Electric vehicles: the future of transport?


How It Works speaks to CEO of Liberty Electric Cars and www.goingreen.co.uk Ian Hobday.

Who are liberty and what are its aims?
Liberty Electric Cars have, in the UK, three fundamental parts to its business. We design and develop drivetrains for our own use and for clients including major OEM’s (Original Equipment Manufacturer). We also take care of electric vehicles already in the market place and we own Going Green which is the largest retailer of electric cars in the UK and is famous for its G-Wiz.

How do your cars work?
A zero emission electric car is powered by a lithium battery. Lithium chemistry can range from low energy density to high energy density. Any fire risk will always be a factor of 10 less than a gasoline car due to lower energy density. This will catch up over time but the reality is, petrol cars are more dangerous than electric cars ever will be.
The battery pack takes electricity from the national grid and the best way to charge it is overnight.
Energy is transferred to the motor by a sophisticated controlling system. This
makes sure energy is given in the right quantity for the vehicle’s conditions. Torque is available from zero but a gearbox is located to help rev range performance and uphill demands.
My personal belief is that today, electric cars are much more suited to business use than consumer use. Business use starts and ends at the same place everyday so charging is regular and frequent.

What is currently in the liberty E range?
Well let’s go back to the three fundamental parts of our business. Obviously we have our vehicle drivetrains on a global basis from our operation in Coventry. The Going Green business will be rolled out to Europe and the States as demand is generated in cities with congestion charges like London. Lastly, we have E-care. This takes care of people’s vehicles and helps other companies with their electric transport. We have developed a technology of refurbishing batteries that can recover failed cells. Moreover, the replacement G-Wiz, the E2o which is expected to come out in September 2014.

Some say that if electric cars charge their batteries from fossil fuel sources, they are just as bad for the environment as conventional gasoline cars. What’s you opinion on this?
There is a considerable amount of misinformation about the creation of electricity in electric cars from fossil fuels. The bottom line is, regardless of how the energy is generated, the overall saving is around 65-70 per cent. This doesn’t factor in oil disasters. How can you equate that damage into the cost of using fossil fuels? Besides, electric vehicles can be made from clean electricity. In France they use hydroelectric and in Iceland, geothermal is used.

What is your charging system?
When charging posts were first installed in cities like London, they were 16amp standard three pin plug posts. They quickly evolved into 32 amp posts with a slightly faster charging cycle. Now, you have the superfast chargers, which are producing 50 kilowatts of energy, which can charge 80 per cent of a battery in 20 minutes. They have been installed in all motorway service locations in the UK.
In the future, we will have wireless charging. A network of buses in Milan currently use it and it involves a charging plate. It’s currently being piloted by Citroën C1’s in London. You simply drive over a plate, your dashboard lights up and your car begins to charge! I believe it is absolutely the future of charging infrastructure.

How do you compare to the likes of tesla?
We have a completely different market from Tesla. Their aim is to go out and capture a good share of the consumer market for four door saloons and SUV’s. They do a fantastic job and I am a huge admirer of them. They received half a billion dollars from the U.S. government but they have spent it extremely wisely. The Tesla S is an outstanding product that ticks almost everyone’s boxes.
We operate in a different part of the market. We aim at the B2B sector with delivery and pickup trucks.

Have you heard of Formula E? Would you consider constructing a car to compete in it in the future? Or any sort of electric car motorsport?
No we’re not right now. Formula E is a fabulous way of impressing people in what electric vehicles are capable of doing. It’s not something that’s on our radar at the moment but we do support what they’re doing on a commercial basis.

What is your company’s future?
We are part of an American group called Green Automotive Company. Their ambition is to continue to develop electric drivetrain technology acting as a supplier. We are also keen to continue to retail interesting and innovative electric transport solutions. We have also just launched our first electric shuttle bus.