The world today is moving towards rapid urbanization, with living conditions evolving at a similarly rapid pace. While private and public organizations alike are powering this change in the current scenario, the challenge today is to find ways to harness new technologies to sustain the momentum. Keeping this in mind, transformation in terms of energy and mobility solutions in the automotive industry is of prime importance to ensure that cities are well prepared for future innovation. Industry 4.0 is undoubtedly the prime candidate to aid in this scenario.
The current outlook
Both these sectors (energy and mobility) have recently seen the evolution of several trends that will come to define the direction of their growth for the foreseeable future. The drive for electrification has seen the rise of Electric Vehicles (EVs) that function as cleaner and considerably more energy efficient modes of transport. It is predicted that by 2028, EVs will constitute one-third of all new car sales . This phenomenon is being supported by the global surge of ride sharing, which is expected to make up 25 percent of the total mobility distance travelled across the world by 2030 . These trends also represent the first steps towards innovations such as Autonomous Vehicles (AVs) that will help increase the use of EVs in urban spaces while reducing the costs by almost 40 percent. With electrification at the heart of all these innovations in the automotive sector, its expansion into urban infrastructure solutions is mooted to be the next logical step in the sector’s evolution.
Electrification in urban spaces
Contemporary smart city transformation is the next big step for electrification, and electric mobility by extension. Despite the clear advantages that the technology provides, electric mobility solutions are still restricted to cars and two-wheelers and have not yet moved towards integration with urban infrastructure. Infrastructure implies innovations such as smart building technologies and battery replacements that could expand the purview of what electrification technology could do. In addition to this, EVs still suffer from a lack of charging points at adequate and strategic locations, thus hampering the potential for widespread utilization. A report by the World Economic Forum has suggested three principals to remedy this situation:
1) Deploy strategies that are market specific and target multiple stakeholders
Designing and implementing electromobility strategies must be undertaken while keeping local infrastructure in mind so that tailored solutions to specific parameters can be deployed. Addressing the wide range of needs of all the stakeholders who will be utilizing these solutions will thus ensure their success in the long run.
2) Champion electric vehicle usage
EVs provide cities with a major advantage from an environmental standpoint by drastically reducing CO2 emissions. Championing their use over personal vehicles in the form of electric taxis and public transport services will add to this environmental advantage by creating new services for customers and creating new jobs in the process.
3) Build charging infrastructure to pre-empt future mobility solutions
Creating more charging points along major highways and transportation lines is another way EV usage can be encouraged in a structural sense. Such solutions would increase the reliability of EV modules and lead to better asset utilization of the overall system.
The convergence of energy and mobility is an endeavor that has the potential to revolutionize the automotive industry and its subsidiaries across sectors. Hence, a strategic approach is required to maximize this potential, especially by urban planners and policy makers. With the rise of new business models for mobility by drivers and fleet operators and a digitized, decentralized system within the energy sector, it will finally be possible for cities and citizens to tread the path towards smart city transformation.