Venturi Automobiles was among the first of being involved in the FIA Formula E Championship. It made sense for the Monaco-based engineering firm to commit to world’s first global all-electric racing series as it’s developing battery electric sportscars, is current record holder of world’s fastest EV and created other challenging adventures like sending an EV to Antarctica to help researchers.
Backed by Gildo Pallanca Pastor, they are pioneers and experts in e-mobility; developing powertrains and battery technology. ElectricAutosport.com asked questions to Eric Prada, he is High Performance Battery Systems and Simulation Engineer, Ph.D. at Venturi Automobiles.
With Formula E opening up for constructors to develop the powertrain – and Venturi is one of the eight for season two – it is interesting to find out how experts like Prada look upon the future of racing and mobility.
After having working for eight years in research centres in France and Germany, Prada joined Venturi Automobiles he holds the position of battery systems and simulation engineer, specialised in algorithm management systems of electrochemical energy storage components.
His main tasks are to develop advanced engineering tools, algorithms and methodologies to help the team to make the right choices at the right time regarding electric powertrain solutions. By extensively using methods combining modeling and simulation and streamlined experimental tests, a lot of experience and understanding of components and systems behaviours and limits is rapidly gained, enabling to design high-performance electrified systems such as the powertrain and batteries.
The border between being an engineer and becoming an inventor must be at times quite thin. You have several patents registered to your name. Have you experienced a moment where you knew ‘I have invented something really exciting’?
When working as a researcher on performances and degradation (aging) understanding/modeling of Li-ion batteries, I’ve had the chance to gain expertise in fundamental knowledge of electrochemistry applied to electricity storage systems. While pursuing these investigations in depth, different ideas have emerged and were materialised through patents or industrial products to optimize the durability and safety of these components.
Did you ever invent something that made you think, ‘this will change the world’?
During my PhD thesis, I think that we brought a very small contribution to aging/degradation modeling of porous electrodes of Li-ion batteries, by proposing new set of simple equations, never published before, that gave good matches between experimental measurements and theoretical model predictions. This mathematical model could give insight into the microscopic mechanisms leading to the end-of-life/death of some Li-ion batteries technologies. All these findings were published in scientific journals and presented to the battery research community, in order to propose new theories that could be further explored by other research groups.
Venturi has developed electric sports cars, but it also pursues challenges to push technology to extremes like building world’s fastest electric car and sending a purpose built electric vehicle to Antarctica. Which direction is for you most interesting and why?
Venturi Automobiles is a company specialised in the design and manufacture of innovative electric cars. As a real visionnaire and pioneer, Venturi’s CEO, Gildo Pallanca Pastor, has paved the way for the industrial development of pure electric cars for more than ten years now, being a source of inspiration all around the world for many other companies with its high performance electric sportscars concepts.
With regards to research and development activities, all the Venturi projects are extremely important since all of them present different technical and complex engineering subjects to address and work on. From battery high performances required for high speed records (VBB programmes), to innovative battery management solutions to optimize for subzero environment (Antarctica project). Venturi teams identify the technological issues and work hard to find relevant solutions.
Venturi has worked on a high-speed hydrogen fuel cell vehicle before, but now focuses on battery technology. Is the future of cars and transport in general according to you about hydrogen or about improved battery technology?
Both solutions can present advantages and drawbacks in terms of power, energy, cost and operability. This is the reason why continuous engineering efforts have to be done to push deeply into the understanding of every technologies. At the moment, a lot of R&D efforts are being done all around the world to develop more efficient, durable and energy dense electrodes materials/chemistries to target long range of electrified passengers’ car, as the autonomy remains actually a source of consumer anxiety.
How long will it take before batteries for passenger cars will last for 700 kilometres on a single charge?
The development of new energy dense electrodes materials for pure battery propelled long range electric vehicle requires time, especially if all the commonly expected performances and costs factors are targeted from a consumer perspective. Technological steps are difficult to achieve, but, according to actual R&D news, we could expect new leap ahead within 10-15 years period for effective new techs at the market level. Other “hybrid” solutions can also be used to increase the range by combining small conventional combustion engines with battery-powered electric motors.
In what timeframe do you expect that we all drive electric cars on renewable energy? What is needed to make this happen?
Both technological, economic and political aspects enters in the equation when trying to answer this complex question. One thing that seems pretty obvious is the fact that we are progressing and that the things are going in a good direction.
What is more important: winning races or helping the world move forward with your innovations?
I think that everything is important and linked. Winning races will rely on our ability to deeply understand the powertrains behaviors and monitor it optimally. Improving our level of knowledge on electrified powertrains will help us design better solutions for the future for consumer needs.
Reading tip: Interview with Roger Schroer, record holder of piloting world’s fastest electric vehicle.
Reading tip 2: Venturi Automobiles develops electric vehicle for Antarctica.
Fan tip: win signed helmet visors from Venturi Formula E drivers Nick Heidfeld and Stephane Sarrazin.
Part of the interview has initially being used for profile article in CODE Magazine over the winter of 2014/15.
Photos by FIA Formula E Championship and Venturi Automobiles.