“Sustainability in the Motor Industry vs. The Environmental Impact – Part 3”
Journalistically speaking, while some industries would sell their grannies for column inches, others have been either more frugal, or never perceived the need for publicity. Iain Robertson reflects on the way things will be in the final of a three-part series on the motoring business and the Sino-centricity that will control it.
The extended dawn of the Electric Vehicle, which it needs to be remembered is as long as the history of the motorcar will continue to be influenced heavily by the Peoples Republic of China. Almost every car manufacturer in the rest of the world was encouraged originally to work with the PRC by receiving the State’s support, which included entirely new towns being established around joint-venture factories. Among the early western pioneers (in the late-1970s) were Volkswagen and Citroen. Employment conditions were acceptable. Staff were dedicated. The political environment was most amicable. China’s own car industry was on a rapid upward spiral.
BMW working on H2 fuel cell tech
By 2012, China was starting to send its latest models to the UK, where the European NCap crash test and safety programmes are carried out. No single model passed. China was on a steep learning curve. Although the State now has more car brands than the rest of the industry and has been accused of design plagiarism by several westerners, its self-education has been phenomenal and NCap passes and 5-Star ratings are now de rigueur. However the exceptionally cash-rich country has also been on a major acquisition trail, buying out and, in some cases, rescuing western brands to claim as their own.
Among the inevitable demerits associated with EVs, sky-high initial cost, long waiting lists, devastating fire risk, insufficient fully charged range, plummeting residual values and a not entirely sustainable eco back story are offset by fashionable demand and both economic and political pressures. Even the most reasoned of potential acquirers, aware of the stated need for alternatives to fossil fuels, is being forced into an highly emotive decision-making process for future mobility needs. While water and air propulsion retain unresolved problems, manufactured hydrogen not obtained from cracking oil is receiving heavy investment, along with fuel cell technology. However, although it will be illegal to sell new petrol/diesel cars post-2030, there exists a race to develop new chemical and zero emission fuels so that the Internal Combustion Engine will have an extended existence, which is probably the most exciting prospect.
Jeep Wrangler in Mountain Range
As so much battery and electric platform sharing is already occurring around the industry, it is understandable that the retail franchise scene is going to change significantly. Multiple brand outlets will become commonplace, while shared maintenance facilities will reduce overheads considerably. Foreseen issues with a lack of recharging infrastructure will soon diminish, with increased numbers of domestic chargers, while public charger reliability will be improved dramatically. Recharging ‘on the move’ will also increase with charging pads being inserted beneath road surfaces nationwide, helping to obviate the range anxieties that exist presently.
While some carmakers have been introducing highly avant-garde new EVs, by which to create visual separation with conventional models, the major brands are doing the utmost to keep their designs and nomenclature as evolutionary as possible. As a result, a new Audi, BMW, or Mercedes-Benz will remain recognisable for the foreseeable future and the mainstream brands like Ford, Vauxhall, Kia, Volkswagen, Nissan and Renault will follow suit. What exists beneath the car’s body will alter significantly, as technology advances and one of the next major introductions will be lighter weight and solid state battery packs that will also broaden the performance statistics across the board. Sustainability will be reflected in new fabric developments and levels of recyclability that will hit new peaks but avoid consuming natural ressources.
Comms are central to EV success
If there is one key change, about which the future is not entirely certain, it is in the field of autonomous and self-drive motoring. Although development continues apace, with live ‘driverless’ test vehicles carrying out carefully staged open road trials, a high degree of consumer antipathy exists, which may lead to an acceptance on closed road loops but negligible uptake in retail terms. Although the potential exists for EV list prices to reduce, it is unlikely that they will but rental and subscription trade models may become more accommodating as we course towards the middle of the Century, thereby lessening the role of outright ownership.
The final issue surrounds mis-selling. Early investors in EVs that are already being hurt by falling trade-in values, which may have been skirted around conveniently, are likely to seek court action to recover their losses. In a litigious society, it is inevitable that a PPI-style plan will be resurrected, along with copious online claims scams, of which to become highly aware. Other than that, future mobility does hold a lot of viable promise and potential excitement, if not as visceral as that with which we have been familiar.
Car in Front of Eifel Tower
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