Automotive: From zero to hero, automakers go carbon neutral

The automotive industry is driving towards the net-zero direction with electric vehicles and low carbon emissions production facilities, says Angelica Buan in this report.

Transport sector a major contributor of emissions

Climate change has been directly and indirectly linked to the emergence of the coronavirus, and for experts, it is a moot point for now. However, one thing is clear: climate change is an epidemic that has no vaccine or an instant cure. It can take time to heal the environment from the toxicity created over generations of neglect. It requires conscious effort and action, especially from industries that contribute to the scale it is now.

The transport sector is purported to become the single largest greenhouse gas emitter

One of the largest contributors to greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, the transport sector will, by 2035, become the single largest GHG emitter that will account for 46% of global emissions, according to the Asian Development Bank (ADB). By 2050, ADB forecasts the sector to contribute 80% of emissions. Of the regions, Asia is estimated to accrue 31% of the total carbon emissions from transport by 2035.

Electric vehicles: boon or bane?

The sector, thus, is pushing for adoption of electric cars as a fix for reducing carbon emissions. Compared to regular cars, hybrid electric vehicles (HEVs), plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs), and all-electric vehicles (EVs) produce lower tailpipe emissions.

But are EVs any better for the environment? A study nixes cynics that say EVs could actually raise carbon emission levels, from production and electrification. In countries with inadequate clean energy grids, or those that rely on fossil fuels like coal to produce energy, adopting EVs might become pointless.

However, utilisation of renewable energy is anticipated to increase more in the coming years, and this bodes well for the EV segment. A study, carried out by the Universities of Exeter, Nijmegen and Cambridge, finds that EVs generally help reduce carbon emissions and therefore are better for the climate than petrol-run vehicles in 95% (or 53 regions) of the world.

It said that average lifetime emissions from EVs are 70% lower than petrol cars in countries such as France and Sweden that rely on renewables and nuclear for their electricity, and around 30% lower in the UK. Greater adoption for clean energy in the years to come would make even inefficient EVs more beneficial for the climate than new petrol cars. By 2050, every other car on the street could be electric. This would reduce global carbon emissions by up to 1.5 gigatonnes/year, the study adds.

EV growth inimitable

Mitsubishi and Nissan jointly produce new electric Kei-cars

The EV market is promising and it has shown a growing following even during the lockdowns where sales are made online. According to a McKinsey report, demand for EVs has remained stable during the pandemic, compared with demand for other vehicles. EV sales in China, Europe and the US have dropped but the market share for EVs has increased.

In 2019, EVs accounted for 2.5% of the global light-vehicle market and though in the pandemic the automotive market has suffered, by 2021, there might be a surprising turnaround for the industry with a projection of double-digit growth.

According to the Economist Intelligence Unit, car sales will rise by 15% by 2021. EV sales, meanwhile, will grow from 2.5 million to 3.4 million next year.

As the China EV market is anticipated to contract, the European EV market might expand from 2021 and beyond, favoured by strict fleetwide emission regulation: as by 2021, the carbon emission target is 95 g of CO2/km.

The year for Asian EVs

In Japan, electric and hybrid vehicles are heavily promoted, especially since it has a 2050 target to becoming carbon neutral. Midway that ambition, it is banning sales of new combustion engine cars by mid-2030. The government is reportedly doubling the subsidy for purchasing EVs from ¥400,000 to ¥800,000 per vehicle. For plug-in hybrid and fuel-cell vehicles, subsidies remained at ¥200,000 and ¥2.25 million, respectively.

The EV market is ripe with investments to develop and launch new models. Japanese car maker Mitsubishi Motors (MMC) has a large scale investment of ¥8 billion in the works at its Mizushima plant in Okayama Prefecture to produce jointly with Nissan Motors new electric Kei-cars this year. This is in line with its aims for 40% reduction in CO2 emissions from its new cars and raising the proportion of EVs in its total sales to 50% by 2030.

