpoint of thinking, hey, here’s a super lucrative idea.
“There’s an incredibly big graveyard of car startups. They’ve almost all gone bankrupt. You’ve only heard of a tiny number of them, the DeLoreans of the world, but there are hundreds of others.
“The only two American car companies that have not yet gone bankrupt are Ford and Tesla. Tesla almost went bankrupt so many times I lost count. To start a car company is mega pain. It’s the furthest thing from easy money you could possibly imagine.
“The car industry is hyper competitive. Throughout the world, they have entrenched customers, dealers, service, factories, existing expertise – these are veteran armies.”
At this point, Straubel exited, leaving Campbell attempting to elicit answers about the widely rumoured purchase of Twitter. We’ll only cover that very briefly here.
Musk on Twitter
EM: “I think Twitter needs to be much more even handed. It currently has a strong liberal bias. This fails to build trust in the rest of the United States and also perhaps in other parts of the world.”
PC: “Are you planning to let Donald Trump back on?”
EM: “I’ve talked with Jack Dorsey about this. I have the same mind, which is that permanent bans should be extremely rare and really reserved for spam accounts, where there’s just no legitimacy. I do think that it was not correct to ban Donald Trump, I think that was mistake because it is alienating a large part of the country.”
20 million cars a year by 2030
Global media coverage assured, conversation returned to Tesla and the ambition to make 20 million cars a year by 2030.
EM: “There are approximately two billion cars and trucks in the world and for us to really make a dent in sustainable energy, in electrification, I think we need to replace at least 1% of the fleet per year, that’s where the 20 million units comes from. I think we’ve got a good chance of getting there.
“We have an incredible team at Tesla, executing very well and our annual growth rates are faster than for any large manufactured product in the history of Earth. I think the next fastest was the Model T. If that growth rate continues then we will reach 20 million vehicles a year, but we may stumble.”
On raw materials, he continued: “The two main cathode choices are nickel and phosphate. Iron is extremely plentiful and the second biggest element is oxygen. So, I do not see any fundamental scaling constraints. Lithium is also quite common.
“Our goal is to accelerate the advent of sustainable energy. The three pillars of a sustainable energy future are electric transport, stationary battery packs and sustainable energy sources – solar, wind, geothermal and hydro.
“All of Earth can easily be powered by solar and wind, stationary battery packs and electric transport. You could power all of Europe with a section of Spain, all of the United States with a corner of Utah or Texas. Obviously, it would make more sense to spread this out. I invite anyone to do the basic math in megawatts per square kilometre.”
They went on to talk about SpaceX, in particular the Falcon 9 rocket. Classic Musk: “I’m sure we’ll do more than 1,000 times the payload to orbit of all other rockets on Earth combined.”
Then, briefly, China, and the Tesla factory in Shanghai. Finally, with the hour flying by, they got to self-driving.
Musk on self-driving
EM: “I don’t think you need full human level intelligence to drive a car. You don’t need deep conceptual understanding of esoteric concepts or anything like that. Anyone who’s driven a car for any length of time, once you have some years of experience, the cognitive load on driving a car isn’t that high.
“You’re able to think about other things, listen to music, have a conversation and still drive safely. So, it’s not like matching everything a human does. It is matching enough of the silicon neural nets to at least be on a par with the biological neural nets to enable self-driving, and I think we’re quite close to achieving that. Don’t take my word for it, sign up for a beta programme, look at the videos people are posting.
“I’m confident we will get far in excess of the safety level of humans. Ultimately, probably a factor of 10 safer than a human, as measured by the probability of injury.
“It’s around a million people per year dying from automotive accidents, maybe 10 million per year are severely injured. So, with autonomy, the cars driving, or assisted driving right now, but it will be fully autonomous the future, there’s those who didn’t realise they would have crashed, or hit a pedestrian or cyclist.
