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The two drivers in the evolution of transportation:
electrification and shared mobility

From: Johannes Roters, CEO at Yanfeng Automotive Interiors

Electrification and shared mobility are shaking up how we use our vehicles — from the drawing board to the street.

The impact of greenhouse gas emissions on the environment is a widely discussed topic around the world. Over the past few years, several international conferences and agreements have tried to cope with the effects of climate change. Perhaps one of the most significant ways consumers can support these efforts is through changing their driving habits, whether through using public transportation, shared mobility or electrification. These topics have been fueled again by recent discussions on diesel-powered vehicles and their emissions, which have led to yet another call for electrification.

The impact of electrification

According to statistics from the European Union and the United Nations, emissions from the transportation sector account for nearly a quarter of all global greenhouse gas emissions. Yet, readily available electric vehicles offer one of the simplest solutions to try to curb this impact.

With governments around the world offering premiums and tax breaks to the early adopters, electric vehicles are slowly catching on. As this trend continues to grow, the demand for more affordable and efficient options is increasing. This is where lightweight and sustainable materials come in. Range limitations are one of the biggest challenges for electric vehicles, which is why automakers are seeking lighter parts. Because lighter vehicles use less energy, they require smaller, less expensive batteries to travel the same distance.

But since manufacturing a car also impacts the environment, automakers are also looking toward sustainable materials. Whereas recycling rubber and scrap metal is nothing new in the automotive industry, new innovations in interiors are opening up new possibilities. By using sustainable lightweight structures — e.g. instrument panels, door panels and other interior parts made from fibers and recycled plastics — vehicle manufacturers can reduce overall weight while simultaneously shrinking their carbon footprint.

The rise of shared mobility

Shared mobility also offers a solution to concerns over the environment. E-hailing companies like Uber and Lyft have put ordering a ride in the palm of one’s hand. And with the rise of services like Car2Go and DriveNow, car sharing has become a household term, especially in metropolitan areas.

Shared mobility business models like these are already disrupting the automotive industry, but there are still two major factors hindering full adoption — cost and functionality. Cost may soon no longer be an issue, however, as design efficiency for special purposes such as car sharing increases. Where once, automakers had to design and market cars to appeal to the desires of the broadest range of potential buyers, without individual ownership, cars can be built to serve a more specific duty. Right from the drawing board, designers can define the specific features necessary to the vehicle in mind, whether it be a collapsible steering wheel for a partially or fully autonomous car, easy-to-clean surfaces for a shuttle, or ambient lighting for private robotaxis. According to recently conducted research from a consulting company, such purpose-built vehicles may cost up to 25 percent less.

The demand for functionality can be met with design that suits the specific purpose for which these new vehicles will be built. Regardless of whether a user owns the vehicle or not, they want to feel at home in it. Flexible and adaptive interiors can let drivers and passengers adjust nearly every aspect of their experience. By simply signing in or syncing the car with their mobile device, passengers will be able load their preferred settings instantly. Smart surfaces and user-friendly human-machine interfaces allow adjustments at the touch of a button; whether it be dimming the lights, changing the music or regulating the temperature. Flexible interiors with multiple storage options can transform an ordinary vehicle interior into a meeting room or lounge.

As we consider our impact on the environment, the way we experience mobility will evolve. The exciting new innovations that accompany this evolution will not only improve our air quality, but also our quality of life.