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Essex-Suffolk partnership aims to tackle battery car drivers' 'range anxiety'

PUBLISHED: 16:24 20 May 2019 | UPDATED: 16:24 20 May 2019

Justin Ott, chief executive of Newmarket-based Spark EV Technology, which is working with the University of Essex to overcome people's anxieties about electric vehicles  
Picture: SPARK

Justin Ott, chief executive of Newmarket-based Spark EV Technology, which is working with the University of Essex to overcome people's anxieties about electric vehicles Picture: SPARK

Spark EV Technology

A Suffolk firm has joined forces with the University of Essex to try to overcome people's fears about driving electric vehicles (EVs).

Spark Technology has joined forces with the University of Essex to help accelerate electric vehicle (EV) adoption  Picture: SPARK TECHNOLOGYSpark Technology has joined forces with the University of Essex to help accelerate electric vehicle (EV) adoption Picture: SPARK TECHNOLOGY

Range anxiety - where drivers worry about running of charge mid-journey - is one factor dogging attempts to drive up EV numbers. But Newmarket-based Spark EV Technology is working with academics at the university to try to overcome concerns, including lack confidence that in-car systems are accurate which prevent them from adopting the technology through a new Knowledge Transfer Partnership (KTP).

Spark uses Artificial Intelligence-based (AI) technology to make personalised journey predictions and its AI algorithms learn with every journey, continually improving the accuracy of personalised predictions.

The partnership, which is funded by Innovate UK, aims to further develop the technology with the help of leading experts from the university, increasing driver trust that they will be able to get to their destination without needing to recharge. A KTP associate will be based at Spark EV full-time and will work closely with Essex's academic team to manage the project.

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Robert Walker, head of business engagement at the university, said the project had "huge potential" to have a positive impact on the environment by encouraging mass adoption of EVs.

Dr Michael Fairbank, from the university's School of Computer Science and Electronic Engineering, who is academic supervisor on the KTP project, said they were "excited" by the opportunity to advance the product and help the UK increase its uptake of electric vehicles.

To use the technology, drivers enter their proposed journey into their Spark-equipped SatNav or smartphone app, and receive personalised advice on whether they can complete the trip, based on live data, driving style, types of routes, previous trips and charge point locations.

Justin Ott, chief executive at Spark EV, said the 18 month KTP project was "a perfect opportunity" for Spark to further develop its technology. "To develop this expertise Spark requires a collaborative venture with suitably qualified experts to add to its engineering team," he said. The partnership would help them to improve the product in an affordable way, he added.

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