Automotive: Sustainable mobility powers up automotive sector

Is the goal of attaining sustainability mobility achievable? With the focus hinged on electric vehicles and battery electric vehicles, the race is on to find the least possible emission generators, against the backdrop of achieving sustainability.

The global automotive industry is undergoing a significant shift in response to the challenges it has faced in recent years. Presently, its growth trajectory is influenced by various factors, notably the heightened focus on reducing emissions. Achieving sustainability stands as a primary goal for numerous original equipment manufacturers (OEMs).

Is sustainability mobility a fairy tale?

Nevertheless, findings from the 2022 automotive interior survey conducted by Japanese technology company Asahi Kasei and the market research institute SKOPOS based in Cologne, Germany, indicated that the goal of achieving “sustainable mobility” is still distant, even in light of the transition to zero-emission vehicles.

Moreover, the survey findings highlight that defining a “sustainable vehicle” goes beyond just drivetrain technology; it now includes considerations like the CO2 footprint during production, the incorporation of easily recyclable materials, and the commitment of vehicle manufacturers and their suppliers towards decarbonisation. This emphasises the growing importance of sustainability and transparency across the value chain from the customer’s viewpoint.

At the same time, the automotive industry faces hurdles like inflation and continual disruptions in the supply chain. Additionally, crucial trends such as the rise of electric drivetrains, advancements in digital driver assistance systems, the increasing merging of vehicles and users into digital data networks, and the potential direction of autonomous driving, collectively represent a pivotal juncture in automotive history.

Despite internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles still leading in future purchase options among consumers, there is noticeable evidence of a growing preference for electrified powertrains.

EVs hoping for light at end of tunnel

Starting in 2024, electric vehicles (EVs) are anticipated to experience a surge in sales and production, driven by stringent policies aimed at tackling climate change. Automakers and governments are intensifying efforts to minimise emissions and congestion through the implementation of driving restrictions, particularly in urban settings.

Furthermore, there is a strong focus on enhancing charging infrastructures with faster capabilities and advancing battery technologies, according to the recent report from Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU)’s Automotive Outlook 2024.

Nevertheless, the report also highlights that government backing for EVs could potentially intensify trade tensions, even though policymakers persist in offering subsidies for purchases, supporting manufacturing and supply chains, and investing in infrastructure.

Meanwhile, audit firm Deloitte’s 2023 Global Automotive Consumer Study highlights affordability as the primary concern for US consumers in adopting EVs, while globally, the primary motivation for selecting an EV is to reduce vehicle operating expenses, surpassing climate concerns.

The transition to EVs varies in pace across global markets, each encountering distinct challenges in adoption, such as charging infrastructure costs and availability. The Asahi Kasei-SKOPOS study mentioned that charging capabilities play a crucial role in purchase decisions, with range and charging time being pivotal factors for potential EV buyers worldwide.

Automotive connectivity takes centrestage

Elsewhere, according to consultancy McKinsey’s 2023 Global Automotive Connectivity Executive Survey, automotive connectivity is poised for significant growth. Over half of the respondents -- comprising 56 auto executives from Asia-Pacific, Europe, and the US -- ranked connected cars (vehicles employing connectivity and digital features for an enhanced mobility experience) as one of the top two trends shaping the future of mobility, second only to electrification.

The study predicts that by 2030, 95% of new global vehicle sales will be connected, with 12% of these equipped with level three or level four autonomousdriving capabilities.

Are BEVs better for the environment?

Battery electric vehicles (BEVs) are the clear winner when trying to reduce emissions in the transportation sector, according to Rystad Energy research. Despite incurring higher emissions in the manufacturing process of EVs and an enduring reliance on fossil fuel power generation in many countries, the positive environmental impact of switching to a BEV over the vehicle’s lifetime is unmistakable.

Automotive: Sustainable mobility powers up automotive sector

The company says its analysis shows that batterypowered vehicles contribute at most half the carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e) of diesel or gasoline cars across their lifecycle, regardless of the country of operation. Even in countries where the power grid is dominated by fossil fuels, battery-powered cars emit about 50% of the CO2e of an ICE vehicle. As renewable sources replace coal and gas-fired generation, emissions related to the operation of BEVs could drop by 86%.

Rystad says its research of lifecycle BEV and ICE vehicle emissions considers every stage of the manufacturing process and the vehicle’s operation. This includes the manufacturing of the vehicle’s body, known as body in white (BIW), powertrain assembly, maintenance, fuel and electricity-related emissions and battery production for BEVs.

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