Thursday, December 7, 2023

Six zeros to shape the future sustainable mobility


Sustainable mobility is the future. The automobile industry stakeholders have been advocating for this for quite some time. There has been scepticism from some quarters, but the majority have been in support of sustainable mobility. There are four disruptions and six zero (4D-6Z) factors playing a crucial role in the path towards future sustainable mobility.

The automotive world might look like a glittery high fashioned glamourous world to the majority of people, but deep down it is a boring world, where machines make clunking sounds, grease and oils create a typical odour. But, there is another hidden world that not many show much interest in. It’s about numbers, about zeros.

Zero is a very powerful number. It might not have value to many, but it certainly adds value to any number. As Dalai Lama, the spiritual leader and the head monk of Tibetan Buddhism said, “A zero itself is nothing, but without a zero, you cannot count anything; therefore, a zero is something, yet zero.”

True. Not only about counting, but zero means perfection as well. The automotive world works with zero type targets. People who deal in automobile manufacturing or automotive design are very familiar with this phrase – Zero Defect. The process of reach zero-defect products is certainly not easy but a long and painful one. And we only get to see the final products that are the fruits of countless hours with tons of zeros.

The result that was unachievable once, has been achieved by continuous progress towards ultimate improvement over a long period of time. This approach helped the automotive industry to adopt efficient and lean production. If the 20th century was about achieving the target of zero defect automotive manufacturing, the 21st century is going to be the era of achieving sustainable mobility. Interestingly, zero will play an even bigger role in the journey to achieve sustainable mobility in this decade, claims World Electric Vehicle Journal.

Theory of 4D-6Z

The automotive world is witnessing major disruptions in the last few years that are shaping the course of the industry. CASE has become a widely used word. These are – Connected, Autonomous, Shared and Electric. And these disruptions are strongly entwined with six zeros. These are – Zero Emission, Zero Energy, Zero Congestion, Zero Accident, Zero Empty and Zero Cost. Comprehensively, this can be termed as the 4D-6Z factor.

Why it’s about Zero?

You might ask, why it is about zero and what’s so much fuss about it? Let’s take a look at six different questions, all related to the mobility sector.

  1. What is the main purpose of adopting electric mobility?
  2. What is the energy consumptions in sustainable mobility?
  3. What could be the contribution of autonomous vehicles to urban traffic?
  4. What would be the contribution of autonomous vehicles in road safety?
  5. What is the optimum usage of connected vehicles, sharing passenger and cargo space?
  6. What will be the cost of carbon neutral autonomous vehicles if used for mobility always on demand?

All these six questions’ answers have one thing in common; Zero.

Zero Emission, Zero Energy, Zero Congestion, Zero Accident, Zero Empty and Zero Cost.

How sustainable mobility is entwined with these six zeros?

Zero-emission vehicles have to be clean and silent from well to wheel. Zero energy is a key condition for true carbon-neutral mobility that will not deplete fossil fuel reserves, but use solar power or wind energy. Automated vehicles should ensure zero congestion and zero accidents. Connected and shared vehicles would be always on-road and on the job, resulting in zero empty. Shared and truly carbon-neutral vehicles mean zero cost as they need no driver and very minimalistic maintenance costs that can be offset by the fare paid by passengers.

This is why there is so much fuss around zero and it is so tempting. It can be easily said that Zero is the new hero for future sustainable mobility.

Mahindra Electric MESMA 350 sustainable mobility

Digging deeper

Zero Emission: Apart from the greenhouse gases, toxic tailpipe emission or vehicular pollution has a large contribution to global warming. Vehicles emit Nitrogen Oxide (NOx), which is largely blamed for the crisis. Besides that, the vehicles emit heat and particles that increase temperature and risk of lung diseases respectively. World Health Organization (WHO) says poor air quality caused by vehicular emission kills more people than road accidents, especially in urban areas.

Fossil fuel vehicles contribute largely to increase the level of NOx, ground-level ozone (O3), and particulate matter. Noise emissions too is another concern that impacts liveability. Fossil fuel vehicles largely contribute to noise pollution in urban areas. On the contrary, battery electric vehicles are known for their zero-emission on both tailpipe emission and noise front.