“It is important to note that we have never said ever that Tesla Autopilot does not require attention. We have always made that extremely clear, repeatedly. You can’t even turn it on without acknowledging that it requires supervision. We remind you of that ad nauseam, so this was not a case of setting expectations that the car can simply drive itself.”
It was Q&A time, so I submitted the question: “Why don’t you change the name of the Full Self-Driving package? It is driver assistance not self-driving. The name causes so much unnecessary criticism.” I didn’t get an answer.
To be fair, his hour was nearly done and questions from the audience were stacking up. Classily, he stayed on for a lengthy period of overtime.
Here are some of the highlights…
On micromobility: “Scooters are very dangerous. We don’t recommend anyone drive a scooter.”
On building a small car: “There’s some probability that Tesla will do a smaller car.”
On Tesla licencing their products to other OEMs: “They may be interested in licencing Tesla Autopilot full self driving. I think that would save a lot of lives. I would be very open to that.”
On competitors: “VW is doing the most on the electric vehicle front. There will be some very strong companies coming out of China.”
On AI: “We have the best real world AI team in the world.”
On the next big innovation in personal transportation: “Tunnels are underrated, underappreciated. This notion of induced demand is one of the single dumbest notions I’ve ever heard in my entire life. If adding roads just increases traffic, why don’t we delete them? Decrease traffic. I think you’d have uproar. We already have a proof of concept in Las Vegas with a tunnel going from the convention centre to the strip. It’s working really well.”
On super capacitors: “There simply isn’t enough ruthenium. I thought about it quite a lot. Had I continued as a student and done a PhD at Stanford, a theory I had at the time was to use advanced chipmaking equipment to build solid state capacitors.”
On hydrogen: “The number of times I’ve been asked about hydrogen! If you want a means of energy storage, hydrogen is a bad choice. It’s extremely low density, maintaining it in liquid form is incredibly difficult and it does not naturally occur on Earth. So, you either have to split water with electrolysis or crack hydrocarbons. It is the most dumb thing that I could possibly imagine for energy storage.”
And finally, on wanting to die on Mars: “I just said sure, but not on impact! Really, the goal on that front is making life multiplanetary… to preserve life as we know it, not just humans, but also the other animals and plants. So we don’t end up like the dinosaurs.
“You know, there will be natural calamities that occur on Earth – giant meteors and super volcanoes – and we can also do ourselves in, World War III is maybe looking a little bit more probable these days.
“So, I think it’s important for preserving the light of consciousness that we become a multi-planet species and, ultimately, a multi-stellar species.”
Cars of the Future editor Neil Kennett interviewed Sir Stirling Moss OBE in 2011.
As avid Cars of the Future readers know, we occasionally like to look back to the glory days of motoring in a series we call… Cars of the Past. Well, today is one of those days.
Following yesterday’s sad news of the passing of F1 racer Tony Brooks, at the age of 90, we thought it appropriate to share this short clip of Sir Stirling Moss OBE talking in glowing terms about his former Vanwall teammate:
Sir Stirling Moss OBE said: “The best driver the public haven’t heard of in my mind was Tony Brooks. Tony was as good as nearly anybody, and he could do sports cars and Grand Prix cars. Fangio was not very good on sports cars – I mean, I could beat him in sports cars, but in Formula One he was the tops.”
New car tech
Carsofthefuture.co.uk editor Neil Kennett conducted the interview at Moss’s house in Mayfair, London, in 2011.
“I remember we recorded it the day after Vettel secured his second F1 title,” he said. “Further into the interview Sir Stirling talks about how racing helps to develop new automotive technologies, such as energy recovery systems. He and Tony Brooks were both racing legends.”
Frequently referred to as the greatest driver never to win the F1 World Championship, Sir Stirling Moss died in April 2020.
Tony Brooks won six Grand Prix, finishing second in the World Drivers’ Championship in 1959 with Ferrari. He died on 3 May 2022.
Please note: a version of this article first appeared in the February 2019 issue of IMI Magazine and was written for a motor trade audience.
