By Pramod Thomas:
Intelligent transport systems like truck platooning, the innovative mobility solutions like electric and autonomous vehicles, demographic changes and urbanization will make the future European road transport cleaner, Erik Jonnaert, Secretary General of European Automobile Manufacturers’ Association (ACEA), told AutoParts Asia.
ACEA represents 15 major Europe-based car, van, truck and bus makers including BMW Group, DAF Trucks, Daimler, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, Ford of Europe, Honda Motor Europe, Hyundai Motor Europe, Iveco, Jaguar Land Rover, PSA Group, Renault Group, Toyota Motor Europe, Volkswagen Group, Volvo Cars, and Volvo Group. The association operating from Brussels, Belgium, is in close contact with the 29 national automobile manufacturers’ associations in Europe and discusses international issues with similar associations globally.
Truck platooning, the linking of two or more trucks in convoy through wireless communications, will become popular in Europe, saving fuel and reducing CO2 emissions by up to 10 percent. Toeing the line of the future mobility megatrends, the manufacturers will be much more than producers of vehicles and will provide innovative mobility solutions, he said.
“The future will bring a transportation landscape in which private car, freight, bus, rail, pedestrian and bicycle traffic will be woven into a connected network, saving time and resources. This means that the number of vehicles with built-in connectivity will increase from 10 percent in 2013 to 90 percent by 2020. Although the sharing economy will continue to grow, individual vehicles will still remain in strong demand, due to their flexibility and the new scope to make valuable and productive use of the time spent in vehicles. Automated driving will assist those with reduced mobility – for example, the elderly and those with visual or other health impairments – to continue or start to drive, either supported by automated systems or within a fully autonomous mode. Connected cars will also make the car an extension of our home or office, providing the potential to enhance driving by making it more convenient, time-saving, and less stressful. Vehicles will not only be connected with each other, but also with the infrastructure around them. Traffic lights, for example, will optimise transport flows. The need for parking spots in cities could also be reduced by up to 60 percent thanks to self-driving vehicles,” Jonnaert said.
The population in Europe is becoming older and by 2025 more than 20 percent of Europeans will be 65 or older, with a particularly rapid increase in the over-80s. Another phenomenon that is redefining mobility is urbanisation. It is estimated that our planet will count 9.7 billion inhabitants by 2050, with two-thirds of people living in urban settlements.
“Urbanisation is an ongoing phenomenon in Europe, both in terms of urban land expansion and increasing population share. By 2050, more than 82 percent of people in Europe will live in cities, compared to 75 percent now. Besides the fact that mobility demand will increasingly have to meet the needs of city dwellers, cities are also among the areas where exceedances of air quality standards occur. Reducing air pollution, therefore, remains a priority as well, even though it is challenging to reduce CO2 and pollutants at the same time – as reducing both simultaneously requires conflicting measures,” he said.
Over the past years, a policy initiated by the European Union institutions has focused on reducing greenhouse gas emissions, resulting in the most stringent targets for CO2 emissions from cars and vans in the world. A coherent European policy framework in which ambitious climate change objectives are better reconciled with tougher air quality standards would set the agenda going forward.
The European Union is by far the world’s largest investor in automotive R&D, spending 54 billion euros on innovation each year. That is roughly 10 times the amount spent by China (5.4 billion euros). Nevertheless, Europe as a region has been taking earnest effort to reduce the impact of vehicle pollution on the planet. The most recent was the European Parliament vote on the EU’s first-ever CO2 standards for trucks. Standards for cars have been in place since 2012.
The next generation of high-service collective transport will be born, including bus corridor concepts based on intermodality, with full integration among cars, bus, rail and non-motorised mobility, Jonnaert said.
“We can further increase road safety through autonomous driving – nine out of ten accidents are due to human error. It is estimated that 70percent reduction in accidents would be feasible if self-driving vehicles represent a considerable share of the car fleet. But, fully autonomous vehicles are unlikely to be commercially available before 2020. Meanwhile, advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) will play a crucial role in the medium-term to prepare policy makers, customers, and businesses for the reality of cars taking over control from drivers,” he said.
However, privately-owned vehicles will remain the main providers of individual mobility, and new mobility concepts will offer on-demand mobility whenever desired.
“Improvements in the design, construction and maintenance of road infrastructure will improve safety. Unclear traffic signs and poor lane borders are a thing of the past. This means that in the future we will be driving with low risk of accidents, and a low impact of any accidents that do occur,” he further said.
According to Jonnaert auto manufacturers are eager to move as fast as they can towards zero-emission vehicles. But the entire European automotive supply chain will need to transform at a pace which is manageable, protecting employment and the long-term viability of the sector, he said.
