Welcome to our roundup of the news that's grabbed our attention from across our specialist industries over the last month!
The classic British marque has released its first Wales-made car, which it hopes will deliver a sales boost after losses of £13.5m in the three months to September. The Welsh government pledged millions of public money to attract Aston Martin to the Vale of Glamorgan, and the St Althan plant will employ 750 people - 450 more than the current complement of staff - when fully operational.
The plant’s first car, the DBX sport utility vehicle, marks an expansion of Aston Martin’s product portfolio; a female advisory board was involved in the development of the car, which will cost £158,000, as the brand attempts to expand its reach to new customers without “pinking and shrinking” products for women.
Despite posting a loss for the last full quarter, Aston Martin expects to meet market expectations on its earnings.
As an inspiration to engineering students and speed-freaks alike, it doesn’t come much better than Bloodhound: Land Speed Record candidate and continuing fixation for elements of the G&H team. In its latest test programme in the Kalahari, the vehicle hit 628 mph, achieving maximum velocity in 50 seconds.
After four weeks of testing in the region, the Bloodhound Land Speed Record team are on track to attack the extant record of 763 mph in the next 12-18 months.
Formula 1 has set out its first sustainability plan as it aims to achieve net zero-carbon footprint as a sport by 2030, with all events to be sustainable by 2025. As of 2021, F1 will hit a new high of 22 Grands Prix per year, with all ten competing teams necessarily flying around the world to participate.
The sport claims its V6 turbo hybrid power engines are the most efficient in the world, delivering more power from less fuel than any other car. F1 has ambitions to deliver the world’s first net zero-carbon hybrid internal combustion engine whilst ensuring its transport of staff and equipment will be part of its sustainability pledge. Also included in the pledge will be renewably-powered offices, facilities and factories, and greatly-improved sustainability and recycling at events.
Manufacturing & Tech
The latest Skills Survey from The Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET) examines the challenges facing engineering and technology employers across the UK.
81% of surveyed employers agreed businesses have a responsibility to support the transition from education and training into the workplace, though only 23% of employers go into schools or careers events to help young people understand and value engineering careers.
32% of surveyed companies have engineering or technical apprentices in place, with most of those who are liable to pay the Apprenticeship Levy using it, and 48% of those reporting that it is easy to use.
12% of businesses have taken or are taking action to increase the diversity of their workforces in terms of ethnicity, LGBT+ status and disability, while the proportion of women within the engineering and technical workforce remains at 11%. 60% of employers report that recruitment of staff with the right skills is the biggest anticipated barrier to achieving business objectives over the next 3 years.
Elon Musk made headlines again last week when his new electric Cybertruck, designed to be bullet- and sledgehammer-proof, let him down in the most public of forums. At the vehicle launch, Tesla design head Franz von Holzhausen lobbed metal balls at the truck’s windows in a stunt designed to show off their resilience.
But as we say here at Gerrell & Hard, never work with children or animals, and never launch metal balls at truck windows during a filmed product launch; on cue, the balls smashed the windows that were designed to repel them.
But life is never ordinary for Elon, and despite the gaffe and split opinions over the truck’s outlandish design, he has now received nearly 150,000 orders. The trucks’ earliest likely release date is the end of 2021.
Meanwhile, Tesla has announced it is to build a European car and battery factory near Berlin, in an attempt to tap into the thriving German automation ecosystem and produce car and battery technology at a scale and pace that will make its cars competitive.
Lucy Hughes, 24, a graduate in product design from the University of Sussex, has won a £30,000 international James Dyson award for her biodegradable, compostable material MarinaTex. The material elegantly solves two problems: the ubiquity of single-use plastic and fish waste.
Hughes harnessed fish offcuts to create an eco-friendly alternative to plastic, with an estimated 40% of plastic produced for packaging being used once and then discarded. Her product is translucent and strong, and as such is suitable for single-use packaging such as sandwich wrappers and bin bags, breaking down in compost or food waste bins within four to six weeks.
We salute Lucy and the Dyson award itself, which does much to energise, inspire and motivate young engineers - a worthy and valuable cause. As James Dyson said: “young engineers have the passion, awareness and intelligence to solve some of the world’s biggest problems.”
But the last word here must go to Lucy Hughes: “It makes no sense that we’re using plastic for products that have a life cycle of less than a day. I’m excited to have the chance to undertake further research and development to explore all possible uses (of MarinaTex)”.
Congratulations also to George Winfield, founder of Spyras, who has been announced as the UK’s most promising entrepreneur in technology and engineering by the Royal Academy of Engineering Enterprise Hub. Spyras is developing a low-cost paper-based sensor to help identify sepsis in hospital patients by accurately monitoring their breathing rate. Sepsis kills 52,000 people in the UK each year and it is thought that earlier identification of the condition could save up to 14,000 lives per year.
Leaders & Exec
We enjoyed reading this Autocar piece about JLR CEO Ralf Speth, who has spent nine years helming the renowned British carmaker and played a leading role in the creation of Warwick University’s National Automotive Innovation Centre. He is open about what the article describes as JLR’s “perfect storm” of difficulties, £3.6b financial loss and 4500 job cuts, and has successfully maintained the brand as the UK’s leading carmaker, with a solid plan (already succeeding) for recovery and improvement.