In our Dec/Jan issue, James Dillon predicted that
“setting up as the local electric vehicle specialist will pay dividends in the
The experience of Tomsett MOT Centre, in Kent, gives credence to this theory. Owner Dave Tomsett explains: “I keep up with new technologies and getting into EV sounded like a wise move, so I started researching training.
the one-day IMI awareness course, which was excellent, and went on to do level
1 and 2 with Bosch, and level 3 and 4 with Pro-Moto.
one of very few garages to have these qualifications and, because we do trade
MOTs as well as retail, we could see there was demand.
January 2018, we dedicated a bay to hybrid and electric, lined it out and
invested in new equipment. We already had Snap-on diagnostic tools but we
purchased a G-scan 2 and other kit such as insulated gloves and workshop
“We did a
local press launch highlighting that we were making our plug-in point available
as a free resource, and it went down very well.”
Tomsett have a Prius courtesy car stickered-up to advertise that they’re an EV specialist and Dave heaps praise on the new Hybrid and Electric Vehicle Repair Alliance (HEVRA).
“We share information with other
repairers and even
borrow tools, which saves you buying things you might only use once in a blue
moon,” he says.
Melville established HEVRA following a problem with his parents’ plug-in
Vauxhall. “I started in independent garages and was working for Snap-on when
this issue arose with the Ampera’s air con,” he says. “The nearest franchised
dealer was an hour away and several good independents wouldn’t take it.
“In the end, I found a mobile air
con specialist who had the kit to work on high voltage. I realised there was a
gap in the market – a service to help people find local independent garages
covering EV. That was the embryo for what became HEVRA.
“We carefully vet all our members to
ensure they have the appropriate qualifications and correct tools. Then, for
£25 a month, we provide a technical hotline, a quarterly newsletter and
advertise on all the main electric car forums, to let people know there is an
alternative to the main dealers.”
Over at Pro-Moto, director Eliot Smith is at the forefront of EV training, having previously been responsible for upskilling Honda’s UK network.
started Pro-Moto about 10 years ago I was on the IMI group putting together EV
courses, along with representatives from City & Guilds and the Fire &
Rescue Service,” he says.
work with manufacturers including JLR, Hyundai, Kia, Mazda, Fiat, Toyota and
McLaren, as well as independent garages, and we certified about 300 technicians
to level 4 last year.
principles are the same on all EVs. Electricity is never going to change, the
whole universe is built on it, but different manufacturers take different
approaches to things like battery management.
early days, we were only doing about 10 courses a year, but we’ve got five
courses running concurrently next week. Demand is high.
unravel the complexities, give people experience of different platforms, make
them aware of the risks and give them the skills to service, maintain and
repair if necessary.
are bringing more EVs to market but as an industry we are failing to explain it
to the end user. What’s best for them – a battery car or what type of hybrid? Staff
in dealerships need to be educated in these technologies to give them the
confidence to explain it to customers.
know where they are with the internal combustion engine. With electric, they
aren’t so sure. What if there was a warranty issue? What are the options for
second life batteries? How do they mitigate against these unknowns?
can do is make sure their technicians have the right skills, tools and parts to
service EVs, and the aftermarket must be ready to pick up where franchised
dealers leave off.”
Demonstrating the depth of expertise in the repair sector, Neil Kidby, product category manager at Sealey, also did the level 2 and 3 courses with Bosch.
lagging behind Europe in terms of Alternative Fuel Vehicle (AFV) penetration,
but these technologies are coming and it will happen quickly,” he says. “Before
long you might be powering your house from your Toyota.
is a lot of technicians are frightened of electric cars. The battery is scary,
but if you take that out of the equation it is very much like working on any
other car. What you must do is protect yourself and have a sealed environment.
isn’t as expensive or such a leap as many think. Hybrid vehicles have been
around for 100 years after all. Isolate the battery and follow the
manufacturers’ instructions and you will lay the foundations for the continued
success of your business.
