Mapping the future of the
automotive industry

Borealis is a committed participant in the ongoing and dramatic transformation of the automotive industry – we are Driving tomorrow. As we explore new vehicle frontiers together with leading OEMs and their Tier 1 partners, we are committed to developing value-creating polyolefins that enable our customers to think about the material science of cars in a different way. At Borealis, we see the potential for fundamentally rethinking automotive design, thanks to the wealth of PP-based solutions available today, and on the immediate horizon. 

With this goal in mind, Borealis participated in “Reinventing the Wheel,” a multi-client study recently carried out by IHS Markit. The study assessed the transformative changes influencing the automotive industry now, and in future. Its scenario-based research approach combined the industry leading expertise of IHS Markit’s energy, automotive and chemical teams to provide a first-of-its-kind, system-wide analysis of the new reality of transportation. Its key findings touch on developments such as Mobility as a Service (MaaS), electrification, and the rise of autonomous vehicles.

According to the IHS Markit study, while the future of automotive will look different in some ways, noticeable similarities will remain. The convergence of disruptive technologies, government policies and new business models will usher in a new era of multidimensional competition. One of the key changes influencing traditional players in the automotive value chain is the acceleration of MaaS. By 2040, the number of vehicle miles travelled (VMT) in China, Europe, India and the US will have risen to an all-time high of around 18 billion km per year (a 65% increase over 2017), and will keep rising. The MaaS industry is expected to purchase more than 10 million cars in 2040, compared to just 300,000 in 2017, contributing to a slowing of sales in the light-duty vehicle (LDV) segment. 

“A great ‘automotive paradox’—where more travel via car than ever, but fewer cars will be needed by individuals—will be a defining quality of the new automotive future,” says Daniel Yergin, IHS Markit vice chairman, Pulitzer Prize-winner and project chairman. “The shift is just beginning. By 2040, the changes in transportation will be accelerating in a way that will be visible on roads and highways around the world. The pace and degree of this dynamic shift will have significant implications for industry, public transportation systems, and for how people get to work and live their lives – and spend their money on transport.”

A second major finding of the study concerns the growing market for vehicles with an electrified powertrain. By 2040, electric vehicles (EVs) will account for more than 30% of new cars sold in key automotive markets, up from just 1% of new car sales in 2016. A key tipping point will be battery pack costs, which are expected to decline to a price point in the 2030s that will make EVs cost-competitive with internal combustion engine vehicles. Oil’s monopoly as a transport fuel will erode, though it will remain a major part of the automotive landscape. Market share for cars primarily powered by gasoline and diesel will still account for 62% of new cars in 2040 in the four major key markets (down from 98% in 2016), primarily due to the proliferation of hybrid vehicles.

The report’s final major finding is that autonomous vehicles will start gaining a significant share of new vehicle sales after 2030. “It’s not only a matter of technology,” says Yergin. “Political, regulatory, social and psychological barriers to adoption will also need to be overcome.” MaaS companies are expected to be among the key adopters of electric and driverless cars, with a shift towards buying their own fleets, as opposed to drivers providing their own cars.

The transformative developments described in the study offer interesting opportunities for polyolefin materials – primarily PP compounds – to be enablers for change. The advantages of using PP compounds to support lightweighting and design freedom are well established; their applicability will only increase in future. Borealis Daplen™ TPOs and fibre-reinforced Fibremod™ grades offer significant benefits in terms of design flexibility and lightweighting owing to their low density, strength and flexibility in use. 

Three key trends highlighted in the study are particularly suited for reinventing the vehicle using polyolefins:

  1. Electrification will bring increased interior space or a reduced vehicle footprint, meaning opportunities for alternative body shapes and interior configurations;
  2. Autonomous vehicles can bring about different impact and crash safety standards, meaning reduced crash zone safety cell configuration, higher safety in smaller vehicles, one-box design, integration of interior and exterior sensors, and overall lower weight;
  3. Mobility as a Service (MaaS) will mean consumers can “right-size” a vehicle to meet requirements of a specific trip, ensuring the vehicle is fit for purpose. This can mean changed requirements for improved entry and egress, possibly more personal space, and the demand for more durable and hygienic interiors.

As we move into an age of transformation in the automotive industry, Borealis remains committed to “Driving tomorrow”. We would be pleased to review the outcomes of the IHS Markit study “Reinventing the Wheel” at your convenience, and discuss how we can rethink the material science of the automobile using polyolefin solutions from Borealis.

Source: IHS Markit, press release of 14 November 2017 

Driving tomorrow

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