This article was created from the session of the same name presented at The Future of Electrification 2022. Watch the full session here:
The transition to electrification is increasingly recognized as a critical solution for reducing greenhouse gas emissions and slowing the effects of climate change, particularly in the transport and logistics sector. The adoption of electric vehicles and other electrified solutions can lead to a significant decrease in greenhouse gas emissions while meeting the increasing demands for energy and natural resources as populations continue to grow.
There are five major trends happening globally that are driving the crucial need for electrification. Rapid urbanization, climate change and resource scarcity, shifts in global economic power, demographic and social changes, and radical advancements in technology.
- Urbanization. With 1.5 million people moving to cities each week, the rapid rate of urbanization creates a pressing need to address the impact of cities on climate change. Cities consume most of the world’s natural resources and account for 8% of greenhouse gas emissions, making it crucial to find solutions to reduce their environmental impact.
- The climate crisis and resource scarcity. Given the significant challenges posed by ongoing climate change and resource scarcity, rising energy consumption demands due to population growth make it imperative for businesses to find efficient solutions for energy use. The International Business Council on Climate Change (IBCC) recently released a report outlining the challenges businesses face in meeting the goal of limiting global warming to below 2 degrees Celsius. The report emphasizes the importance of both industries and governments taking immediate and sustained action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
- Shifts in economic power. While Europe and the US are currently significant drivers towards electrification, regions of Asia are rapidly growing in population and GDP, driving a more urgent need to respond to resource scarcity through electrification. It is predicted that India will surpass the US and become the second-largest economy by GDP in 2050.
- Shifts in demographics. The global shift towards an aging population underscores the significance of electrification in addressing the challenges and impact that come with it on society. With a rising number of retirees, the demand for electricity-dependent services such as healthcare and electric vehicles for mobility will surge. Therefore, electrification will play a critical role in tackling the challenges posed by an aging population and its impact on society.
- Rapid advancements in technology. With the ever-expanding digital ecosystem, a connected society requires a staggering amount of electricity to power it. The next five years are expected to bring about substantial technological breakthroughs in electrification, including the mass adoption of electric vehicles and other electrified solutions. As technology continues to evolve at a rapid pace, the demand for electricity is expected to increase further, making electrification an essential solution to meet the growing energy needs of a technologically advanced world. These include in-vehicle cybersecurity, autonomous vehicles, the integrated use of AI in products, and the electrification of the entire transport sector, among others.
These trends have a significant impact on the transport and logistics industries. Challenges facing them include a surge in demand for electric solutions, the ability for manufacturing and new product releases to go to market quickly, the expectation of wider product ranges and applications, and the need for flexible technology solutions with smarter, scalable software.
Another key challenge is creating products that meet the requirements of a circular economy, which is a regenerative system in which materials and resources are kept in use for as long as possible, and waste is minimized. The need to build a circular economy is quickly gaining traction, and materials selection and design must be addressed to support it. The 9R framework, a hierarchy of strategies for closing material loops, can help achieve this goal. The 9Rs are Refuse, Rethink, Reduce, Reuse, Repair, Refurbish, Remanufacture, Repurpose, and Recycle. It is essential to understand and implement these strategies at different lifecycle stages of a building to prevent waste at the end of its service life and support a circular economy.
Meeting the challenges of electrification requires constant innovation within the industry and technologies themselves. For example, as electrification grows, voltage levels are also on the rise. Higher voltage allows for faster charging and discharging without increasing wire size or using a smaller wire for the same performance, resulting in less copper and easier installation.
As voltage levels continue to rise with the growth of electrification, there is a need for risk mitigation functions, operator training, touch protection, and isolation monitoring, depending on the application. There is a standardization initiative for megawatt charging systems (MCs) that can go up to 1,250 volts and 3000 amps DC, in contrast to the current CCS charging system that only goes up to 800 volts. This initiative aims to reduce the charging time for heavy commercial vehicles, but the system can also be used for passenger cars, ferries, planes, and other types of transportation.
Increased voltage and more powerful charging stations also highlight the need to focus on improving functional safety. Functional safety involves designing and implementing safety features that help prevent electrical accidents, fires, or other hazards.
One crucial area of electrification that is continually evolving is cybersecurity. To comply with the latest UN regulations on automotive cybersecurity and software updates, existing models must meet the requirements by 2024, while new vehicle types must do so this year. ISO 21434, designed to address these regulations, encompasses the entire product or vehicle lifecycle and includes key elements such as threat analysis and risk assessment.
As the need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and slow climate change becomes more pressing, the shift to BEVs is gaining recognition as a vital solution. This shift presents challenges and opportunities for creating a more sustainable future, giving OEMs the opportunity to rise to the occasion by developing innovative products and solutions to meet these challenges head-on.