Sam Akehurst is a Professor of Advanced Powertrain Systems and Deputy Academic Director of the Institute for Advanced Automotive Propulsion Systems (IAAPS). He has secured in excess of £20M in research funding and published over 120 journal and conference papers. His research focuses on the performance of future powertrain systems. His current research portfolio includes a range of collaborative projects in advanced gasoline and hybrid engine technology, hybrid powertrains and advanced propulsion systems. Prof Akehurst’s research is a mixture of fundamental and applied research combining both modern state of the art computer simulation tools and the latest approaches to experimentation using the research facilities of IAAPS. He leads research programmes with McLaren Automotive and Ford Motor Company and is currently PI on an EPSRC Prosperity Partnership Programme with Jaguar Land Rover and CI on the EPSRC funded CDT in Advanced Propulsion System.

With attendees from industry, academia, and students, Prof Akehurst’s inaugural lecture covered the high level challenges facing the automotive industry as it transitions to the mass development and adoption of ultra-low and zero emission vehicles. Prof Akehurt’s lecture also provided a more detailed look at the projects that he has been involved in and the impact these projects have delivered.

The internal combustion engine passenger car has given people unlimited access to personal mobility at a low cost, but now faces an uncertain future. In the face of challenges such as the VW emissions scandal, a need to reduce global CO2 emissions and concerns around road side emissions, Sam’s presentation considered whether the IC engine still plays a role or if we can we meet these challenges purely through electrification.

The automotive industry is also confronted by a number of potential paradigm shifts. Questions such as “will we own and drive our own vehicles in the future or will we live in an autonomous world?” are pertinent. This lecture presented a view of propulsion systems and the challenges to develop these systems in an ever more complex world.

Sam concluded that we cannot be sure what precisely we will be driving, but what is likely is that we will see a mixture of hybrids, electric vehicles, and some iteration of internal combustion engine vehicles. An intriguing takeaway from the lecture was not only the vast array of research and innovation currently being undertaken in the industry, but that whilst our primary focus is vehicles, other lifestyle and consumer behavioural changes could potentially have far greater impact on personal mobility than types of vehicles we’ll drive in future.