19 Jan 18

The future will be electric and ICE

But don’t give up on diesel yet

The theme of the 6th edition of the European Automotive Forum held alongside the 2018 Brussels Motor Show was the future of urban (auto)mobility.

Diesel has a future

Thierry Willemarck of the FIA agreed that diesel is not a bad technology. Moreover, he added, replacing diesel with petrol creates a production issue at European refineries. More crude oil would have to be imported to refine into petrol as diesel is mostly a by-product of petrol refinery.

Matthias Maedge of the International Road Transport Union confirmed that ICE and diesel vehicles will be needed for many years to come, especially but not only for goods transport. The debate should be made less emotional, he continued. It should focus on a life cycle emission approach. At this moment, electric vehicles aren't where they need to be yet. Electricity storage in batteries in particular remains an issue.

Antonio Perlot of the European Association of Motorcycle Manufacturers redefined the notion of thinking outside the box. He defines the box as the car and sees motorcycles, mopeds and scooters as part of the solution to reduce car usage. There are even prototypes of automated motorcycles in development.

Are cars electric

Grégoire Dallemagne, CEO of EDF Luminus, addressed a number of concerns with regard to electric vehicles and battery charging. Most people charge their EVs at home, which is very convenient, and progress is being made and needs to be made to build fast charging corridors across Europe. Only via a good charging network electric mobility can comfortably grow. Nevertheless, people sometimes worry if the electricity grid will cope with an increase in EVs. Today, around 1% of cars in Belgium are EVs. If this number were to grow to 20%, that would still only represent 2-3% of a country's energy supply, said Mr Dallemagne. Charging peaks on the other hand might present a problem. Bidirectional charging solutions could solve these issues. Cars and their batteries can contribute to the energy supply and users could be paid for sending their surplus power into the grid.

His company is investing heavily in renewable energy production. Clean mobility, he concluded, is not the future, it is the present. And we all have to question ourselves what our role is in the road map for clean mobility.

Artificial intelligence

Facebook's head of automotive strategy Christophe Stadeler explained that the phone is crucial for all major trends before us: mobility and sharing, electrification, connected cars and autonomous driving. Don't have an app, he said, be an app. This requires you to optimise constantly, to collect feedback in real time and to act on this feedback. Another element he underlined was the necessity to get rid of the asset driven mind: don’t count vehicles, count your users, Mr Stadeler emphasised.

Facebook invests about the same on R&D as many OEMs. These investments include technologies for infrastructure (drones to provide connectivity to remote places), artificial intelligence (e.g. recognising images in videos posted on their site) and virtual reality (could come in handy to enable virtual dealership visits).

Bruno Schröder of Microsoft agreed with his colleague. Artificial intelligence is crucial to develop autonomous driving. To get to fully autonomous systems, OEMs need to drive billions of miles. This can only realistically be done via simulation and AI is needed to set up this simulation and develop a system that recognises traffic signs, road lines, pedestrians and everything else an autonomous vehicle might encounter.

Artificial intelligence could also help energy providers predict peaks in energy consumption and deal with times when there is insufficient wind for windmills or sunlight for solar panels.

Photo: Grégoire Dallemagne of EDF Luminus

Authored by: Benjamin Uyttebroeck