Here’s our roundup of news from across our markets over the last month.
Gordon Murray’s T50 supercar unveiled.
As proud suppliers to Gordon Murray Automotive, we were delighted to see the new V12-engined T50 has been unveiled at the Surrey factory where manufacturing will take place next year.
Only 100 road-going models (and 25 track editions) of the car will be built, with most already having attracted the £600,000 deposit needed to secure a model (the full price in the UK, including taxes, will be about £2.8m). Deliveries of the finished supercar will begin in early 2022.
The T50 is the successor to design genius Murray’s celebrated McLaren F1, and like that car places the driver in a central driving position reminiscent of jet fighter cockpits. It’s a masterpiece of compactness: the lightest supercar ever built, it weighs in at a mere 986kg, with a physical footprint similar to that of a mini countryman.
For all its mindboggling credentials, the T50 is a uniquely road- and driver-focused supercar. A lot of thought has gone into practical considerations for real-world use, making the T50 noteworthy for access and egress, luggage capacity and serviceability as well as for its beauty. It has to be seen!
F1 teams in accord over Concorde
All ten F1 teams have now signed up to the new Concorde Agreement set to govern F1 from 2021 to 2025. First introduced in 1981, the contract sets out the commercial terms of the sport and had generated some debate in its latest incarnation.
Reigning champion constructor Mercedes has resolved an impasse with F1 having gained clarification over the revised terms of the agreement, which is designed to end what critics see as an unfair distribution of prize money favouring the most successful teams and creating disparity in competitiveness down the grid.
According to F1 chairman Chase Carey, the new system “closes the gaps between teams on the race track”, while Claire Williams, deputy team principal of Williams, said it will usher in “closer and more exciting racing (with) more equitable revenue distribution and a first ever cost cap for our sport.”
Manufacturing & Tech
Carmakers unite against Qualcomm
Tesla, Ford, Honda, Daimler, Intel and MediaTek have asked the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to fight a court ruling in favour of Qualcomm, the world’s biggest manufacturer of mobile phone chips, over its sales practices. The firm has been accused of anticompetitive tactics that allow it to maintain a monopoly supplying semiconductors for mobile phones and related products.
Qualcomm requires customers to sign patent licence agreements before selling them chips, attracting suggestions that it is stifling competition. In 2017 the FTC accused the firm of anticompetitive conduct that led to the WiMAX standard for 4G being dropped, with LTE instead adopted by the global mobile industry, and phone makers paying higher prices for Qualcomm chips.
In 2019 a US district judge ruled Qualcomm would need to change its patent practices, but a panel of judges overturned the decision this year in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. Car makers and tech firms say the decision “could destabilise the standard ecosystem…encouraging the abuse of market power.”
With cars effectively becoming computers on wheels, tech patents on communications protocols could have a major impact. Vehicles increasingly need to connect with the internet using 5G, and car firms are new to the party when it comes to dealing with computer standards. There are fears they could be hamstrung by expensive communications patents, which provide a manufacturer with a sole right to produce an invention, and exclude others from doing so.
According to Glyn Moody, a journalist specialising in tech policy, “if you want to grow the market for connected cars, what you really want is open standards with patent encumbrances, so that you can have as many companies participating in the market as possible to drive innovation and reduce costs.”
Reaction Engines and Rolls Royce to collaborate on supersonic and hypersonic propulsion.
Two major manufacturing firms will collaborate on building supersonic and hypersonic propulsion systems for high-speed aircraft. Reaction Engines may be less familiar to the lay person than Rolls Royce, but it is the company responsible for building SABRE (Synergetic Air-Breathing Rocket Engine), which can provide air-breathing thrust from standstill to speeds above Mach 5, delivering the fuel efficiency of a jet engine with the high-speed capability of a rocket.
The collaboration between the two firms will allow Rolls Royce to explore the use of Reaction Engines’ technology within its aerospace gas turbines, and its potential application in hybrid-electric propulsion systems that could make flying more efficient and sustainable. Rolls Royce is to make a further investment into Reaction Engines as part of a wider funding round.
Tobias Moers starts at Aston Martin
Former Mercedes-AMG CEO Tobias Moers has taken up his role as Aston Martin’s new CEO, replacing outgoing Dr Andy Palmer.
Moers’ appointment follows the investment into the firm by Lawrence Stroll, who now serves as executive chairman. In a statement to the press, Moers said he believes there is “a significant opportunity to harness the strengths of the business to successfully deliver the planned product expansion and brand elevation,” and that he looks forward to building “a stronger business for our customers, our employees, our partners and our shareholders."
World-leading battery expect joins Britishvolt as CTO
Meanwhile, Dr Allan Paterson has joined Britishvolt as Chief Technical Officer. He could be crucial for the firm’s mission to manufacture next-generation lithium-ion batteries at a scale that will put the UK at the forefront of sustainable transport and renewable energy.
Dr Paterson was previously Head of Programme Management at The Faraday Institution, where he led research into lithium ion batteries and played a key role securing industry, government and academic resource to accelerate progress.
Britishvolt CEO, Orral Nadjari, says Britishvolt’s planned Gigafactory means the company is becoming “well placed to create a brighter future for the British Automotive Industry…(ensuring) that the UK is at the epicentre of electrified, zero emissions transport and advanced energy storage solutions” in what he describes as “the next industrial revolution”.
Over a quarter of 18-24-year olds “short-changed” on expenses and holiday pay
Research carried out for fintech software company Expend has revealed that more than a quarter of young professionals are unable to clear their credit card bills because they are owed expenses from their employer. With wage growth lagging behind inflation, student debt at a historical peak and the cost of home ownership out of reach for many young people, this place a significant additional burden on young professionals.
According to the Institute of Fiscal Studies, the average debt for a university leaver has reached £50,000, while the website Graduate Jobs shows the average starting salary graduates can expect is between £19,000 and £22,000.