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Auto industry in 2030. What to expect with new auto industry regulation, government policies, self-driving vehicles and impact of AI / Artificial Intelligence on vehicle design, manufacture and driving.

There are many key trends which will impact automotive manufacturers, wholesalers, retailers, customers and drivers over the next decade.  Here are a few which relate specifically to energy use, development of e-vehicles and more efficient trucks / lorries, plus new public transport / buses.

* "How AI Will Change Your Life - A Futurist's Guide to a Super-Smart World" - Patrick Dixon's latest book on AI is published in September 2024 by Profile Books.  It contains 38 chapters on the impact of AI across different industries, government and our wider world, including the future impact of AI on the auto industry.


Need a world-class auto industry keynote speaker? Phone Patrick Dixon now or email.

Revolution on the roads

Expect to see many rapid improvements in vehicle fuel efficiency using petrol and diesel, and many new ultra-efficient hybrid vehicles. Even if we only saw 30% energy saving in 30% of vehicle miles driven in developed nations over the next decade, we would save at least 9% in motoring energy use (at today’s rate of miles driven a year).  That would be the same as cutting today’s global emissions by more than 1%.

Greening of the world car fleet is happening very rapidly. A third of emission cuts by 2025 could come from improving petrol and diesel engines, and 14% from miles driven in electric vehicles. 

If all vehicles in America were hybrids, and half were plug-in hybrids (larger batteries), US imports of oil would fall by 8 million barrels a day or by 80% of daily consumption.

Electric Cars

Electric vehicles are one of the most important ways to reduce motoring costs, reduce carbon use in transport, improve air quality and reduce global warming.  Expect battery-powered vehicles to be 10% of the market by 2020.  Models like Nissan’s Leaf and Chevrolet’s Volt have led the way. 

Much of government economic stimulus packages for the auto industry have been linked to green tech, of which a huge proportion is things like battery technology.

16 million new cars a year are sold in EU alone (2.4m in UK).  If we assume that up to 25% of the smallest car market could be electric cars within 10 years, that would mean over 1 million sold each year, at an average cost of EU11,000.  Electric car sales would then be worth at least EU11bn a year in the EU.

Electric cars more efficient

Electric cars can produce much lower emissions than burning fuel in mobile engines, but it all depends on how the electricity is generated.  Burning  petrol or diesel in a small, mobile engine can be inefficient compared to the most efficient coal-fired power generators. When petrol is used to power a vehicle, only 15-20% of the energy is usually captured to drive the car forward, compared to 40% in making electricity in an efficient coal power station.

It is true that a small amount of power is lost between power station and battery, and 20% of electricity put into the car is lost in heat (batteries and other components).  But even when we include these things, we can see that “coal-powered” electric cars are likely to be better users of fossil fuels than diesel or petrol vehicles.

Where wind, solar, waves, tide or nuclear power is used to charge batteries, electric cars have zero emissions.  Either way, air quality improves dramatically in cities as the use of electric vehicles increases.   Owners can also save a huge amount of vehicle tax on petrol or diesel since taxation is far lower on electricity.  It typically costs only 1-2 cents a mile in electricity.

One thing is certain:  if half a million people are driving electric cars across a nation, oil consumption will fall dramatically, while coal or gas power consumption will rise in the short term. 

Batteries are going to be one of the biggest green tech businesses – powering not only phones and other small devices, but also cars, trucks, buses and just about any large piece of equipment that does not have a permanent electricity connection.  Expect sales of hundreds of billions of dollars.  President Obama’s economic stimulus provided $2.4 billion to fund battery innovation and electric car drive projects.

Car batteries will have another purpose:  linked together when charging at people’s homes, to create Virtual Storage by power companies, to assist their power management at off peak times.  This will make it easier for them to plug in huge numbers of wind and solar generators.  Smart grids will allow power to flow in both directions, so that each battery can become a power source to other people in the neighbourhood for short periods of time.  If 200,000 electric cars were plugged into the German national grid, it could make 8 megawatts of power available almost instantly, giving more flexibility than the nation currently needs.

Expect many governments to give huge incentives to people who want to buy electric cars.  Israel and Denmark are leading the way.

Hydrogen and Fuel Cells – answer to battery problems?

Many people talk about the so-called hydrogen economy or water-powered cars.  However, making hydrogen requires electricity to split water into hydrogen and oxygen, and in an area where most power comes from coal, these hydrogen cars are running on coal power.

Hydrogen is also difficult to store and transport.  It is a very “thin” gas which seeps through microscopic cracks, so gas can be lost when piped under pressure over long distances.  Total energy per cubic litre (liquid hydrogen) is less than carbon-based liquid fuels, so tanks also have to be larger. Filling a normal sized fuel tank of 75 litres (20 US gallons) with hydrogen at room temperature and pressure will only take a car 1 kilometre.

Hydrogen could be used in fuel cells, which make electricity at the same time as making water from hydrogen and oxygen.  Less heat is lost than burning hydrogen, but they cost thousands of dollars per kilowatt hour to build.  

For all these reasons, it seems unlikely that tomorrow’s global auto industry is going to switch to hydrogen anytime soon.  Meanwhile, fuel cell development is being rapidly overtaken by huge gains in battery power and efficiency.

Need a world-class auto industry keynote speaker? Phone Patrick Dixon now or email.

Better trucks for freight delivery

Electric cars are only part of the answer to more energy efficient driving.  70% of all EU freight is moved by road, and trucks use 12% of all oil consumed in the US, but the energy efficiency of most trucks is as low as it was 40 years ago.  We will see a giant leap in efficiency of new trucks – at least 40% in the next decade.

