Tommy Whewell

PhD student

Research Overview

One of the most profound changes to society over the next 20 years will be the replacement of conventional fossil-fuelled vehicles with electric vehicles (EVs) for public and personal transport. The key enabling technology for EVs is the rechargeable battery which is one of the great success stories of materials science, and continues to be intensively developed and optimised for future EV applications. However, many assumptions framing current battery materials research for EVs are based around the notion that present travel demand will be undisrupted, with new technologies providing the same services as their fossil-fuelled predecessors, but in less carbon intensive ways.

In this PhD project, we aim to bridge the gap between materials and social sciences to answer these questions and simultaneously develop a new approach towards materials development. We will focus on the EV and the battery that underpins it as a highly pertinent example of an emerging technology within a rapidly changing landscape of social practices and with evolving material constitutions and properties.

We aim to address the inherent disconnect between the actions of materials scientists, who are often driven by short term targets within the context of current social practices (e.g., to increase battery capacity for larger EV range), and the approaches of social scientists who can identify alternative socio-technical arrangements and emergent social trends and propose alternative, evidence –based starting assumptions for materials science.

  • MSF PhDs Cohort 2 (2019/20)