AROUND 20,000 demonstrators descended on the first public day of the Frankfurt Motor Show, calling for the automotive industry to prioritise zero and low-carbon emissions and transition to renewable energy in transportation.
While the sustainable development debate is not this article’s main point of contention, it brings forth the realisation that sentiment against fossil fuels is on the rise.
In countries where fuel is imported and subsidies are not given, the costs and consumption of energy is a concern.
Reports showed an exponential increase in the global fossil fuel consumption between 1950 to 2000, from 20,138 terawatt-hours (TWh) to 94,462TWh.
This takes into account the use of coal, crude oil, and natural gas. In 2017, it rose to 133,853TWh, an increase of 40 per cent in about half the time.
Global carmakers responded at this year’s IAA, which saw a significant increase in the number of plug-in hybrids and fully electric vehicles (EVs).
Major carmakers accepted consumers wanted more low emission mobility products at this year’s show compared with the previous editions.
It is clear that Malaysia’s automotive industry has to respond to the demands of the global market if we are to stay relevant. The next phase for us would be a higher focus on Next-Generation Vehicles (NxGVs).
In a nutshell, NxGVs are a combination of energy-efficient-vehicles (EEVs) with new driving technology that would move towards full vehicle autonomy (Level 5).
The development would concentrate on two major areas, namely the evolution of powertrain technology and also technology in-vehicle communication, fuel economy, autonomous driving and other technology that can be applied along the road towards full vehicle autonomy.
In relation to powertrain technology, one of the major challenges in introducing alternative powertrains is our high dependence on fossil fuels.
Further complications arise when efforts in balancing fuel subsidies and public incentivisation of fuel saving measures are met with socio-political pressure, with little room for dialogue.
In countries where electro-mobility is more widely accepted, the idea of fuel subsidies does not come into question, making it easier for fuel-efficient options to be more acceptable despite its higher costs, compared to traditional vehicles.
While, fuel pricing and costs of living are interlinked, the culture of fuel consumption should be discussed beyond maintaining blanket perceptions regarding the fixing of prices.
This way forward lies partly in the introduction of energy-efficient technologies to local market in order to develop trust in electro-mobility products, and also prepare local companies for export readiness.
The development is not restricted to vehicle manufacturers, but also parts and components and after-sales solutions sectors in the form of exportable aftersales products and services.
To stay relevant, the path ahead is clear. The management of energy consumption and the development of home-grown business and talent at vehicle, component and services levels must be a priority for the government, industry and the public at large.
The writer is the chief executive officer of Malaysia Automotive, Robotics and IoT Institute (MARii)