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Jul 27, 2012

Global automotive players uncertain of future, optimistic about electromobility

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Rising demand for fuel-efficient vehicles has led to electromobility being the most pressing trend in the automotive industry, but how and when fully electric cars will become a reality depends on a variety of complex and interrelated factors, states global professional services firm KPMG International’s yearly ‘Global Automotive Executive Survey’.

“Compared with previous years, this year’s findings show that automotive experts do not have a clear idea of the direction in which the industry is heading,” says KPMG global automotive head Mathieu Meyer.

KPMG Africa automotive leader Gavin Maile, in March, said that uncertainties and challenges had also impacted on South Africa’s roll-out of electric car developer Optimal Energy’s electric car, the Joule.

Engineering News reported in June that Optimal Energy would close its doors that month, following its failure to secure the estimated R7-billion in funding required for the development and industrialisation of its Joule electric passenger car.

Further, the infrastructure require- ments and payment technologies relating to electric cars are substantial and impacts any possible roll-out of such cars in South Africa, Maile noted.

Electromobility Technology
KPMG reports that electrified vehicles will not exceed 15% of yearly global new car registrations before 2025.

“Globally, hybrids are expected to lead the market and attract the most investment in the interim, while also being expected to outsell battery-powered cars several times over in 13 years’ time.

“Further, full hybrids and plug-in ver- sions are expected to be the favoured technologies, followed by fuel-cell vehicles,” says KPMG.

However, in China and Japan, 33% and 46% of respondents respectively said battery-electrified vehicles would be the most popular, followed by fuel-cell vehicles.

KPMG results estimate that, over time, fuel-cell vehicles will be seen as a more promising prospect than battery-electrified cars, especially in the emerging nations of Brazil, Russia, India and China (Bric).

“Fuel-cell technology has not yet realised its full potential, although car manufacturers Daimler, Hyundai, Kia, Toyota and General Motors are already very active in this area,” states KPMG.

Further, the report estimate that full and plug-in hybrids, as well as fuel-cell vehicles, are likely to be in greatest demand, while battery-powered cars with range extenders, like the Opel Ampera, Chevrolet Volt or the A1 E-Tron should edge ahead of pure electric cars.

Meanwhile, nearly two-thirds of respondents globally said that, over the next five years, optimisation of the internal combustion engine offered greater efficiency and the most potential for reducing carbon dioxide emissions than the current electromobility technologies.

The KPMG report earmarks China as being the world’s biggest market for auto- motive sales and exports by 2025, with demand for electric vehicles expected to be the highest in the Bric nations.

Survey respondents from the Bric nations believe fuel-cell-powered vehicles will attract the most consumer demand, with the exception of China, where pure battery-powered vehicles are expected to come out on top.

The biggest challenge in terms of elec- tromobility among manufacturers and suppliers will be to identify the most promising fuel technology to power the electric car by 2025, says KPMG.

Technology Leaders
KPMG adds that, while the industry continues to weigh the advantages of various e-technologies, it is clear that ownership of the e-components space, comprising battery management, power electronics, e-motors, battery cells and packs, will draw competition among original-equipment manufacturers (OEMs) and suppliers.

OEMs are predicted to play a leadership role in the development of these technologies and are expected to be the dominant force in electric and traditional propulsion technologies, says KPMG.

The industry will see competition and collaboration among OEMs and suppliers increase as companies fight to win in the marketplace.

The survey results show that Asia- and Europe-based OEMs are most likely to gain significant market share over the next five years, with seven out of the ten fastest- growing automotive manufacturers expected to be from Asia.

The majority of respondents believe that China will lead in the sales and exports of vehicles by 2017, followed by the US, with Brazil and India in a close tie for third place.
The future success of electromobility is based on engagement in electromobility technology, as well as focusing on coope- ration and alliances among OEMs and suppliers, states KPMG.

Edited by: Chanel de Bruyn
Creamer Media Senior Deputy Editor Online
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