CEO Update

Doubling down on the technology revolution

22 July 2022 #CEO Update

For a technology revolution to befall an industry is not unusual. To experience two simultaneously is highly unusual.

Yet that is the situation facing the automotive industry and this week has seen some developments on both.

The most obvious and familiar is the transition to zero emission mobility – the biggest transformation since the invention of the internal combustion engine and one which has seen the sector spending billions to bring more than 150 plug-in vehicles to market, with the vast majority of these being battery electric vehicles.

However, batteries are just one way of delivering zero emission mobility and may not be the optimum solution for all road and off road vehicles. For heavier vehicles such as trucks or buses, hydrogen may be more practical whether that be fuel cell electric vehicles (FCEVs) or the potential for green hydrogen in combustion.

Hydrogen as a fuel has many benefits including fast refuelling, the potential for fully renewable creation and, as a relatively cheaper medium of energy storage for excess renewable generation. It may also be the solution for vehicle use cases which have high energy demands – think off highway vehicles, construction vehicles etc. So, with the benefits of hydrogen clear to see, the announcement this week of major investment in a new UK production plant capable of manufacturing fuel cell components is welcome news. It represents another clean propulsion technology that underscores the industry’s commitment to decarbonising vehicles on UK roads and one which should be given careful consideration in determining future energy strategies for all vehicles.

The other revolution under way is the shift towards automated driving. CAVs are an exciting opportunity to change the way we travel, and indeed, they represent perhaps the greatest advancements in personal mobility since the invention of the car itself – especially for those unable to drive. These innovative vehicles will also have the potential to expand our industrial base, improve safety and congestion, drive up productivity and free up space usually devoted to vehicles in our urban areas.

SMMT was therefore pleased to host a delegation of State Transport leaders from a variety of US States and transport stakeholders. The meeting, which was kindly supported by CCAV and included speakers from BEIS, Zenzic, BSI and the Department for Transport, saw both UK and US parties exchanging policy ideas and learnings surrounding Connected and Automated Mobility.

Automated driving systems seen in CAVs could help prevent 47,000 serious accidents and save 3,900 lives over the next decade as they help reduce the single largest cause of road accidents – human error. Technologies such as Automated Lane Keeping Systems will pave the way for higher levels of automation in future – and these advances will unleash Britain’s potential to be a world leader in the development and use of these technologies, creating essential jobs while ensuring our roads remain among the safest on the planet.


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