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Energy innovations driving big changes in automotive design

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Energy innovations, technological advances, societal tastes, environmental concerns, and changing emission regulations are prompting the automotive industry to change the way vehicles are designed and built.

Against the backdrop, automakers are gearing up to improve fuel efficiency, control car emissions, offer greater safety benefits, higher customer differentiation, and minimize costs and supply chain risk, says GlobalData, a leading data and analytics company.

Kiran Raj, Practice Head of Disruptive Tech at GlobalData, said: “A growing wave of technology-driven megatrends around ‘connected cars, autonomous driving, shared mobility, and electric vehicles’ (CASE) framework is already creating a shift towards the car of tomorrow. The next three to five years will see a diverse range of innovative headwinds shifting the dimensions of mobility toward new horizons.”

Shagun Sachdeva, Project Manager of Disruptive Tech at GlobalData, added: “The shift in the auto industry is just the tip of the iceberg in terms of technological disruptions in 2023 and beyond. AI, IoT, cybersecurity, big data and robotics, among other technologies, will not only change the future of mobility, but also enable automakers to become more resilient, reliable, scalable, and innovative.”

GlobalData’s FutureTech Series report, “Computer on Wheels – Key Disruptive Forces in Automotive,” highlights over 50 disruptive forces driving tech transformation in the automotive industry as emerging, accelerating, and maturing innovation areas based on their rate of growth in innovation.

Vehicle-to-grid (V2G) networks offer bi-directional charging and enable the transfer of electricity back to the grid. V2G technology is sustainable as it allows batteries to get charged during renewable energy production phases which makes it possible to consume mainly green energy. In December 2022, Toyota Motor North America and Oncor Electric Delivery collaborated to research and demonstrate the benefits of V2G technology.

Gesture sensing AR/VR interfaces provide a hands-free way to interact with the vehicle systems, help drivers with situational awareness by warning them of road hazards and displaying other similar alerts, allowing them to react quickly and avoid accidents. They offer enhanced driving experience, blind-spot visibility, and convenience as well as safety. In May 2022, Volkswagen and Microsoft announced a partnership to create a new moving platform feature for the HoloLens 2, designed to let the augmented reality headset work in places such as moving vehicles.

Plasma-jet ignition replaces traditional spark plugs and allows for a much wider range of fuel mixtures and operating conditions for automakers such as burning extremely lean mixtures at lower temperatures to produce less NOx. In June 2022, Transient Plasma Systems (TPS) demonstrated an ignition module that uses nanosecond pulses of plasma to ignite the air-fuel mixture within the engine’s cylinders.

Graphene batteries are more economical, scalable, sustainable, and allow faster charging as they offer higher electrical conductivity than lithium-ion batteries. In December 2022, NASA announced that it is testing a new graphene battery with an improved power density that can be used in aviation and EVs.

Sachdeva concluded: “While automakers remain focused on addressing the critical challenges right from pandemic-driven shortages, supply chain bottlenecks to rising commodity prices and uncertain consumer demand, the automotive industry is witnessing a rebound.

“However, in the face of global geopolitical instability, record-high inflation, rising commodity costs, massive lay-offs, the looming fear of potential recession, automakers will need to reassess their strategy to address shortages such as semiconductors, retool their offerings and realign their business models to remain stable in the rapidly evolving mobility ecosystem.”

Case Study: Sustainable Energy Management for Automotive Manufacturers

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By ENGIE Impact

With global, energy intensive portfolios of showrooms, manufacturing plants and electric vehicle charging points, controlling energy usage and spend is a top priority for automotive companies. A decentralised approach to energy management has its benefits, but creates challenges for gathering complete datasets for internal reporting, with added concern that invoices from energy suppliers are often insufficiently monitored and incorrectly charged.

One Fortune 100 automotive company was looking for an experienced sustainability consultant with global reach matched with local expertise, in-depth experience in data acquisition, expense management and green energy procurement, as well as a robust and multi-lingual energy and sustainability platform – and selected ENGIE Impact as their partner.

ENGIE Impact’s international footprint and holistic service offering meant that the automotive company only needed to partner with one consultant for all their global energy and sustainability needs. To solve the company’s challenges, our teams carried out four main phases:
1. Data Acquisition
2. Invoice Validation
3. Supplier Consolidation
4. Green Energy Procurement.

Throughout this mission, our energy and sustainability platform provided the company with immediate visibility into their cost and consumption at the portfolio, regional and site level. Our teams managed an annual energy consumption of 2.3 TWh across more than 2,500 sites globally, processing 33,000 invoices per year received in 23 languages, of which 39% required investigation with the company’s energy suppliers. Over a 12-month period, we procured 235 GWh of renewable energy for the company in Europe. Our client is now better positioned to make data-driven decisions towards their financial and environmental objectives.

Learn more about this partnership at:

CENTRICA: UK firms to invest £15.8bn in EVs this year

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Research conducted by Centrica Business Solutions has revealed that UK firms spent £10.5bn on electric vehicles (EVs) and on-site charging points during the year to March 2021, and are now planning £15.8bn of investment in the same area over the next 12 months – a 50% increase year-on-year.

Two fifths (40%) of those questioned said they had increased the total number of EVs within their fleet between April 2020 and March 2021.

