I’ve had to make many very difficult decision in my career, and running a company where employees depend on me getting it right for their job security is something I take very seriously.
Clearly the automotive industry is going through massive changes, and I mean really massive. Changes to the way factories are designed, built and run. Changes to materials and technologies in the car. Changes in working practices. Massive changes in car design, connectivity and propulsion methods. At every level the industry is changing. this is even more momentous than when steam gave way to internal combustion.
Our industry is tightly regulated by legislation on emissions, safety, recycling, energy efficiency etc. and these regulations are instigated by politicians who in turn are responding to what people currently care about, after all that’s how they get votes. But there is a big change in how many people view the car, for many in cities it is a bothersome dangerous burden and not the great personal freedom tool that it is to the rest of us. So politics is changing too, and so will laws in our industry.
Consumer preferences have changed dramatically too, in the past I have made outlandish bold statement vehicles for car PR organizations to help them engage with customers, but now this may be seen as wasteful and not environmentally sensitive (even though these were usually end of life pre-production prototypes destined for the scarp pile).
So I know that change is coming my way, whether I like it or not. And I have a duty to adapt my company to keep everyone gainfully employed.
But even more than that, when I started looking into this I was thinking about the future of my family, of everyone’s family, what future will it be?
I’m an engineer and I work on hard data. But the trouble with a thing like climate change is there is one hell of a lot of noise coming out of the media, governments and even more so from social media. People quoting wildly different facts and drawing opposing conclusions. After all getting likes, clicks or subscriptions takes a bit of drama.
So I looked at the sources of the data and found a much calmer discussion, based on science, data and well tested arguments. And what I found is a very big probability (after all nothing is 100% certain except death and taxes) that the world is currently warming up at a speed that is faster than at any point in its history. And it turns out that the speed of change is rather important, because that determines how long species have to adapt to the change, and currently its happening so fast that we are seeing species actually dying out at an increasing rate. And personally I don’t want that to happen.
We also have the problem of extreme weather, with substantially more energy in the atmosphere there are stronger winds, the jet stream is buckled and makes weather more changeable and extreme, and the higher heat means more evaporation and rain in some places, but drought and high temperatures in others. It’s a very complex system and one that appears to be a major area of research, modeling climate (the big averages) is apparently reasonably accurate whilst modeling weather (the detail of what will happen in precise locations at precise times) is still tricky.
The upshot of all this is I’ve had to rethink my business, career and lifestyle. My annual mileage is drastically reduced, we don’t have foreign family holidays, we buy local food produce more etc. In my business I’m concentrating on new energy powertrains (although my first EV conversion was in 1993!), synthetic fuels, sustainable oils, low energy production methods, renewable energy etc.
And I’m now working on public transport vehicles, converting buses to EV and hydrogen. Public transport is vital but has a long way to go, and I want to be part of that solution.
I’ve also started a training company to share sustainable skills to help people keep their machines running well for longer, reducing waste.
Hopefully I’m doing something right. Time will tell.