Zero Energy: The vehicle manufacturing process demands energy that is largely generated by burning coal. The vehicles run burning fossil fuel. Both of these deplete fossil fuel reserves and generates energy that impacts the environment adversely. Electricity can be generated by using energy that is freely available in nature. Solar power or wind energy can easily power the fleet of electric vehicles. Also, these processes can be used to power the factories as well. This way, the mobility sector can become truly carbon neutral.

There have been attempts to harness energy through windmills and solar panels. However, they are expensive affairs than the conventional energy harnessing method. But, with proper strategies and investments, the goal of zero energy vehicle production and zero energy sustainable mobility can be achieved.

Zero Congestion: Traffic congestion is a recurring phenomenon in urban areas. It not only increases air and noise pollution levels but wastes a lot of time in terms of manpower, impacting the efficiency level of the workforce. Push towards a Zero Congestion system requires connected autonomous vehicles in a dynamic shared mobility ecosystem. These vehicles will be able to communicate with each other, with potential users and the traffic system intelligently.

Zero Accident: Road accidents claim an alarming number of lives every year across the world. Also, they cause serious injuries to an even bigger number of people. The majority of them are caused by human errors. According to US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), human failure is the key reason in 94% of road accidents. These include speeding, using phones during driving, drunk driving, distraction, fatigue etc. A minuscule number of road accidents happen due to technical failures.

Advanced Driver Assist System (ADAS) can make cars safer. Connected and autonomous smart driving technology can reduce the chance of accidents. US electric vehicle manufacturer Tesla claims that ADAS in its Model S has resulted in a 40% reduction in car accidents. A wide range of safety applications onboard the connected and autonomous vehicles can make the roads safer for both the vehicles and the pedestrians. Proper implementation of relevant technologies can ensure zero accidents caused by a car.

Zero Empty: How many times you see a five-seater car being occupied by five occupants? Not always for sure. Majorly they carry 1.2 persons. In the case of commercial vehicles meant for goods transportation, they run empty in 50% of cases, during the return trips. These empty trips are certainly a wastage of resources because even if the vehicle is running empty, it is burning a whole lot of fuel, resulting in wasting money. Capacity utilisation should be in focus to reduce this wastage.

Smart, connected and shared electric mobility can be the solution to this problem. It will help in reducing cost by increasing capacity utilisation significantly for both passenger and commercial vehicles. Also, it will ensure the reduction of vehicular tailpipe emissions as well. Collaborative connectivity could become the key to achieve this zero empty transportation system.

Zero Cost: As technologies are being increasingly implemented in the mobility sector, maintenance and ownership costs are likely to be reduced in the longer run. The implementation of technologies such as electric powertrain drives up the initial cost but reduces the subsequent costs. With the increase in EV sales and usage in the coming years, the price of batteries will decline. On the contrary, the price per barrel of oil will shot up. Analysts predict that in the longer term, the battery costs per kWh is expected to decline by 80%.

Apart from that, EVs are energy efficient. This eventually results in reduced cost for mobility in an all-electric mobility era. Besides that, shared smart mobility means fewer vehicles with optimum capacity utilisation. The relevant infrastructure too will squeeze, resulting in reduced cost. Fewer vehicles mean, fewer parking spaces required, fewer charging infra required. Autonomous vehicles will abolish the need for drivers. This means the owners who prefer being driven don’t need to pay salaries to drivers. This way, the mobility system can become zero cost.

Zeros to drive the paradigm shift

The disruptions in the automotive industry might bring many sceptical views, but majorly these have drawn positive outlooks. Eventually, the shift in the ecosystem would reduce the number of vehicles, but the quality and economics of usage will improve through technology implementation. Electric and connected autonomous vehicles would become the most flexible mode of private and public transportation.

This means that the time has come to accept the fundamental change in the mobility sector for a better and sustainable future. There will be six zeros driving the paradigm shift in the mobility segment in terms of emissions, energy, congestion, road safety, travelling empty, and cost.

Also Read: Go hydrogen or go batteries: A constant comparison and debate in transport sector

Team AFT
Team AFT
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