The automotive industry and powder metallurgy are synonymous with each other. Like (most) other industries today, the auto industry continues to push the envelope in developing the next generation of vehicles. However, the coming years in automotive development have the potential to be the most significant in decades.
From autonomous vehicles to big data to electrification, trends in automotive technology are evolving at a pace we've never seen before. Take a moment to admire (or fear) some of this advanced technology that's poised to shape the industry in 2019 and beyond.
Here's a look at our top five emerging trends in the automotive sector:
Trends in Automotive Technology That’ll Drive the Industry Forward
1. ‘Electrification’ of the Automobile
Sometimes the powder metal industry is fighting the perceptions of the American "electric" market. Admittedly, the market isn't going “electric” as much, or as quickly, as is happening in Europe right now. The United States doesn't have the rail and transportation systems that Europe has.
Still, despite the current federal government's rollback of ambitious CAFE (Corporate Average Fuel Economy) standards previously established by President Barack Obama’s administration, vehicle “electrification” remains a major focus among most automotive manufacturers.
What's more is that electric vehicles and hybrid electric vehicles are continuing to gradually attract more consumers. According to data compiled by Bloomberg, global electric vehicle sales were up nearly 50% in 2017. Though full data isn't yet in for 2018 sales, forecasts are positive.
Don't expect electric vehicle production, or eco-conscious consumers’ interest in them, to tail off anytime soon. Batteries are becoming less expensive, making electric vehicles more affordable. Subsequently, more public parking lots are offering recharge stations. Automakers are even planning to release “electrified” models of SUVs in the future, proving that even vehicles with reputations as gas-guzzlers have potential for electrification.
If this is your strategy, you need to talk to an advanced powder metallurgy company that can get you there.
2. Driverless Vehicles
Look; no hands!
The self-driving vehicle is arguably the biggest trending topic in automotive technology today. It seems like you can't read any automotive publication without at least seeing some news of autonomous testing or an automaker's plans for releases of self-driving cars. In fact, many expect self-driving vehicles to hit the market sometime in 2020.
The concept of the self-driving vehicle isn't anything new -- it just had to wait for electronic technology to catch up with the idea. With suppliers able to manufacture the technology necessary to enable autonomous driving, it's now just a matter of regulatory bodies revising their policies to account for these vehicles.
Once they get the green light, it'll be then up to buyers to dictate the future of autonomous vehicle development. As you know, supply equals demand.
3. Diesel Technology
One of the biggest reasons for the rise in electric vehicle technology is because it's a sustainable transportation alternative to gas-powered engines. Internal combustion engines aren't going anywhere for now, but one way they can become more sustainable is by incorporating clean diesel into the powertrain.
Despite some of the bad publicity diesel has received over the past several years (i.e., the Volkswagen diesel emissions scandal), today's diesel engines remain sustainable solutions.
They help vehicles achieve better fuel economy than their gas engine counterparts and produce far fewer emissions than the diesel engines of yesteryear. For those unwilling to or unable to update to electronic technology, diesel can make for a great combo of performance and power.
Many European companies (i.e. Volkswagen), however, have said that they’re completely removing diesel technology. In fact, many European car companies have announced they will stop building diesels in coming years.
Some of the more advanced powder metal materials may open opportunities in diesel. Can you save weight? What does a pound per vehicle save over the lifetime of the vehicle?
4. Data Security
Your vehicle now captures and relays more data than ever. Just think about all the technology inside modern autos (and these are only a few examples):
With all these electronic features packed into today's vehicles, perhaps drivers should be concerned about happens if this data falls into the wrong hands. The risk of data theft is only likely to grow as vehicles transition to self-driving and pack even more electronics into their platforms to enable this capability.
Keeping data secure will largely fall to suppliers and their understanding of networks, gateways and interfaces. They'll have to stay a step ahead of potential data thieves and regularly push updates out to vehicles to ensure they stay secure from the latest threats.
Can you imagine the chaos a hacked self-driving vehicle could cause?
5. Software Rules
Competitive advantages between automakers might not necessarily be engine type, horsepower, or other performance attributes. Instead, the Porsches and Fords of the world may battle over what type of software is included in their vehicles.
Can suppliers keep up with consumer demand for premium, cutting-edge software in their vehicles? It could play a big role in sales moving forward, especially as the industry shifts to self-driving cars.
The Race Is On
Reductions in the weight of powder metal parts is already starting to result in reduced product orders, even in an American market that’s been slower to adapt electronic trends than Europe and Asia.
Yet these innovations in automotive technology are what draw engineers to alternative solutions -- like powder metal offers. In the end, this “lean” innovation can benefit both powder metallurgy and the auto industry!
Here’s the challenge: How can we get there? An advanced PM partner may be able to help.