Designers and entrepreneurs are bringing to life the mythic visions of cars that fly, hands-free driving, and clean engines that tell you how they’re feeling. Our team took a peek under the bonnet of the auto industry to see how the sector is keeping up with the changes. We discovered some concerning cases of myopia.

PIONEER PAVEL BREZINA pulls off the city highway and onto the filling station forecourt, taking care not to poke fellow motorists with the long rotor-blade overhanging the windscreen of his tiny flying car.  Along with better-known inventors and entrepreneurs like PayPal founder Elon Musk, he’s one of an emerging army of visionary innovators, perhaps inspired by science fiction, who are disrupting the automotive industry.  They’ve some powerful investment pitches.

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To survive, businesses need to understand themselves as part of a circular economy rather than a linear value chain.

Are electric vehicles a sustainable transport solution? 

EVEN WITH GOVERNMENTS around the world moving to ban petrol and diesel cars, there remains scepticism in the automotive industry around electric vehicles (EVs).  Readers may find that surprising, if not shocking.  For some businesses, “eco-friendly” is just a positive marketing label; for many thinkers, hybrid engines are a more likely future.  The reality is that the journey to a truly sustainable automotive value chain is a long and bumpy road.

The challenge for the sector is to create something that is good for people, planet and profit at all stages of production, from raw material extraction to after-sales, as well as disposal.  More of a circular economy than a linear value chain.  Fully-sustainable and renewably-powered fleets of cars, let alone lorries, could be a long-haul destination.

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Voices from the Value Chain

What do suppliers see as the big challenges? And how are they responding? We polled exhibitors at one of the world’s leading trade fairs for the automotive service industry, Automechanika. Hear some of their own words…

The biggest change is the push to innovate because there’s such a huge amount of competition. Companies are trying out new materials and really testing them because they want to expand internationally.

Amy Chen, Antelope

As a distributor, it’s the consolidation within the motor factors. Before, you had lots of independents. Now, the market isn’t shrinking but the people you deal with are fewer.

William Jones, Cataclean

The conversations have changed. People are coming to us who drive their kids to school and feel a little bit guilty about their use of diesel.

David Beggy, Dipetane

Influence from other sectors, such as smart speakers and homes, affects the way users interact with hardware and technology. Expectations are changing and consumers are learning where they feel the privacy boundaries lie.

Sam Clark, Conjure

Who Is Doing the Deals?

Where are the trade shows for transport and energy around the world? Who’s investing there?

Electric Vehicles Bite into Oil Demand

AS ELECTRIC VEHICLES become more popular, the switch in demand from diesel to electricity is affecting the demand for oil, reports Contented’s cleantech editor Felicia Jackson.

Driven by concerns over air quality and carbon emissions, and by potential operational cost savings, cities around the world are introducing electric buses. With China alone adding the equivalent of London’s bus fleet every 5 weeks, that’s 279,000 barrels of oil a day removed from demand.

Photo credit: Zbynek Burival

Production Credits

This survey was produced with the support of University of Birmingham, and financing from Santander and Contented Ltd, as part of the ontente programme.  None of them take responsibility for any use of the information.

Reporting & Production Team: Jaemes Gregory, Sarah Hendri, Hannah Grisley, Tao Chen, Esther Offenberg, Valentin Geier, Ahmed Abdulkadir, George Lewis

Senior Editors: Felicia Jackson, Gerard Davies