Electrifications, Autonomous, 5G and Hype

Editorial –Winter/Spring 2024, Powertrain International

We have repeatedly used these editorials to look at trends in the world of automotive propulsion and, long before the public became really aware of what electrified autonomous vehicles (EAVs) were all about, we regularly offered our opinions about their role. EAVs are a reality now more than ever due to 5G technology penetration in the broadband markets. Now that “electrified autonomous vehicles” are very much in the public eye, and increasingly in the public’s possession – Level 2, Level 3, even Level 4, it is worth putting some things in perspective.

First, for all that has been said about what the business case is for EAVs – Level 5, it must surely be pleasant to be producing some products, even if a small percentage, for which there is a passionate demand. Whether or not cool heads may regard the buying decision as rational, how sweet it is to have customers pleading for one’s products and prepared to pay a sizable premium rather than wait for months to get them. By contrast, how sad it is to have products that pile up in dealers’ lots. How frustrating to lose significant profit potential by essentially bribing customers to take them off one’s hands and having to pay for huge amounts of advertising in an attempt to persuade customers that, despite what they think, they really do want one’s products!

Secondly, it is now apparent that the motives for buying EAVs are wide-ranging, from the wish to join the latest fad to the belief that one may be cutting fuel costs for one’s personal benefit while being a good environmental steward for everybody’s benefit. Many who calculated potential fuel savings based on estimated fuel economy may now be both wiser and sadder as they develop a deeper appreciation of the nature of the EPA’s mpg rating versus their personal driving experience.

Thirdly, it is also clear that many people are not prepared to sacrifice driving performance and that the EAVs they drive must deliver this, regardless of fuel penalty, comfort and ease. However, these issues are meant only to illustrate the complexity of personal choice, rather than to argue for or against the value of EAVs.

We cannot know whether the market penetration by electric autonomous vehicles Level 5 will be nearer 1% or 10% by 2030, but we know that there will be a worldwide market penetration of EVs. Surprise! Surprise! China is driving and leading the global pack!

The harmonious integration of 5G, autonomous, and electric propulsion will profoundly impact all of our expectations for the mix of vehicles and their propulsion systems that we will see during the next decade. The only things of which I can be sure are that the percentage of the market owned by the traditional gasoline ICE and non-autonomous will decrease and that the world of automotive will become even more challenging and even more exciting! Stay tuned!

M. Nasim Uddin, PhD