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The weather in Traverse City, Mich., USA, long-time location of the CAR Management Briefing Seminar, was sunny and bright, as was the mood at the conference site.  George Coates, WorldAutoSteel Technical Director, attended and brought back some interesting insights from this key industry event.  We thought we’d share them with you:

George Coates, Technical Director at WorldAutoSteel

My focus was on learning current state of play with regards to future mobility, powertrain revolutions and future regulations, and most of this content appeared on Monday and Tuesday.  In general, I observed that this meeting had fewer industry leaders (no OEM CEO as a keynote speaker, for example), and few regulators since policies are undecided in several key regions of the globe.  What I did observe was a clear ambition to reduce traffic fatalities and traffic congestion, and these are the drivers leading future mobility efforts among OEM’s, MSPs (Mobility Service Providers, including start-ups) and large suppliers such as Magna, Continental, Honeywell and Delphi:

  • Vehicle suppliers are working on technologies that reduce driver distractions and keep their eyes on the road; these technologies allow for operator inputs via hand gestures, eye validation, voice recognition, etc.
  • Autonomous vehicles are an enabler, in order to achieve significant levels of CO2 reduction across all dimensions and improved safety.  Systems and technologies are here and will be deployed, first in car sharing/hailing fleets, next in luxury cars for superhighway performance, and finally in the median.  With regulators still contemplating how (and when), significant levels of AV’s are not expected before 2030.
  • Electrification is an enabling technology with synergies for AV’s, and so AV’s will generally be Battery Electric Vehicles (BEV) or Plug-In Hybrids (PHEV).  The first keynote speaker said the ICE (Internal Combustion Engine) Age is dead, and we’re now entering the Automobility era. But the ICE will remain the dominant powertrain up to 2040, despite governments who threaten a ban or limitations on ICE sales with policies designed to increase the electrification movement.  And it’s not just about emissions reduction – it’s about improving air quality in congested areas, specifically noting the urbanization trend will create even more challenging air quality conditions in the future.
  • CASE or ACES (different acronyms, same subject) call for connected, autonomous, electric and shared mobility – and the Shared Economy is really the huge shift that drives all of this.
  • Shared mobility services need to provide a clean, comfortable and healthy (sanitized) environment for consumers to adopt sharing.  Mood-shifting technologies are being explored, and most expect mobility service providers to incorporate other interior functions such as health monitoring and seat massaging as part of product differentiation.  Curb planning and ride logistics will become a major issue for Smart City planning.
  • Mobility Service Providers must be flexible – offering products that are scalable, modular and affordable.  Referencing the aircraft industry, where airframes have a life of 30+ years, the base architecture needs new levels of durability and life, with perhaps user modules that are more frequently updated (like a cell phone).
  • A range of predictions suggest up to 85% of global powertrains will remain ICE dominant as late as 2040; other forecasts suggest volumes of 70-85% ICE’s thru 2030.  And electrification means all deployed electric means assist, PHEV and full BEV. . .maybe even fuel cell.  And with this definition, some form of electrification should be anticipated on at least 30% of vehicles by 2025. Others believe this factor could be as high as 2/3 of all vehicles in the same timeframe, but there will be a long transition period to full electrification (BEV) – perhaps as long as 25 to 30 years.
  • Companies from Adient to VW have already shown seats with tracks that allow for repositioning for communication within a shared driver experience – and to preserve safety, the structures are altered a bit, and the seats will have the airbags embedded in them.

I also learned that the U.S. electric grid wasn’t going to be an issue in terms of the impact for a conversion to 100% electric vehicles that require recharging.  Mike Delaney from Consumers Energy noted improvements that will allow for this transition, combined with consumers being smart about when to charge. Most electric vehicles are presumed to sit idle in the garage from the time the occupant arrives home at the end of their day.  Charging at night will be less load on the system, vs. during the day when industries and others consume energy from the grid.

Till next year!