Electrification in the Automotive Sector

This report provides an expert view on the impact of electric vehicles in today’s automotive landscape and considers how manufacturers and other organisations can respond to the ever-increasing demand for electric vehicles.

While some consumers have embraced electrification, this change is currently being driven principally by government in search of more sustainable transport and in particular lower levels of greenhouse gas emissions. If consumers are whole heartedly going to accept the government-sponsored move to electric vehicles, the automotive industry faces a number of major challenges. These include: designing lighter vehicles with more efficient powertrain, implementing more efficient energy recapture, and developing software and sensor technology that together can improve vehicle performance.

Another major challenge is that of improving batteries: specifically the ability of batteries to accept charge very quickly so that they can be fully recharged in a handful of minutes, and the ability of batteries to power cars at speed for hundreds of miles between charges.

The totality of change in all these areas together is not so much evolutionary as revolutionary. The potential rewards are high. But so are the risks and the development effort required.

One critical shift we will consider is the weight of importance attached to in-car software compared against mechanical design.

In a pre-digital age a new mechanical carburettor could be designed but retro-fitting it to cars already in use would have been prohibitively expensive. With new models of electric cars, the increase in performance doesn’t always have to come from changes in mechanical design but also from the software that controls the vehicle.

This change means that it is easy to upgrade cars that are already on the road, providing them with new software that enhances their capabilities at minimal cost.

All of these changes are eroding the comfortable certainties of car manufacturing. Increasingly manufacturers need to become more agile, adopting a start-up mentality, constantly innovating, accepting rapid failure as part of the price for success. Embracing digitalisation is an essential part of this process.

Download the report to read the outcome of the debate.

Innovation in automotive

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