You probably won’t find it surprising that the automotive industry is one of the largest contributors to CO2 emissions worldwide. Looking at some numbers, CO2 emissions from road transport were responsible for 17% of global CO2 emissions during 2012 (1). Today, there are 1.2 Billion vehicles operating on the roads worldwide, with estimation of additional sales of 2 billion vehicles by 2035 (2). While CO2 emissions originated in cars from developed countries is expected to decrease, about 70% of car sales growth is related to developing countries, where CO2 emissions originated in fuel are not well monitored (3).
Worldwide regulations promoting fuel efficiency and GHG (greenhouse gas) standards are accelerating during the last decade; Mandatory CO2 standards were first introduced by the EU and the US Government in 2009 and 2010 respectively (4), (5).
Monitored by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the greenhouse gas standard requires vehicles to meet a target of 36% decrease in CO2 emissions per mile by 2025 (6). In addition, some governments are taking diverse approaches to incentivize emission reductions through fees, taxes, privileges for low-emitting vehicles and penalties for high-emitting vehicles.
Automobile manufacturers are required to find different solutions addressing regulations. Some solutions involve changes in market behavior or production infrastructure and others involve changes in the car industry’s core technology, the combustion engines (the traditional gasoline and diesel engines). Inevitably, manufacturers have to highly invest in innovative projects which include R&D, new production processes and market education.
Ford Motor Company, the second largest automobile manufacturer in the US (15% market share as for 2015 (7)), developed a strategy focused on reducing GHG in their operations as well as their vehicles. In order to reduce CO2 emissions in their vehicles, Ford activities are based on the following theory: GHG emissions = Vehicle + Fuel + Driver (8).
Vehicle: most of Ford’s emphasis is on improving traditional gasoline and diesel powered vehicles by developing different engine technologies as well as electrical and aerodynamic improvements and weight reductions.
Fuel: Ford is developing vehicles that can use new types of fuels with lower fossil carbon content (the ingredient contributing to CO2 emissions) such as biofuels. However, in order for this effort to be useful, a widespread use of these fuels is required.
Driver: promote “eco-driving” among drivers around the world by providing training, vehicle technology and apps that helps drivers track and improve their fuel efficiency.
Additional steps Ford can take in order to further develop their strategy:
- Integrate Automotive IoT technologies (Internet of Things) – A connected car is a car equipped with internet access and wireless technology allowing it to be connected with other devices inside and outside the car to eventually enhance the driving experience. As most auto manufacturers, Ford already started working on its electric car technologies. I would recommend Ford to prioritize integration of fuel economy metrics to its IT (9). Researches show that by better controlling and analyzing main factors such as rapid acceleration, rough breaking and imbalanced tire pressure it is possible to significantly decrease fuel consumption (10).
- Increase “Eco-Driving” influence – mainly by integrating third party technologies in the field of automotive. For example, Mobileye is a technology company that uses vision algorithms to interpret real time scenes and provide drivers with immediate evaluation of the road, in order to expand their safety (12). Mobileye visual technologies can actually be adopted to evaluate and monitor efficient driving, by reducing some of the factors mentioned above (rapid acceleration and rough breaking).
- Invest in Electric cars and hybrid technologies – although demanding a new technology development, electric cars and hybrid technologies are already a significant part in the efforts of reducing CO2 emissions and fuel dependency in general. The use of electric car can decrease CO2 emissions up by 65% and reduce fuel consumption, making this technology beneficial to the environment and the driver (13).
In summary, traditional cars will continue dominate the industry in the foreseeable future, allowing manufacturers to experiment a wide range of solutions. However, increasing regulations are pushing manufacturers to find creative paths to a greener future.
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(1) Source: International energy agency (IEA), Statistics, CO2 emissions, http://www.iea.org/statistics/topics/CO2emissions/. Accessed November 2016.
(2) “Sales of Light Duty Vehicles Are Expected to Total More Than 2.1 Billion from 2015 to 2035, According to Navigant Research”, Business Wire, December 2015, http://search.proquest.com.ezp-prod1.hul.harvard.edu/abicomplete/docview/1747237751/97776209F3334118PQ/1?accountid=11311. Accessed November 2016
(3) “Carbon footprint of global passenger cars: Scenarios through 2050”, Elsevier Journal April 2016, http://dx.doi.org.ezp-prod1.hul.harvard.edu/10.1016/j.energy.2016.01.089. Accessed November 2016.
(4) “EU CO2 standards for passenger cars and light-commercial vehicles”, ICCT (The International Council on Clean Transportation), January 2014, http://www.theicct.org/eu-co2-standards-passenger-cars-and-lcvs. Accessed November 2016.
(5) “U.S. Issues Limits on Greenhouse Gas Emissions From Cars”, The New York Times, April 2010, http://www.nytimes.com/2010/04/02/science/earth/02emit.html. Accessed November 2016.
(6) Source: International energy agency (IEA), Vehicle greenhouse gas rules, https://www.epa.gov/vehicles-and-engines. Accessed November 2016.
(7) “Auto Sales, sales and share of total market by manufacturer”, The Wall street Journal, November 2016, http://online.wsj.com/mdc/public/page/2_3022-autosales.html. Accessed November 2016
(8) “Vehicle Fuel Efficiency and CO2Emissions Progress and Performance”, Ford Motors Official website, https://corporate.ford.com/microsites/sustainability-report-2014-15/environment-products-efficiency.html. Accessed November 2016.
(9) “How Ford Is Building the Connected Car”, The Wall street Journal, February 2016, http://www.wsj.com/articles/how-ford-is-building-the-connected-car-1456110337. Accessed November 2016.
(10) “Fast Model Predictive Control-Based Fuel Efficient Control Strategy for a Group of Connected Vehicles in Urban Road Conditions”, IEEE, http://ieeexplore.ieee.org.ezp-prod1.hul.harvard.edu/stamp/stamp.jsp?arnumber=7491347&tag=1. Accessed November 2016.
(11) The Car of the Future: Safer, cleaner & smarter, European Automobile Manufacturers Association, May 2015.
(12) Source: Mobileye Official Website, http://www.mobileye.com/. Accessed November 2016.
(13) “Energy use, cost and CO2 emissions of electric car”, Elsevier Journal, February 2011, http://www.sciencedirect.com.ezp-prod1.hul.harvard.edu/science/article/pii/S037877531001726X. Accessed November 2016.
(14) Electric Cars & Global Warming Emissions, Union of Concerned Scientists, November 2015.