Hyundai’s E-GMP’s compact new PE system

Over in South Korea, the government’s “Green New Deal” details its ambition to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050. Aside from investing on smart grids and renewable energy, the deal also eyes increasing adoption rates for EVs by 2025 to 1.13 million EVs and 200,000 hydrogen-powered fuel-cell EVs.

In the same token, Hyundai Motor Group has unveiled its new Electric-Global Modular Platform (E-GMP), a dedicated battery electric vehicle (BEV) platform that will serve as the core technology for Hyundai’s next-generation BEV line-up.

The E-GMP’s compact new power electric (PE) system consists of a powerful motor, EV transmission and inverter, which reportedly raises the motor’s maximum speed by up to 70% compared to existing motors.

All vehicles developed with the E-GMP platform use a standardised single type of battery module, which is composed of pouchtype standard cells and can be packed in different quantities as required for each vehicle. Unlike previous BEVs, which only accept one-way charging, the E-GMP’s charging system is more flexible.

The E-GMP will underpin the Seoul-sited company’s plans to roll out a total of 23 BEV models including 11 dedicated BEV models, and sell more than 1 million BEVs worldwide by 2025.

Germany’s car makers targeting zero emissions

The VW ID.4 is the first purely electric SUV

Automotive makers are taking responsibility to curb the carbon footprints by rolling out initiatives and technologies to meet the carbon emission targets.

Germany’s Volkswagen (VW) has launched new drive technologies and production methods to keep at its carbon neutral commitment to 2050. These include cutting down CO2 emissions produced per vehicle by 45% by 2025, and utilising renewably-sourced electricity at its Zwickau EV plant and using a CO2- neutral gas, eventually, for its combined heat power (CHP) plant.

As the company sets its sight to carbon neutrality, the Wolfsburg-headquartered car maker is investing EUR33 billion to achieve the goal of electrifying its product portfolio in all segments by the end of 2024. By 2029, the group said it is launching up to 75 pure e-models and to sell 26 million e-cars. Around 20 million of VW’s EVs planned by 2029 will be based on the modular electric drive matrix (MEB) platform.

The compact ID.3 is the first electric car based on the MEB, to be followed by its first purely electric SUV, the ID.4. Additionally, VW will convert a total of eight plants for the production of MEB vehicles by 2022.

Meanwhile, the company’s Chinese components factory in Tianjin will be producing the APP 310 drive on the MEB. This component will be used in the ID.4 variants produced by the joint venture FAW (ID.4 CROZZ) and SAIC (ID.4 X).

The main factory for electric drives at VW Group in Kassel produces the APP 310 motor for current and future MEB models in Europe and North America.

The Kassel and Tianjin components plants are jointly working on the industrialisation process for the new product. At present, the technical capacity installed at both sites corresponds to up to 880,000 electric drives/year. Production is to be expanded by up to 1.4 million electric drives as early as 2023, making VW Group Components one of the largest producers of electric drives in the world.

Stuttgart-based premium car and commercial vehicles manufacturer Daimler is also treading along the carbon-neutral path. From 2022, all its European Mercedes-Benz cars and vans plants will be CO2-neutral. By the same period, the European plants of Daimler trucks & buses are also to have carbonneutral power supplies. As an example, Daimler’s factory 56, a new plant on the Mercedes-Benz site in Sindelfingen, is supplied with CO2-neutral energy. A photovoltaic system is installed on the roof, which feeds 5,000 MWh/year of self-generated, green energy to the plant.

Another Stuttgart-domiciled automotive maker Porsche has early this year launched two new cogeneration plants in operation in Stuttgart to enable a CO2-neutral production of the Taycan fully-electric sports car, launched in 2019. The heat and power plants, each having output of around 2 MW, run exclusively on biogas and residual products produced from organic waste, it said. In addition, Porsche will be using bioenergy from the city’s organic waste plant as soon as the City of Stuttgart commissions the plant in 2021.



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