The automotive industry is seeking the support of the policymakers to help accelerate fleet renewal and introduce the cleanest, safest and smartest vehicles. This is particularly important as new vehicles (less than one-year-old) only represent about five percent of the total current fleet.
“The average age of vehicles in Europe has been increasing since 2000. For cars, it is currently close to 10 years, for vans and heavy-duty vehicles it is over eight years, and for buses, it is over nine years. Fleet renewal offers the most effective way to decrease road transport-related emissions and improve safety. As older vehicles are replaced with newer models, emissions from road transport will fall and safety will improve, especially as the latest connectivity and automation technologies enter the market,” he said.
When asked about the latest vote by the European Parliament’s Environment Committee (ENVI), as a reaction to the European Commission’s proposal for CO2 standards for new heavy-duty vehicles, Jonnaert said that Europe’s truck industry is willing to commit to the ambitious CO2 targets, provided that these are technologically and economically viable in the given time-frame. These targets would pose major problems, as they simply do not take account of the realities and complexities of the truck market, nor the long development cycles for heavy-duty vehicles, he added.
These new regulations assume significance as trucks move 14 billion tonnes of goods a year in Europe. They deliver some 72 percent of all land-based freight in Europe, or 90 percent of the total value of goods while accounting for five percent of total CO2 emissions. The performance of road freight transport, measured in billion tonne-kilometres, was up by as much as 20 percent between 2000 and 2016.
Today, the auto industry accounts for more than 11 percent of total EU manufacturing employment. In 14 regions across the EU – concentrated in the Czech Republic, Germany, Italy, Slovakia, Hungary, Romania, Sweden and the United Kingdom – the automotive sector accounts for more than 20 percent of total manufacturing employment.
According to ACEA, automakers have reduced the environmental impact of manufacturing over the last decade, even though the number of cars produced increased from 11.9 million in 2013 to 17 million in 2017. Total CO2 emissions from car production fell by nearly 24 percent since 2008, for each car produced over the last decade, water consumption was reduced by 31 percent, energy consumption per car produced decreased by almost 16 percent and the amount of waste generated per car went down by nearly 14 percent.
Jonnaert said that ACEA members have been making contingency plans and are looking for warehouse space to stockpile parts in order to minimise the impact of Brexit on the automotive industry in Europe.
“There is no other industry that is more tightly integrated than the European automotive industry. This is due to two key factors. First of all, there are highly complex automotive supply chains that stretch across Europe. Secondly, the business model of automakers is totally reliant on ‘just-in-time’ and ‘just-in-sequence’ delivery and production. The production plants of all our members – be they in the EU or the UK – receive and fit millions of parts into vehicles every day. Their operations rely on these parts being delivered on time, on a daily basis, without any delays or obstacles. Manufacturers generally don’t have warehouses. Instead, the parts they require to assemble a car are in constant transit. They are in trucks making their way to their destination, arriving as and when they are needed. Every day 1,100 EU trucks cross the Channel to deliver to car and engine plants in the United Kingdom alone. The introduction of customs procedures (post-Brexit) where there were none before is obviously going to cause delays at ports. Some of our members are also planning a temporary post-Brexit production shutdown. But the harsh fact is that no amount of contingency planning can realistically cover all the gaps left by the UK’s withdrawal from the EU on WTO terms. Under WTO rules, a 10 percent tariff would be applied to all cars traded between the EU and the UK. We cannot forget that profit margin in the industry is lower than 10 percent. At the end of the day, these extra costs will either be passed on to the consumer or will have to be absorbed by the manufacturers,” he said.
The European Commission has prepared a draft proposal for a regulation that would allow a type approval authority of a EU member state to re-issue an approval originally issued by the UK.
“ACEA supports this initiative. Likewise, we also welcome the UK government’s recent pledge to allow for a streamlined registration process for approvals currently held under EU authorities with the UK Department of Transport,” Jonnaert said.
In Europe, over 70 percent of journeys are made by car – be it a private car, taxi or car-sharing. Road freight transport is the backbone of trade and commerce on the European continent. Buses are the most widely-used form of public transport in the EU, serving cities as well as suburban and rural areas – they are also the most cost-efficient and flexible form of public transport, requiring minimal investments to launch new lines or routes. An increase in mobility demand of 2.6 times may happen from the current levels by 2050.
Global trade-related international freight is also projected to grow by a factor of 4.3 by 2050, with road freight’s share up from six to 10 percent, driven by increasing intra-regional trade. The expectations of younger generations are defined by the smart phone revolution; they increasingly demand transportation that provides the level of digital utility and capability to which they are accustomed when it comes to other services.