By Tom Curtis
President, Lubrizol Additives

We know with certainty that the future of automotive technology will be impacted by electrification. Electrification is already a reality and seen as irrevocable by the industry and legislators as the uptake of electrified vehicles (EVs) gains rapid momentum across the world.

The speed and magnitude with which electrification is impacting our industry only grows. Here are some things we should be considering as we move forward together:

Electric or electrified? There’s an important distinction to be made between “electric” and “electrified” vehicles. “Electric” generally refers to pure battery powered electric vehicles (BEVs), while “electrified’ typically refers to a range of different hybrid electric vehicles (HEVs). These can include plug-in hybrids (PHEVs) and mild hybrid electric vehicles (MHEVs).

When tracking the growth of electrification, we account for all types. Consider this statistic that helps showcase the dramatic growth of electrification: It took five years for the automotive industry to sell its first million combined plug-in hybrids (PHEVs) and battery electric vehicles (BEVs). In 2018, matching that figure took only six months, and the annual sales culminated at 2.1 million.

Both technologies continue to evolve. Battery technology grows increasingly reliable, and the combustion engine technology found in hybrids grows more efficient too.

Who will lead the way? Demand for EVs is rising all around the globe. Right now, China and the European Union (EU) are seeing the highest adoption of hybrid electric and electrically rechargeable vehicles.

China is currently leading the way with a market share of almost 56%, according to the International Energy Agency and EV-volumes.com. And according to the European Automobile Manufacturers’ Association, 431,504 hybrids and 216,566 electric vehicles joined the European car parc. Alternatively powered vehicles, including cars running on liquefied petroleum gas and natural gas vehicles, only accounted for 5.7 percent of new car sales in the region. According to the market researcher IHS Markit, it’s anticipated that vehicles using some form of electrification will hold a market share of higher than 55% globally by 2030.

The United States, meanwhile, is expected to lag China and the EU in EV adoption. Low fuel taxation and less aggressive incentives and restrictions are the main factors here, though the state of California is expected to be more aggressive in its pursuit of electrification. “California will continue setting the national pace on EV policies and deployment, and consumers will have more EV choices in 2019,” notes Forbes, citing California’s strict clean car standards and reputation as a green leader.

Which leads to another question …

True consumer demand, or policy and regulation? Around the world, policies targeting greenhouse gases have grown stricter over the past few decades. It’s more than likely we can expect that to continue, and electrification is part of how those goals will be met.

However, EVs must also become attractive and attainable to the average consumer, a journey that’s still unfolding. A recent survey by McKinsey & Co. showed that most people would consider buying a battery electric or hybrid vehicle for their next car—but they also wouldn’t want to pay a giant premium.

EVs will continue to become more affordable, and they’ll also increase in diversity. Earlier this year, Ford announced its intention to electrify the F-Series—the top selling vehicle brand in the United States. We can expect that adoption will increase as more options become available and affordable for the average car buyer. Around the world, vehicle manufacturers are also introducing new ranges of EVs, plug-in hybrids (PHEV) and range extender electric vehicles (REEV).

How do we ensure viability, durability and longevity of electrified vehicles? We’ve written before about why durability and sustainability are two sides of the same coin. Good durability ensures that any given piece of equipment works for an extensive period of time, and by extension, that it doesn’t need to be replaced frequently.

As we enter an age where more and more vehicles operate via fundamentally new technology, a major shift from traditional automobiles of the past, we’ll need to consider the best strategies for protecting equipment for long-term reliability. For instance, Lubrizol’s Dr. Michael Gahagan explained in October 2018 to Lubes’n’Greases some of the fundamentally different needs of fluids throughout an electrified vehicle’s drivetrain.

Fluids used to service BEVs and HEVs will need to fill a number of new demands while still providing the fundamental durability and protection that the industry was built on. Are we ready for the electrified future?

Our view: Transportation accounts for about 30% of the total greenhouse gas emissions globally. While we anticipate further advancements of the internal combustion engine (ICE) will remain important in the coming years, electrification in its various architectures has a significant role to play to enable us to reduce our reliance on fossil fuels and still enable mobility.

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