automobile industry

How disruption in the automobile industry is paving the way for a greener tomorrow

Human history is replete with marvels of innovation. The automobile industry – the world’s largest by revenue at more than USD 2 trillion  – is no exception. Thanks to a worldwide move towards clean energy and compelled by the extraordinary circumstances created by the pandemic, the industry that has been synonymous with the use of fossil fuels since its inception in the late 1800s is now pivoting towards electric vehicles.

This development reflects a shift underway across industries towards adopting more sustainable business approaches. Fueled by the promise of improved efficiencies, greater consumer loyalty and environmentally friendly practices, corporates are rising to the occasion and committing their business operations to green(er) energy. In this context, global initiatives like the RE100 serve as a powerful instance of nearly 300 corporations worldwide making a pledge towards achieving 100% renewable electricity.

It is no surprise then that electric vehicles and electrification technology are gaining ground. Battery electric and plug-in hybrid electric car sales crossed the two million mark for the first time in 2019. And although COVID has impacted overall car sales, a pattern of steady growth over the last two years in the EV space is likely to be maintained through the coming decade.

Shifting toward smarter technology for a greener world

Rallying behind this surge is a shift in the mindset of consumers and ecosystem players. While consumers are increasingly mindful of the environmental impact of their purchases, players in the automotive industry are aware of the new opportunities this transition enables. The result? A renewed commitment to establishing more ethical and sustainable operations and business practices throughout the global value chain.

One of the outcomes of this shift being seen in the technology landscape is an increased focus on wireless battery management systems or wBMS. In being able to monitor battery packs continuously, wBMSs promise to improve the reliability and safety of the full battery system.

Replacing the wire harness with a wBMS not only helps automotive manufacturers save on costs in terms of battery weight and manufacturing complexity, but it also paves the way for the setting up of an efficient and flexible supply chain for batteries. Further, the reduced weight of the system enables far greater energy efficiency, thus boosting the driving range of the car with the same charge.

In fact, the shift to wireless BMSs is a part of a larger trend among ecosystem players toward achieving greater sustainability by implementing more ethical standards throughout the battery lifecycle: right from mining practices to battery life.

Driving earth-friendly outcomes

According to a report by the World Economic Forum, cost-efficient and sustainable batteries are ‘the major near-term driver of a pivot’ toward decarbonization. Furthering this cause is the projected introduction of over 300 electric vehicle models by original equipment manufacturers (or OEMs) in the next five years.

The growing demand for a safer, greener world with products like EVs segues into the requirement for more flexible and earth-friendly manufacturing processes associated with Industry 4.0. From an automotive manufacturer’s perspective, this would entail deploying more smart technology, including artificial intelligence and robotics in the manufacturing process and design.

But from a consumer’s point of view, the requirements are broader: not only would they expect the car to be ‘greener’ but also smarter and safer. It is no surprise that automotive manufacturers, buoyed by these requirements, are moving toward adopting smarter, smaller, and more agile technology. This includes not only tech-enabled functions, such as AR dashboards and vehicle-to-vehicle communication, but also a ‘smarter inside’ in terms of smaller, lighter, and wireless battery management systems.

More than a year since the onset of COVID-19, concerns around how to optimize our health is now expanding beyond the four walls of homes. The pandemic is incentivizing organizations and companies to rethink how they do business to better incorporate earth-friendly and thereby health-enabling processes. This has had an impact on the automobile industry, too, with recent research showing an accelerated expansion into green vehicle production.

As the world slowly gets back on its feet after more than a year in varying states of lockdown, it is clear that innovation and smart tech will play a leading role in improving lives while protecting the planet.

By Kantheti Srinivas, Product Line Director Analog Devices (Automotive BU)

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