Colani has already built a prototype that uses 41% less fuel than usual, while  Mercedes-Benz claimed a world record for their Actros truck, cutting fuel use by 50%, partly by using “superwide” tyres to replace each pair, together with aerodynamic reshaping. Up to 40% of truck energy is wasted by pairs of tyres as they roll along the road at speed.  Single very wide tyres reduce rolling resistance by 4%.

Here are some of the many approaches being taken by truck manufacturers and green tech start-ups and some possible savings: (Figures are of overall truck efficiency unless otherwise stated. You cannot add all savings together, as some reduce impact of others.)

·      Low energy tyres - save 11% of the rolling resistance to reduce fuel use by 4.3%

·      Better streamlining (skirts, fairings and filling gap from trailer to cab) – save 12% (Long haul trucks use up 35% of their energy in wind resistance.)

·      Air jets at back of container / truck – save 5% (another way to reduce wind resistance) – save 5 fuel

·      Longer length by 1.5 metres – save 5% of energy per cubic metre of load

·      Better diesel engine design or lubricants – save 15%

·      Hybrid electric-diesel engine – save 30%

Hybrid trucks could each save more energy than nine hybrid cars

·      Use waste heat to boost power or drive air conditioning etc  - save 5% or more

·      Better  gearbox / transmission – save 1%

·      Shock absorbers which generate power (Genshock) – save 3-5% - generating up to 1 kilowatt of continuous power

·      Slow down:  65mph down to 55mph – save 20%

·      Driver training – 5-10% depending on the driver

We can expect very rapid innovation in this field.  For example, the US Department of Energy has launched a $45.5 million program to get 378 mid-sized hybrid trucks on the road by 2011, with Eaton power systems on a Ford chassis.  Bright Automotive aims to replace 50,000 trucks with plug-in hybrids by 2014.  Each will save 16 tons of CO2 a year.

Clean Power Technologies uses waste heat from truck engines to generate steam.  This is stored and used when needed to help drive the engine or to power other equipment such as refrigeration units.  The company claims 40% energy savings and is starting tests with two Canadian freight companies.

Other manufacturers are experimenting with truck engines as electric turbines to power motors, similar to many diesel trains.  E-traction has developed electric motors for truck wheels which replace heavy engines and gearboxes.  The electricity comes from a diesel generator. The trucks run 40% further than usual for every litre of diesel.  10 trucks will be delivered in 2010 and 36 ton versions will be on sale in 2012.

One problem with redesigning trailers is that they often belong to a different from the cab owner, and have no incentive to make their loads more efficient.  One way to solve the problem is regulation, requiring all trailers to meet new efficiency ratings.

Wind resistance is similar for long and short trucks, so longer trucks use less fuel per metre.  Combination vehicles with four trailers are allowed in Australia but in many US states even a second trailer is forbidden – safety fears.  Japanese researchers are working on ways to create caravans of trucks, with only a metre gap, using multiple sensors, saving up to 20% of fuel at a cost of EU1,800 per truck.

Another reason to allow longer trucks is to make it easier to move containers from ships, trucks and railways. Ships and trains can use 45 foot and 48 foot containers but EU rules limit trucks to 40 foot (12.1 metres).   Ships and trains charge almost the same for small or large, so small containers waste money.  They are also hard to pack with EU standard-size pallets.   A foot and a half of extra length would save energy, time and cost – and reduce the number of lorry journeys – but could be a social nuisance unless weights were restricted to what they were (remember many trucks carry mainly air and packaging).

Buses and coaches – instant extra transport capacity

One of the fastest and cheapest ways for government to expand public transport in urban areas is to increase the number of buses and routes, as well as providing high speed bus lanes through congested streets.

New bus routes can be set up almost overnight, and the buses themselves can be bought and run at a fraction of the cost of building a new metro system.  If well-used, the carbon per mile per passenger can be lower than any other form of transport.  But it all depends on occupancy. According to the US Department of Energy, a bus with average occupancy (9 people) is more polluting than a car with average occupancy (1.57 people).

Many cities are developing bus networks that operate like a metro on rails.  Concrete dividers keep the buses and other traffic apart, riders pay before travel and wait in enclosed stations with raised platforms so passengers at the right level.  For example, Columbia’s Rapid Transit lines handle 1.6 million trips a day, and has removed 7,000 private buses, reducing bus fuel and pollution by 59%.

Above article is adapted from Patrick Dixon’s book SustainAgility – BUY NOW.

See also:

Future of Manufacturing - article

The Future of Car Recycling and Vehicle Disposal Slides of conference keynote at 10th anniversary client event for ARN on this rapidly growing industry. Impact of new European regulations on disposal of 9 million vehicles a year. How the Netherlands will continue to lead the way with advanced shredder technology, with competition from Central Europe as well as China - already taking 50% of all UK recycled plastic bottles.Future of Automobile Recycling.

Book Patrick Dixon as a keynote conference speaker on the future of the automotive industry.

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Thanks for promoting with Facebook LIKE or Tweet. Really interested to read your views. Post below.

Jacquelyn L Smith
November 30, 2017 - 05:40

Great blog post! Automotive industry is always looking for new minds and innovative thoughts to keep this industry trending. Business always grow from the people who think about to do some different from others. you have also done great job to expend this field. Please keep up your great work.

Sarandhorn Kittiwaranand
January 25, 2015 - 14:23

Fully knowledge for our country

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