Compact, right-sized vehicles critical to improve energy efficiency

Scaling back of vehicle footprint to smaller cars imperative to drive sustainability in transportation.

By Mayank Dhingra calendar 19 Oct 2022 Views icon7256 Views Share - Share to Facebook Share to Twitter Share to LinkedIn Share to Whatsapp
Recently revealed Citroen Oli concept builds on Ami electric city hatchback and is centered around ideas of reducing weight and complexity in EVs, while making them affordable at the same time.

Recently revealed Citroen Oli concept builds on Ami electric city hatchback and is centered around ideas of reducing weight and complexity in EVs, while making them affordable at the same time.

Sustainability and decarbonization have emerged as burning issues globally across businesses, driving the need for eco-friendly and energy-efficient solutions. In the context of the automotive industry, these two topics are currently pushing vehicle manufacturers to switch away from conventional propulsion technologies and adopt greener mobility solutions that emit low or no emissions.

While many companies in the passenger vehicle segment have already outlined their plans to shift to sell only zero-emission cars, starting as early as 2030, there's a concerted move to innovate new technologies like electrification as well as identify solutions that would offer environment-friendly mobility to a significant chunk of the global population.

According to Tom De Vleesschauwer, Senior Director, Transport and Mobility Practice, S&P Global Mobility, "Sustainability could be described as a two-fold strategy in the automotive industry, which is exploring mobility services or what are popularly known as Mobility-as-a-Service (MaaS) platforms, whereas the other approach, especially from an OEM's point of view, is to review their existing portfolios and select what vehicles would make sense in the future from a sustainability perspective."

Vleesschauwer mentions that ride-hailing and car-sharing platforms like Ola and Uber within the MaaS segment are helping the transportation industry enhance the occupancy rate of a vehicle, thereby improving the energy efficiency of every passenger. "Moreover, these experiments are also giving confidence to the industry to explore alternative micro-mobility solutions," he says. Vleesschauwer refers to the Renault Twizy or the recently unveiled Citroen Emi, which are ultra-compact, mini cars that aim to solve the challenges of congestion in cities and offer sustainable mobility in a more efficient and compact vehicle footprint.

"It is important to scale back the vehicle footprint to improve efficiency and target sustainable mobility. We need to head back to the right-sized vehicle and that would go a long way in terms of sustainability,” he adds.

But while the industry might be tempted to introduce such smaller cars that score high on the sustainability front, it might face an initial low pace of sales as consumers, for so long, have come to buy into the 'bigger-the-better philosophy’ crusaded by the industry itself.

"People might move elsewhere if a vehicle manufacturer chooses to not necessarily offer a big car. Psychologically, it’s going to be a very big step for consumers, so we will have to take a step-by-step approach to it,” says Vleesschauwer.

However, despite being small in dimensions, the lack of intrusion from mechanical components in a battery-electric vehicle (BEV) liberates plentiful space, thereby allowing carmakers to offer a premium experience to customers. “There is a huge opportunity for car designers to come up with clever designs while cutting down on the excessive elements,” Vleesschauwer explains.

Modifying the internal-combustion engine
While electrification has emerged as the leading technology that’s getting the largest consensus to reduce tailpipe carbon emissions and drive a shift towards cleaner mobility, it still doesn't spell the demise of the internal-combustion engine, despite the tightening emission norms in different markets around the world.

“While the future clearly holds huge possibilities for zero-emission vehicles (ZEVs), particularly BEVs and fuel-cell electric vehicles (FCEVs), it might be too early to write off the internal-combustion engine just yet. It might no longer be the engine as we know of it today,” points out Vleesschauwer.

With a low car penetration ratio in a lot of emerging markets like India and Africa, the “hunger” to own a car is tremendous, and EVs, for the most part, are currently unaffordable for customers in such developing economies. According to Vleesschauwer, companies are, therefore, keeping their options open and not closing the doors on potentially other solutions that could be viable depending upon regulations in a market. He cites examples of several vehicle manufacturers who are researching and testing vehicles with an internal combustion engine that will run by direct injection of hydrogen.

“There are other potential solutions that could be viable and if the industry can make it work, it would be immensely attractive as it will be much cheaper than going fully electric. We have an installed legacy infrastructure to continue manufacturing internal-combustion engine components.

“The switchover to electric could cause a significant level of unemployment and this is at a geopolitical level, a significant topic. We must expect pushbacks to electrics, particularly in the aftermath of the Russia-Ukraine conflict that has made the global situation rather unstable. Governments are quickly approving new coal and oil exploration projects, and this was unthinkable just a year ago at the COP26 in Glasgow. Situations change and we must be realistic,” he signs off.


Meet with Tom De Vleesschauwer at the Breakout 2 session of the global thought leadership program: IEB AutoTech2022, he will share on the following topic-

Long-term new mobility outlook
This session will highlight how the mobility sector is facing imminent changes by exploring the emergence of so-called New Mobility channels. The gradual rise of these new channels will open new opportunities to both OEMs and the wider supply chain to pursue new revenue opportunities (such as purpose build vehicles - PBV), as well as potentially provide a more stable base for sustainable mobility offerings in the longer term.

Connect with Tom de Vleesschauwer in person at IEB AutoTech 2022 on 15 Nov in Tokyo, register to reserve a seat today:


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