E-Mobility and the Importance of the Just Transition Mentality

By Philippe Colpron, Head of ZF Aftermarket

International Energy Agency figures show that global electric car sales exceeded 10 million in 2022, with Norway leading the way with electric car sales accounting for 88% of the market. Autonomous vehicle projects have also been running with success for some time now, indicating broader adoption in the future. Vehicles of all kinds are becoming smarter, with increased connectivity leading to improved functionality and performance, better diagnostics, and even remote monitoring and prognostics.

While transformation is in its full speed it will take a lot of time until full completion. Despite all this forward motion, the full transformation of the automotive industry will take much longer than most realise. It is not just the speed of change that matters, it is the extent of its reach. In that sense, there is still a vast chasm between today and tomorrow – one we need to cross without sacrificing earned mobility, value for our society and the people that serve this industry. It is imperative that entire ecosystem is considered.

Making sure that the entire ecosystem is considered.

While we all aspire to embrace and anticipate change, it is essential that we sustain the business of today by continuing to support and invest in what our customers and consumers need now—and will continue to require for many years to come. Moving forward, we must ensure that people and businesses are not left behind. For instance, considering that not everyone can afford to buy a brand-new vehicle, it means that a share of conventional technology vehicles will remain on the road for decades it is imperative that we continue to look after our end users for as long as they need our support.

Navigating the Transition to Advanced Automotive Technologies

Nevertheless, despite our heavy reliance on technology, people remain the backbone of our business, and their role will be pivotal in ensuring the success of mobility in the future. Training, information, and education constitute essential components for ensuring the future servicing of mobility. Therefore, we must explore avenues to assist workshops in upskilling and retraining their employees across a spectrum of new disciplines.

Transitioning from ICE to electric drives and the evolution to either software-defined or connected systems is neither an easy nor a natural shift. Everyday activities demand a whole new set of standards, safety measures, and equipment.

In addition to adapting to new ways of working and embracing new technologies, key actors in ensuring the uptime of mobility such as workshops and parts distributors will require our support in managing their tools, skills-set of their employees, and cost of operations throughout the entire transition period. This will be increasingly needed to ensure they can optimize their use of resources, budgets, and workspace — striking a balance between their business requirements and the evolving needs of their customers.

The importance of ensuring uptime

Beyond the emotion many have in acquiring a new vehicle, one needs to consider the financial impact of such transaction. It’s crucial to not only think about the initial cost and depreciation but also to focus on the operating and maintenance expenses, especially for vehicles used professionally. These ongoing costs are a significant part of a vehicle’s lifecycle. In our mobility-driven society, we must ensure that these costs don’t become prohibitive for individuals. The market demands a variety of parts and service options for vehicle maintenance. Upholding consumer freedom, including the choice of maintenance and service locations, is essential. This approach not only benefits individual consumers but also fosters a healthy, competitive automotive market. We must maintain this balance, ensuring accessibility and choice in the automotive landscape.
Taking into consideration that the average car age in the EU is 12 years and trucks 14 years (according to ACEA), it gives a perspective on the diversity of technologies that will require uptime support well into the 2030s. Recognizing that some will ramp up very fast while not everyone will immediately transition is crucial to ensure proper holistic support for customers.

One needs to keep in mind the importance of the service quality, both from labour and parts, due to the safety-critical nature of private and commercial vehicles. Therefore, it is imperative to provide mechanics with the right tools, education, software as well as authentic high-quality components for the vehicles.

Consequently, the aftermarket must skilfully navigate geographical demand variations. Each country and market progress at its own pace. Ensuring the supply of both legacy components and the latest EV systems is crucial. It’s also important to maintain a robust supply chain for physical goods and ensure safe software delivery to vehicles. Integrating the ecosystem that supports our daily mobility is key. These efforts will smooth the transition towards electrified, software-defined, and connected mobility. This transition must be fair and keep everyone on the move. That’s why a Just Transition is vital – it will underpin our progression as a mobile society.