Record-breaking Heatwaves and Fires Spark Electric Vehicle Shift in Auto Industry
Historians will remember the summer of 2023 as a season of extreme weather events and environmental disasters. From scorching heatwaves to devastating forest fires, the world witnessed the dire consequences of climate change. However, amidst the chaos, a silver lining emerged in the form of a renewed commitment to sustainability from the auto industry.
Companies in the automotive sector have recognized the urgency of transitioning to electric vehicles (EVs) and are now accelerating their EV programs, developing EV charging networks, and adopting eco-friendly materials. The unprecedented weather phenomena and their impact on the environment have prompted employees and executives alike to prioritize sustainability and embrace the EV age.
One such company is Continental, whose CEO of the automotive group sector in North America, Aruna Anand, emphasized the need for sustainability in light of recent events. An employee resource group at the company generated over 200 ideas aimed at enhancing Continental’s sustainability efforts, reflecting the growing awareness among employees about the environmental consequences of inaction.
The events of the summer have sparked discussions and plans throughout the industry. Mike Siwajek, the vice president of R&D for materials supplier Teijin Automotive Technologies, acknowledged that the heatwaves, fires, and other catastrophes have acted as catalysts for change. They have raised important questions about the materials used in EVs, specifically regarding the risk of battery fires.
To address these concerns, Teijin’s engineers have been developing an advanced flame-retardant material called phenolic. Traditionally used in the aerospace industry, phenolic shows promise in mitigating the risk of battery fires in EVs. Teijin plans to conduct a production-scale trial of the material at its plant in Grabill, Indiana, this month, with commercial production to follow shortly.
It’s not just auto suppliers that are stepping up their efforts; automakers are also joining the sustainability movement. Subaru, which initially lagged behind in electrifying its product portfolio, announced it would introduce eight new EVs to the market instead of the previously planned four. Furthermore, companies like General Motors and Ford Motor Co. have formed agreements with Tesla to utilize its well-established charging network, expediting the widespread adoption of EVs.
The sense of urgency to address climate issues has permeated other aspects of the industry as well. Paul Thomas, the executive vice president of Bosch Mobility Solutions, Americas, emphasized the need to improve the Earth’s condition quickly. Bosch aims to diversify its sustainable mobility products and services, venturing into areas such as hydrogen fuel cells and software services. The company’s restructuring into Bosch Mobility will facilitate its navigation through the industry’s evolving landscape.
The rapid pace of change in the industry has impacted suppliers like Nexteer Automotive. The demand for new battery electric vehicles (BEVs) has shortened the development cycle for steering systems from three to four years to as little as 12 to 18 months. Consequently, Nexteer has incorporated artificial intelligence into its software design center to meet the industry’s accelerated timelines.
As the auto industry races to keep up with the evolving landscape, creativity and innovation have become paramount. Finding new solutions and bringing them to the market quickly is of utmost importance. With the challenges and opportunities presented by the current climate, the industry is determined to usher in a sustainable and electrified future.
In conclusion, the summer of 2023 has been a wakeup call for the auto industry, highlighting the urgent need for action. The extreme weather events and environmental disasters have spurred companies to prioritize sustainability, accelerate their EV programs, and develop comprehensive strategies for a greener future. With a renewed commitment to environmental responsibility, the industry aims to make a positive impact and drive the transition towards a more sustainable transportation sector.