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Thursday, 26 October 2017 05:12

POWERTRAINS - The case for electrification, sustainable mobility

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The story of modern powered vehicles began in the late 19th century, when the four-stroke cycle engine was built in 1876, with Karl Benz starting the first commercially produced motor vehicles a decade later.

At the time, the vehicles running on internal combustion engines were subject to the same challenges we face today with alternative powertrains - there was a distinct range anxiety and refuelling options.

Perhaps many are also unaware that during this time, the internal combustion engine faced competition with two other powertrain designs - the steam engine, as well as the electric vehicle (EV).

At the time, internal combustion engines shared a similar market share with electric vehicle, with the rest dominated by steam powered engines.

However, the next few decades saw the demise of electric mobility, as internal combustion engines won the battle in overcoming the anxieties of motorists - it was modestly priced, easy to maintain, travelled long distances and ran on a readily available source of energy.

EVs required bulky batteries, had short storage life and could run less that 100km. The mass production of petrol vehicles by Henry Ford further closed the chapter for EVs - as fuel costs and environmental concerns have resulted in uncertainty in the viability of fossil-fuel based transportation.

While more efficient internal combustion engines made way into the market to address the issue of fossil fuel dependence - alternative powertrains, in particular electric vehicles, are increasing in popularity as a solution to future mobility modes.

Many carmakers took large risks in developing such technology, as the development of EVs are not just subject to consumer range anxiety - the key reason for its historical demise - but also the infrastructure and power grid issues.

A century ago, it was about a few people wanting to move as fast and as far as posible. Today, however, it is about billion of motorists searching for the solution to sustainable mobility.

At least we are clearer about the EV direction than we have ever been.

Numerous cities around the world have set targets for zero vehicle emission within the next one or two decades. This will definitely come with the commitment of improved and more environmentally-friendly power generation and distribution technology in the near future.

While battery technology has improved in terms of weight and energy storage capacities, new breakthroughs are also seen in charging capabilities - charging times are now reduced, and on board charging technology, such as fuel cell and regenerative braking, are gaining traction.

Understanding and adapting to these developments are of high importance, especilally for a car-producing nation such as Malaysia. It is for this very reason that energy-efficient vehicles emerged a core feature in the National Automotive Policy 2014 (NAP2014).

More importantly, the electrification of transportation is not just about powertrains.

This version of electrification now comes with an added twist of "electronification". Simply put, today's electric mobility solutions that complement electric powertrains, such as autonomous driving, advanced sensors, data connectivity and integration with intelligent urban transport systems.

The NAP2014 will be reviewed from time to time to ensure that it stays relevant to the capacity enhancement needs of the domestic industry. I look forward for feedback from all stakeholders on how we can create an industry that can respond to disruptions within the global automotive markets.

The writer is the chief executive officer of Malysia Automotive Institute

Read 110 times Last modified on Thursday, 26 October 2017 06:40

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