Of these businesses, six in ten (58%) cited the need to meet corporate sustainability targets as the biggest driving factor behind their increased adoption of EV, followed by reducing operational disruption caused by low and zero-emission zones (51%) and the attraction of the lower maintenance and whole-life costs offered by EVs (37%).

Four in ten (43%) businesses hadn’t increased EV numbers at all and 10% decreased their EV fleet size. Range anxiety was reported as the chief concern for a third (34%) of these firms, followed by the need to prioritise business investment elsewhere during the height of the coronavirus crisis (32%).

Despite this, two-thirds (67%) of all companies polled claimed they are well-prepared to operate a fully electric fleet by 2030, when the Government’s ban on the sale of petrol and diesel vehicles comes into effect.

46% of businesses polled plan to install charging points on their premises to facilitate the uptake of EVs across the next twelve months, although more than a third (37%) have already installed this infrastructure. The research also revealed that three in ten (30%) firms have already invested in on-site technology capable of generating the energy to charge their fleet of EVs, such as solar panels, while almost half (48%) plan to do this in the future. 

Greg McKenna, managing director of Centrica Business Solutions, said: “Despite the disruption of the past year, it’s encouraging to see investment in EVs remain a key priority for many businesses. The fact that firms are planning to increase their spending so dramatically over the next 12 months is proof that more businesses are recognising the advantages of adopting low-emission vehicles, especially as they recover from coronavirus and seek to create sustainable growth.

“Now that 2030 is set in stone as the end of new petrol & diesel sales we need to ensure three things to help get us there, sufficient electric vehicles to meet demand, reliable charging infrastructure that’s available to all and a flexible energy system that can deliver green power where it’s needed.”

Rachel Maclean, Transport Minister, said: “As we accelerate towards our net-zero future, I’m delighted to see UK firms at the forefront of the electric vehicle revolution.

“With British businesses set to increase their investment in electric vehicles by 50%, the message is clear – the future is electric. With generous government grants and tax incentives which could save drivers over £2,000 a year, there has never been a better or more exciting time to make the switch.”

Blue chip firms push for end to petrol & diesel car sales in EU

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EU lawmakers should set an end date for selling new combustion engine cars in Europe no later than 2035, 27 companies have said in a joint appeal, including include IKEA Retail, Sky, Uber, Vattenfall and Volvo Cars.

The open call will continue to gather support for a phase-out ahead of the review of EU car and van CO2 standards in June.

They say a fixed date will send a clear investment signal for car manufacturers, supply chains and infrastructure providers and will enable all businesses to decarbonise their vehicle fleets.

Cars and vans are responsible for 15% of all Europe’s CO2 emissions and are the single largest source (26%) of toxic nitrogen oxide emissions, which cause chronic diseases and the premature deaths of 54,000 Europeans every year. Oil costs the European economy over €200 billion a year in imports. A recent poll shows almost two-thirds of urban residents support banning the sale of new petrol and diesel cars in Europe after 2030.

Anders Kärrberg, head of global sustainability at Volvo Cars, said: “By planning to become a fully electric car company by 2030, Volvo Cars intends to set the pace in the transition to zero emission mobility within our industry. But clear governmental direction and support is also needed to accelerate this transition. In this respect, Volvo Cars is pleased to join this call for the European Commission to propose an end date on new sales of internal combustion engine vehicles within the EU by 2035. Additional measures are also needed to increase EU consumer demand for electrified vehicles, including the rapid development of a comprehensive charging infrastructure.”

Setting a CO2 target for vehicle manufacturers at 0 gram of CO2/km by 2035 would enshrine the phase-out of petrol and diesel cars – including hybrids – in law, the companies say. The Commission will propose new targets in June as part of its “Fit for 55” package of legislation, which is intended to put the EU on track to cut overall emissions by at least 55% by 2030 and reach net zero emissions by 2050.[2]

Anabel Diaz, regional general manager for Europe, Middle East and Africa – Uber, said: “Ambitious EU targets are critical for accelerating EV adoption. A phase-out by 2035 for all new vehicles sold in Europe will accelerate availability of affordable new and second-hand EVs, breaking down one of the key obstacles for high-km drivers – like those on the Uber platform – to make the EV switch which will have an outsized impact on climate. The EU phase-out target and cooperation of the entire EV ecosystem will allow for a faster transition towards more sustainable mobility which Uber supported through its own targets of becoming 50% electric by 2025 across seven cities and 100% by 2030 across Europe.”

Lawmakers should also use European, national and local measures – particularly the EU Alternative Fuels Infrastructure law – to ramp up deployment of electric vehicle charging points across the bloc, the companies say. They would also welcome support for vehicle makers and their supply chains to invest in new skills training for workers and regional transformation plans to help ensure no one is left behind in the transition to emissions-free transport. Changes to taxation are also needed to help ordinary consumers as well as corporate and urban mobility fleets switch to electric vehicles.

Julia Poliscanova, senior director for vehicles and emobility at Transport & Environment, said: “Electrification of cars and vans is inevitable for the climate, consumers and for Europe’s industrial strategy. Businesses now want clarity on the speed of the transition to plan and prepare. Only EU lawmakers can provide it by naming the date for the end of combustion engine cars and vans sales.”