fieramilano Rho (Milan), 15 May 2019 – The curtains come down with great success on the second day of Made in Steel. Mobility was the main topic of the Conference & Exhibition, with a conference about the future of a pivotal industry for the steel value chain.
Electric, but not only electric. The entire transport industry – cars, commercial vehicles, or rail transport – is faced with challenges which require complex answers. This is in a nutshell what emerged during the “THE FUTURE OF END-USERS: SUSTAINABLE MOBILITY” conference, organized for the second day at Made in Steel, the Conference & Exhibition of the steel value chain.
On the one hand the industry «is experiencing three major trends: greater focus on the environmental footprint, more safety and greater efficiency – said Gianpiero Mastinu, Professor at the Polytechnic of Milan and Secretary of the Lombardy Cluster for mobility -. A few countries decided to embark on a more radical trajectory, as in the case of the Netherlands where internal combustion engine vehicles will no longer be sold after 2030. For the next 20 years, several consultancy firms see a 50% market split between electric and traditional engine cars». The shit to electric vehicles however, brings about new problems. First of all, economic sustainability.
Secondly a number of technological challenges. «For commercial vehicles – said Sergio Carpentiere, chief purchasing officer at CNH Industrial – electric engines do not guarantee the power needed for professional use, and therefore it is highly likely that, in the future, traditional engines, or alternative combustion engines including gas, will go hand in hand with electric ones».
The same applies to farming equipment: Giovanni Esposito, Head of innovation at Argo Tractors, remarked that, based on his company preliminary tests with available technologies «tractors would need a 6 cubic meter battery, which is not a viable solution». According to Mr. Esposito «This is a time of transition: we are seeing a technological changeover, but we are not at the end stage yet». Several future scenarios are still possible, in particular for commercial vehicles where «we see interesting future developments for e-fuels, ie fuels from biomasses that could be used mainly in agriculture where, at least theoretically, farmers could produce their own fuels».
A total transition to electric vehicles, moreover, would set the stage for geopolitical risks: «Nickel, lithium, cobalt, which are scarcely available, are necessary to make batteries: Some raw materials, as in the case of cobalt, are mined exclusively in Congo – said Carlo Mapelli, professor at the Polytechnic of Milan -. This strong dependence on one producing country might have a strong impact from a political and strategic point of view, with risks being higher than the value of hydrocarbons themselves». Therefore, according to Mapelli, «Hybrid cars will be the winning solutions in the coming years». In the long run, on the other hand, hydrogen has great potential, despite a number of technological hurdles that must be overcome.
Finally, the future of the transport industry will be determined on a much broader scale. «By 2050 50% of the people in the EU will be living in megacities – said Andrea Gibelli, President of FNM -. We cannot envision the future of mobility without working on an integrated plan which will allow people to move around efficiently. We must design a mobility value chain with strong cooperation among cities, regions and which integrates public and private transport, cars and trains making the entire system more competitive».
Integration, cooperation, sustainability and a broad range of solutions: this is what the future of the transport industry is most likely going to look like.