• Madani Sahari

Push for environmental agenda needs participation of all parties

The first and second parts of this series discussed the economic prioritisation and technological areas for an environmental agenda to materialise.

However, public awareness and green technology within the automotive sector is only part of the equation, as the automotive industry has an undeniable interdependence with various industries and  sectors – due to the vastness of technology, human talent, materials and policies that affect the automotive ecosystem.

In general, carbon emissions are a factor of engine efficiency, as well as the pollution resulting from the numerous processes utilised in vehicle production.

For example, material usage must be viewed from its volume of consumption, its type, process and disposal methodology and in-process energy consumption.

To increase energy efficiency in vehicles, the introduction of alternative powertrain vehicles, such as plug-in hybrids, battery electric vehicles (BEVs) and fuel-cell vehicles (FCVs) have showed a lot of promise and has excited public awareness on green initiatives. The success of these new technologies is however subject one major caveat – the infrastructure and ecosystem in the management and running of such vehicles must be regulated and developed with a built-in eco-friendly mindset and approach.

As a vehicle unit, there is definitely a reduction of carbon emissions due to the reduction or elimination of fossil fuels to power the vehicle. However, one needs to take a bird’s eye view of the entire carbon footprint of the entire vehicle life cycle, in order to claim successful carbon reduction.

The manufacturing process of lightweight materials and batteries must be consistent with the environmental intentions of the vehicle design. Current battery technology, for example, rely on the extraction of rare metals, which if not managed properly, will merely balance out the gains in reducing pollution.

Similarly, the electricity used to charge electric vehicles must come from greener sources. If polluting energy generation is utilised to cater to the higher power grid demands due to the use of electric vehicles, then a net reduction in carbon emission will not exist - carbon emissions are merely transferred from the motorist to the power plant.

The quality of fossil fuels should also be a subject of great interest for industry players and regulators. As the dependance on fossil fuels will still be present in the foreseeable future, energy efficient engines will also rely on fuel quality to ensure they meet the targeted emission requirements.

In order to push the environmental agenda forward, it therefore requires participation of industry players, technologists as well as regulators and policy makers – crossing the numerous ministries and agencies that are tasked to regulate the different sectors that contribute to vehicle manufacturing, usage and consumption.

Although the National Automotive Policy 2014 was initiated as a roadmap towards achieving competitiveness in 2020, the Ministry of International Trade and Industry is working through MAI and in collaboration with numerous ministries and agencies to chart and forecast vehicle technology penetration and consumption patterns up to the year 2050. This project will provide a bird’s eye view for the planning, formulation and implementation of eco-friendly policies for the decades to come.

In conclusion, the efforts towards sustainable mobility is not just a burden of the automotive industry. While the demand for green initiatives have centred around vehicles, transportation is not just a concern for vehicle producers and industry regulators. The entire ecosystem has an impact which is far reaching beyond the production floor, and into all sectors within the economy.

“We do not inherit the earth from our ancestors, we borrow it from our children”

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