Tuesday, 04 June 2013 11:51

Driving change – a look into the future of the transport industry

25 DEGREES in Africa looks at the future of the luxury car market and initiatives that promote energy-efficiency.

“The only hope I can see for the future depends on a wiser and braver use of the reason, not a panic flight from it.” – FL Lucas

The two principle driving forces of humanity are freedom and control. This is especially apparent in the transport industry, where current automotive technology gives drivers the freedom to control a vehicle’s speed, timing and direction, yet controls the laws under which vehicles are operated in terms of speed, flow and operation.

The future of transport lies in this “freedom factor”. New technologies are driven by how much they do or do not promote or improve the freedom of drivers. This freedom may come in various forms: voice recognition, navigation, fully automated vehicles or even flying vehicles. However, transportation technology is progressing at a much slower rate than other technologies and has become increasingly influenced by the development of technologies that focus on energy-efficiency rather that speed, looks or power. The secret to recognising the car of the future lies in finding a prototype that ticks all the boxes. The probability of finding such a vehicle remains another question to be answered.

The South African way

Transport is vital to the economy and the way we live. Decisions that we take now will have an impact for decades to come. It is essential that we take a long-term view.

On 2 May 2013, the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) announced its plans of establishing an electric vehicle industry in South Africa. The plan includes incentives for manufacturers and possible tax incentives for consumers.

Rob Davies, the Minister of Trade and Industry, said at the launch of the Electric Vehicle Industry Roadmap in Johannesburg that South Africa should not be left behind in greening technologies and initiatives, adding that there was an overwhelming case for the transport industry to reduce its carbon footprint.

The roadmap proposes an incentive package that would be incorporated in the Automotive Production Development Plan (APDP) for manufacturers that produce electric vehicles. These include companies like GridCars, Nissan and Toyota.

The APDP aims to raise the number of cars manufactured in the country to 1,2 million annually by 2020, as well as to diversify the automotive components chain. Manufacturers who produce a total of 5 000 electric vehicles per year would qualify for the incentive. The DTI also announced its plans to add tax incentives to the mix.

The roadmap was developed with input from organisations like the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), the Department of Science and Technology and the Industrial Development Corporation (IDC).

Mike Whitfield, chief executive officer (CEO) of Nissan South Africa, showed his support for the initiative by saying: “It’s a tremendous initiative and a good start to working with all stakeholders. We will fully support it.” Whitfield added that cooperation between the government and industry is important, not only for the legislative framework but also for public awareness.

There are currently three solar-powered charging stations in the country. The Electric Vehicle Industry Roadmap envisions an additional 47 charging stations by 2015.

Biggest current transportation challenges in South Africa:

1.   Public transport inadequacy.
2.    Difficulties of using non-motorised transport.
3.    Loss of public space.
4.    Environment and energy consumption.
5.    Safety.

The solution: efficient networks

An ideal solution to the existing challenges in the transport industry is the implementation of a transport network that can meet the issues faced by a developing economy and the increasing demand for travel, but can also achieve its environmental objectives.

Strategies to implement this kind of efficient network must focus on long-term investment, improvements in transport management and proactive planning.

Most energy-efficient luxury cars of 2012 according to Forbes:
1.    Tesla Model S
2.    Fisker Karma
3.    Lexus CT 200h
4.    Lincoln MK2 Hybrid
5.    Lexus HS 250h
6.    Lexus GS 450h
7.    Infinity M35h
8.    Audi A6
9.    BMW 328i
10.   BMW 528i
Green cars initiative

Today’s environmental imperatives mean that all road transport stakeholders need to be encouraged to move towards more sustainable transport. The European Green Cars Initiative (EGCI) was created in order to address these needs.

The initiative funds a variety of areas such as greener combustion engines for trucks, bio-methane, and electric and hybrid vehicles and infrastructure.

The European Union’s (EU) ambitious economic recovery plan aims to help the European economy accelerate out of the current crisis and put it back on the road to recovery. One important component of this package is the European Green Cars Initiative.

The automotive industry is one of the biggest private sector investors in research and development in Europe.

The EGCI focuses on five main areas of research: internal combustion engines, biofuels, electric and hybrid vehicles, logistics and hydrogen fuel cells.

The transport sector is a major contributor to greenhouse gas emissions, which is why the EU is pursuing a wide range of policies to reduce its environmental impact.

Urban transportation is undergoing massive change and expansion, especially in the developing world. The rapid growth of cities is driving demand for better urban transportation and many cities are set to invest heavily in infrastructure.

Redefining luxury
Emergent technologies are often created on a smaller scale. Therefore the idea exists that because the technology is rare and new, it is more expensive. Once incorporated into mass-produced vehicles, it becomes more affordable to the general public.

For a luxury car to be defined as a luxury car, its features need to be leading the current innovative curve. This also counts for efficient technologies that aim to promote clean transportation.

The future of transportation conjures up images of high-speed bullet trains, electric cars, sub-orbital planes and flying cars.

Road innovations

However, two ideas that may prove to have a lasting impact on driving the reinvention of mobility are solar roadways and wireless advanced vehicle electrification (WAVE).

Solar Roadways is a company with an ambition to replace concrete and asphalt surfaces with solar road panels.

Solar road panels are made with layers of super-strong glass embedded with photovoltaic cells, electrical wiring and LED lights, which can be used to create signs on the surface directing traffic or alerting motorists to hazardous conditions. When connected between highways, residential streets, parking lots and driveways, the system of solar panels creates a vast power-collecting network.

According to Scott Brusaw, co-founder of Solar Roadways, a single mile of solar road panels would be enough to power 428 homes.

The second infrastructure re-invention company is Wave. Its goal is to enable electric buses to become more cost-effective than diesel or natural gas buses, and without the need for being connected to overhead wires. In order to run continuously on rechargeable batteries, a bus has to carry many of them, since recharging happens only at the base station. This makes the bus inefficient, heavy and costly.

Their simple solution proposes installing a wave induction receiving unit on the bottom of the bus and to then install a magnetic induction power transfer system in the road at various bus stops. When the bus stops to pick up passengers, the magnetic induction unit wirelessly sends a charge to the batteries and this frequent recharging enables the bus to run all day, until it returns to its base for a full recharge overnight.

Imagine transport systems of 2025 as glass-clad, electricity-generating, efficient organisms. The future may be closer than we think.

Full thanks and acknowledgement are given to, Forbes, GridCars, and the European Commission for the information given to write this article.

The luxury car industry

What qualifies a luxury car?
•    Quality equipment
•    Energy-efficiency
•    Performance
•    Construction
•    Comfort
•    Status
•    Technological innovation

Best buys (2012)

  1.  Audi Q7 Diesel
    2    Audi A5
    3    Volkswagen Touareg Diesel
    4    Porsche Paramera
    5    Porsche 911
    6    Nissan GT-R
    7    Mercedes Benz CLS
    8    Audi R8
    9    BMW X6
    10    BMW Z4

Most expensive ultra-luxury cars

•    Bugatti Veyron 16.4
•    Ferrari Enzo
•    Pagani Zonda C12


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