From ‘just another development to moving differently’, mobility has been undergoing an extraordinary transformation towards building a new ecosystem altogether
Personalised, frictionless and on-demand automated travel is a dream of future mobility that is compelling incumbents as well as disruptors to introduce advanced technologies. Varied experimentations will be a critical factor in achieving the desired mobility objectives, which will result in a complex structure of interconnected value chain. Further, such experimentations will lead to a plethora of new entrants striving to capture a slice of the market pie as well as unprecedented levels of collaborations and partnerships to find newer cost-effective solutions.
While on one hand, the automotive industry is grappling with declining sales – with no signs of immediate recovery – new safety and environmental mandates are driving stakeholders to introduce advanced technologies that match global standards. Despite the cloud of uncertainty hovering over how exactly the new era of mobility will unfold, critical building blocks along with their respective potential are gradually becoming clear. Developments across connected, autonomous, shared and electric mobility, or CASE as we address it, along with hydrogen-powered mobility prospects are encouraging companies to seize newer opportunities as and when they arise in the personal mobility landscape.
Diesel engines have been around for our entire lives, and it is difficult to imagine anything else replacing them. However, electric vehicles (EVs) have been talk of the town for a long period now and are set for the long haul. Globally, a high sticker price, unorganised charging infrastructure as well as range anxiety continue to pose significant hurdles for rapid adoption of EVs. However, the volume-weighted average cost of lithium-ion batteries has plunged around 85 % in real terms since 2010. As the battery innovation continues to accelerate, lightweight lithium-ion batteries are fast expected to replace lead-acid batteries that are often double in volume and triple in weight.
EVs bring various benefits to the table such as meeting global carbon emission standards, cleaner air as well as a quiet operating environment. However, the adoption and progress of EVs will largely depend on various stakeholders such as OEMs, start-ups, charging infrastructure developers as well as battery manufacturers. Needless to say, there is a strong need for stakeholders to collaborate for developing newer technologies. Various other battery chemistries such as solid-state batteries offer fast charging potential and deliver twice the battery density of currently existing lithium-ion battery packs, and the use of such batteries could largely double the travel range of EVs.
The EV space globally has been witnessing significant developments across various vehicle segments. Swedish giant Volvo, who had showcased electric trucks for urban transport last year, recently showcased its heavy-duty electric concept truck for construction operations and regional transport, the two-axle 18 tonne Volvo FL Electric. Equipped with an electrical motor that generates 185 kW peak power and can be customised to fit in battery capacities of 100-300 kWh, the truck offers a range of up to 300-km that will suit diversified customer demands, while working across stringent applications.
Japanese major Toyota has already announced its decision to offer as many as 3,700 vehicles for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and 2020 Paralympics. Out of the 3,700 vehicles, over 90 % will be electrified in order to reduce environmental burden. Besides battery electric vehicles, the fleet will also comprise other alternate fuel vehicles such as plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEV), hybrid electric vehicles (HEV) and fuel cell electric vehicles (FCEV) such as the hydrogen-powered Mirai among others.
SHUNNING VEHICLE OWNERSHIP
Globally, there has been a growing trend of consumers showing keenness to shun vehicle ownership, especially in urban centres, in favour of user-ship and experience. Traffic congestion as well as pollution issues have also led to the emergence of demand-responsive mobility service providers such as Uber and Ola (four-wheelers); Rapido (two-wheelers) as well as self-ride bike rentals such as Bounce and Bajaj Auto-backed Yulu.
One can witness significant levels of collaboration among automotive OEMs – the likes of Mahindra and Ford, Maruti Suzuki and Toyota as well as the committed alliance between Volvo Trucks and Isuzu – clearly indicate that concerted efforts are the need of the hour. Automotive companies are focussing on leveraging each other’s strengths in developing environmentally-friendly technologies as well as develop products that offer cost-optimised mobility.
Carmakers Hyundai Motors and Kia Motors have announced plans to invest $ 300 mn (Rs 2,059 cr) in the EV initiative of India’s top cab-hailing company Ola. Hyundai has also committed to invest Rs 100 cr, leading a $ 14.3 mn investment in car-rental start-up Revv. Volvo Cars too has forged a tie-up with Uber and presented a self-driving car in June 2019. Further, Tata Motors has set up a new platform – Tata Motors AutoMobility Collaboration Network 2.0 (TACNet 2.0) to boost tie-ups with start-ups and explore synergies to develop innovative solutions across the mobility ecosystem.
Intelligent and connected vehicles are fast emerging as an integral part of our mobility regime – such vehicles will not only improvise a consumer’s driving experience along with safety but also reduce road fatalities. Personalised vehicles boasting of features such as driving monitoring systems, emergency collision warning system, 360-degree sensing technologies, automated braking powered by cameras, radars as well as advanced sensors, among others, will address end-user preferences to communicate with their vehicle as well as vehicles communicating with each other with the rise of IoT and advanced telematics.
Machines have been learning faster than ever before and are penetrating into newer segments. Analysis of enormous data, advancements across cloud computing as well as in computer processing speed are making vehicles smarter every hour. Machine learning is already applicable across areas such as route optimisation, driver development as well as predictive maintenance because sensors and electronic logging devices have now become an integral part of connected vehicles. Given the massive amounts of data the trucking industry generates, machine learning will be a key to futuristic technology development such as platooning and digital load platforms.
The introduction of machine learning can lead to fleet optimisation (empty fleets account for as high as 40 % in China and 20 % in Europe) as well as reduce vehicular emissions by up to 30 %. Moreover, machine learning can also be harnessed to decongest city roads and avoid gridlocking through automated traffic signals, as it can analyse data collected via cameras, satellite imagery, GPS navigations as well as social media to predict and recommend optimised routes. With 5G coming in, connectivity will attain newer levels as it will be all about machine-to-machine communication, which will eventually lead to increased vehicle-to-vehicle as well as vehicle-to-infrastructure communication.
3D printers have gradually become an absolute necessity rather than just an optional equipment to roll out relatively simple prototypes. Additive manufacturing or 3D printing carries the potential to drastically cut down on time to develop a full scale model to hours rather than weeks and roll out complex, durable models that are fully functional in nature. From fixtures in factory assembly lines to automotive design studios, 3D printers are speeding up tooling cycles, offering customised solutions and enhanced measurement and testing across the vehicle development process.
The technology enables the ability to start small and scale up in no time, even before the part reaches the assembly line. During a single printing session itself, both clear and opaque objects can be seamlessly integrated to develop a scale model without assembly, thereby offering flexible as well as optimised design. Designing tooling based on additive manufacturing can eliminate unwanted costs as well as reduce various steps when compared directly with traditional tooling methods. Additionally, 3D printing also can cut down on costs involved in developing customised vehicles, despite being low-volume, which will come in handy during EV developments.
Engagements across the value chain continue to grow and it is time that all automotive industry stakeholders – start-ups, newer entrants as well as incumbents – understand their market position and figure out their respective winning propositions. All stakeholders have to move in the fast lane to develop profitable business models. Although the shape of the future mobility ecosystem remains unclear, the transformation process has already begun and we will soon be witnessing decarbonised and efficient mobility.
 Volvo Trucks
 KPMG; https://assets.kpmg/content/dam/kpmg/xx/pdf/2019/02/mobility-2030-transforming-the-mobility-landscape.pdf
 Capgemini; https://www.capgemini.com/nl-nl/wp-content/uploads/sites/7/2018/04/trends-in-mobility-2018.pdf
TEXT: Anirudh Raheja