IAMF 2012 REPORT
The fifth edition of the IAMF, the International Advanced Mobility Forum, has provided us with significant information about the future of transportation in the most captivating manner. The future is very near, and there are numerous solutions that are possible today.
The specialists presenting at the Forum were very clear: we are just getting underway with the commercialisation of electric vehicles, but are we really ready to take this step? Can we instead further develop and take more advantage of the benefits of the combustion engine? How easily and quickly can we change our ingrained consumption habits? Is it possible to better control the emissions of pollutants. How will the traditional relationship with our automobiles be different with these future vehicles? These are some of the questions that the enthusiastic speakers at the IAMF have tackled with their proposed solutions.
Even though the trend today is to think and speak about the end of the internal combustion engine, we still have a long way to go before that happens. In fact, the shortage of oil resources and the tendency for more stringent anti-pollution standards have driven the accelerated perfection of the combustion engine to consume less while producing more power. This “downsizing” is very popular today among existing vehicles, and provides a simpler means to reducing consumption.
Today, the automobiles of the future are nearly at hand: hybrid vehicles are already well established in the market but, according to the specialists, it is clear that these systems are mainly a means of transitioning from today’s technology to that of tomorrow. These vehicles are utilising electricity mainly as a secondary energy, for example in « range extender « systems, where the main future goal is to evolve these hybrids to eventually arrive at totally electric systems and solutions.
The goal is therefore very simple, but the work to get there is difficult and challenging. For example, how can we replace the combustion engine with electric ones? We already know that the density of power delivered by batteries is being improved, and that the length of battery lives are nearly as long as the life of the vehicle, but can we alleviate the problems involved with the infrastructure of such a project. We can, but not without enduring sacrifices on our part.
It will not be easy for electric vehicles to become an integral part of our transport system. Before that happens there are questions to be answered. For example, what are our real needs in terms of autonomy or range? Can we justify a vehicle weighing 2 to 3 tons to transport just one person? It is clear that our ingrained habits regarding our methods of transport will not be easy to change. Even though automobile manufacturers are redoubling their efforts to convince us, we remain sceptical about the attempts to commercialise individual electric vehicles. For the first time, an entire session of the IAMF was dedicated to human behavioural issues, an essential topic so that the engineers can take into account the wants and needs of the public in developing new transportation technologies. Some insurance companies already understand this need. Bettina Zahnd of AXA Winterthur has been studying the different behaviours of young drivers during emergency braking using a black box in the vehicle.
Many other means are being used in the attempt to convert the average buyer to a “low CO2 emissions” vehicle. Alternative forms of vehicle fuels are plentiful: natural gas (AUDI has presented their e-gas project), fuel cells, or petrol made from algae, for example. These solutions are converging on the same goal: rethinking the automobile step by step towards the future. But this needs to be done quickly as by 2020 the average CO2 emissions produced by our vehicles must be reduced by more than 25% and therefore achieve a limit of 95g/km. This is a goal that could be possibly made easier to attain thanks in part to lightweight materials, but it will not happen successfully without some important changes in consumer attitudes, behaviours and habits. In fact, the more preferable future vehicle would be smaller, lighter, and less powerful than the public may want.
Will the power for the cars of tomorrow come from electric, hydrogen, or solar powered energy sources? The experts are unanimous: whatever the means of propulsion and the source of energy, it must ultimately emanate from renewable resources such as hydraulic, wind, or solar. In fact, the future analyses of CO2 emissions will not only take into account the emissions produced during utilisation, but also, as the Joanneum Research proposes, by an analysis in depth of the emissions produced during the total life cycle of the vehicle.
Our relationship with the vehicle of today is in the process of being completely turned upside down. In today’s world of ultra connectivity and communication we are able to approach the automobile in a very special way. In the near future we will be able to stay in permanent contact with the outside world, and while using our vehicles we will therefore be capable of being informed, to communicate, and better utilise the time we are passing in our vehicles. Our relationship with our cars will become more intimate, as the interaction between the user and his vehicle will be more emotional than ever. Such is the vision shared by the company Altran in their presentation “Connected Car Challenge” which provoked some strong reactions and interesting questions from the public.
In short, the specialists presenting at the IAMF were in agreement that we are undergoing a real revolution with modern automobiles. We are in the process of transition which will determine for a long time the attitudes, customs and behavioural habits regarding our relationships with the vehicles of the future.
For more information, please visit the site www.iamf.ch where you can view the videos made during this 5th edition of the IAMF.