essentials are: an exclusion zone – barriers and signage to stop people
wandering in (as a bonus this also advertises that you do this type of work);
then there’s the kit – an insulation mat and gloves – and a category III
also the only item we sell which we hope is never used: a rescue pole. People
don’t like to think about it, but you have to. In the worst case scenario, with electrocution there’s a risk
that a body could catch fire if it isn’t isolated.
of sales, we’ve seen an upward trend over the last six months. We currently
sell mainly to independent garages but are in negotiations with a major vehicle
the coalface, Dave
“We cannot earn a living from EV alone yet, but it is growing. Overall, we’ve
invested around £7.5k in new tools, training and equipment. Some jobs can be time-consuming
but it’s a learning curve.
a new apprentice coming in the summer and he’ll be involved with EVs from day one. That’s vital because we need to attract
more skilled youngsters into the industry – working on vehicles like these
should be an appealing alternative to the university route.
are changing; the 2040 deadline for petrol and diesel sales will focus minds,
range will increase and as battery technology improves it will snowball.”
important question we’ve not delved into is whether the government should
legislate to require anyone working on EVs to have further qualifications.
We’ll explore that another day.
Any talk of three-wheelers and we immediately think of Del Boy’s Reliant Regal from Only Fools and Horses, or the Sinclair C5, but Electra Meccanica has revisited the concept with its new single-person electric vehicle, the Solo.
After a successful trial production run in Vancouver, manufacturing recently moved to a new, larger factory in Chongqing, China.
Electra Meccanica claims it already has more than 23,000 reservations at its target price of $15,500.
Chief operating officer, Henry Reisner, said: “Having driven the 2019 Solo myself, I’m convinced we have a winning car on our hands. Now we get to the business of delivering them in significant numbers.”
While it’s tempting to make Trotters Independent Traders (TIT) jokes, pollution is a serious matter and you only have to glance around the rush hour jam to see big SUVs with only one person in them.
The Congestion Zone is widely considered unfit for purpose and the London Assembly’s Transport Committee recommends replacing it with road pricing.
Why be part of the problem when, as Electra Meccanica says, you can: “Reduce your gas bill to zero. Eliminate your environmental impact. Turn your commute into the highlight of your day.”?
Ok, that might be overstating things, but with its 17.3 kWh lithium ion battery taking it from 0-60mph in just 8 seconds, this three-wheeler is worth a goosey gander.
Presenters from Absolute Radio – Andy Bush, Richie Firth, Dave Berry and Matt Dyson – lined-up for The Great British Sinclair C5 Seafront Race in Margate on Tuesday 5 February.
The Isle of Thanet News reported that the legendary 1980s three wheelers were supplied by C5 Alive, a local enthusiasts’ club run by Eddie Green and Neil Brooks, who have restored more than 30 C5s to full working order.
The C5 is a single-seater battery-assisted pedal cycle with a top speed of 20mph, described by inventor Sir Clive Sinclair as “a vehicle, not a car”.
Of 14,000 made, only 5,000 were sold before Sinclair Vehicles went into receivership. The planned follow-ups, the C10 and C15, never made it off the drawing board.
Recycling company First Mile has released this striking image of how London’s Oxford Street could look if we fail to tackle air pollution.
Two technologies being championed to avoid such a dystopian fate are electric powertrains and route optimisation programmes – both popular concepts in connected and autonomous vehicle (CAV) design.
However, new research by Adam Millard-Ball, associate professor of environmental studies at the University of California, suggests that, rather than solving the issue of congestion in city centres, self-driving cars could exacerbate the problem, creating gridlock.
“Parking prices are what get people out of their cars and on to public transit, but autonomous vehicles have no need to park at all,” he said. “They can get around paying for parking by cruising. They will have every incentive to create havoc.”
“Valet parking systems will enable autonomous vehicles to drop passengers at convenient points, after which the vehicle will leave by itself to undertake a further journey, or park out-of-town,” he said.