From speeding up electric car charging to a new way of measuring aquaplaning: Autocar Drivers of Change 2021 winners revealed

An innovative solution to speed up electric car charging, a one-box solution to measuring aquaplaning that would slash tyre development costs and a new portable electric vehicle charging device were all among the winners at this year’s Autocar Drivers of Change initiative.
 
The Drivers of Change 2021 initiative finalists and winners will be named at a reception held as part of the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) Annual Dinner at Grosvenor House on Tuesday 23 November. In partnership with executive search specialists Ennis & Co, Drivers of Change aims to identify and promote emerging talent across three key automotive sectors: Technology, Digital and Retail. Winners across each category receive a £5000 prize along with expert industry support and guidance to develop their ideas and careers. 
 
Dr Thomas Heenan won in the Technology category for his idea surrounding magnetic field battery charging. As part of a wider team of PhD students, Heenan has invented and patented ‘MagLib’ technology that uses magnetic fields to reduce resistances and allow higher charging rates to be employed safely, without negatively impacting battery longevity or vehicle range. With a 67% reduction in charging times, the technology can also be retrofitted to existing electric vehicles without significant alterations.
 
The Digital category saw Ray Collier win the award with a one-box solution to measuring aquaplaning on cars and vans, to help reduce tyre development costs. A tyre development engineer by trade, Collier’s solution uses the vehicle’s existing wheel speed sensors correlated to a GPS to measure wheel slip and spin, to detect aquaplaning. The real-time measurements can then be analysed to determine the precise point at which point the vehicle loses contact with the ground – speeding up tyre development and reducing costs. The device is quick and easy to install, and can be fitted to existing vehicles, new and old. 
 
The judges chose Dr Michael Schwertner in the Retail category for his idea of a portable ‘EnergyShuttle’ battery that can easily add up to 15 miles of electric range to electric vehicles. The 4kWh battery, which is roughly the same size as an in-flight suitcase, utilises existing connection points to make it possible to top-up current electric vehicles. With most journeys in the UK under 20 miles, EnergyShuttle can act as a crucial back-up for electric vehicle owners. EnergyShuttle can be charged from home via a simple three-pin socket.
 
Winners and finalists were picked by 20 expert judges drawn from across the UK’s automotive sector with senior figures at leading OEMs, advanced technology specialists, data companies and retailers all featuring among the panel.
 
Steve Cropley, Autocar’s editor-in-chief, said: “Despite everything the last year has thrown at us, it was amazing to see the strength of the ideas being submitted. Drivers of Change champions innovation and ingenuity and the standard was incredibly high this year. I got a real kick out of reading all of the entries and picking a winner wasn’t easy, which is a testament to the pioneering nature of both our industry and the people in it.”
 
Lynda Ennis, founder of Ennis & Co, said: “What has struck me this year is the sheer level of innovation showcased by our entrants who, in many cases, are brand new to the world of automotive. Our finalists and winners have shown genuine potential to bring forward feasible solutions to some of the sector’s most pressing barriers, and I very much look forward to
seeing some of these becoming a reality someday. Our prestigious sponsor judges have been absolutely remarkable in helping to choose our final three winners, which was no mean feat – and I want to take this opportunity to thank them for their ongoing support.” 
 
Mike Hawes, chief executive, Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders, added: “Creative ideas drive the automotive industry and these awards lift the lid on some of the incredible concepts that will challenge the status quo. The industry is facing immense and rapid change on multiple fronts, from electrification to digital, and innovations such as these will
help address some of these issues and provide tremendous opportunities for their creators. We want to attract the very best ideas and people into the industry and this initiative will help; so my congratulations to the winners and thanks to everyone who entered.”
 
Drivers of Change is sponsored by The Advanced Propulsion Centre, Cox Automotive, CitNOW, IMS (Insurance & Mobility Solutions), Jardine Motors Group, JATO Dynamics, Marshall Motor Holdings, McLaren Automotive, Pivotal Subscription by Jaguar Land Rover, Polestar, SMMT, Sytner Group, Toyota GB, Volkswagen Group UK, Volvo Cars UK.