Driving an electric vehicle has literally changed how I look at the world. That’s quite a surprise to me. At Oxford Instruments Plasma Technology, we are looking for new ways that we can reduce our impact on the environment, as we help our customers to do the pioneering work to develop and produce the key devices that make this possible. To this end, we are increasingly choosing electric and hybrid vehicles in place of the traditionally fuel efficient diesel choices.
Over the past three months, I have been driving a plugin hybrid vehicle, with a range of about 25 miles on electric, which happens to be just the perfect amount for my daily commute. At our main location in Yatton, near Bristol, UK, with some support from the North Somerset Council, we invested in charging points for electric vehicles, so I can charge the car during the day for my drive home. Now when I plan a journey, I’m not just looking for the fastest way to reach my destination, I’m also looking at where I can charge the car when I reach there. Of course, there is an app to help with that, which has all the charging points in the UK mapped out, along with information about their availability.
Driving a hybrid electric vehicle also brings some new experiences, which change the driving experience in a pleasant way. The silent drive – just a little road noise – makes for a enjoyable drive, with the pleasure of knowing that no emissions are coming from the vehicle. Knowing that my drive is causing no harm to the air quality for people, especially in the towns and villages around Yatton, is a quite a motivating aspect of driving a hybrid vehicle.
Across the Oxford Instruments Group, we are very active in seeking ways on minimising our environment impact, with numerous energy saving ideas being introduced, including LED lighting throughout our facilities, and variable speed drives to our air conditioning systems. At our Tubney Woods HQ, we recently introduced new ways of working that are reducing our single-use plastic – by recycling utensils, cups and packaging.
At Plasma Technology, we are working closely with our customers to enable the development of the fundamental devices that will enable breakthrough reductions in the energy consumption of electric/hybrid vehicles. To give one example, gallium nitride (GaN) is increasingly being used in power devices for electric/hybrid vehicles, specifically for the creation of high electron-mobility transistors (HEMT) devices for high-efficiency power conversion. The high electron mobility of GaN has been combined with the excellent thermal conductivity of silicon carbide (SiC) to produce HEMT devices. Working closely with our commercial customers, and building on significant innovation in processing of compound semiconductor materials for production, Plasma Technology has developed robust, scalable processes for etching these materials very precisely, in order to enable the commercialisation of these devices.