Powering the future

We examine the trends in powertrain technology


With electric vehicles taking centre stage at motor shows, and the UK and French Governments having announced a ban on the sale of new petrol and diesel cars by 2040, the motor industry is edging closer to a tipping point where consumer demand for full-electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles will accelerate. Combined with high oil prices, taxation changes, concerns about urban air quality and the introduction of diesel exclusion zones in major European cities and it seems likely that the switch to electric could happen sooner than anticipated.

To put this into context, it’s interesting to note the intentions of the car manufacturers when it comes to electric powertrains. Both Volvo and Jaguar Land Rover have pledged electrification of all future models, whilst Mercedes-Benz has said that all models built from 2022 will be electrified to some extent. Hyundai has confirmed that half its European model line up will be battery-powered by 2020 and Honda has stated that all models sold in Europe will be hybrid, plug-in hybrid or fully electric by that date. From a global perspective, Audi is aiming to generate some 30% of its total sales from plug-in hybrids and electric vehicles by 2025 with much of this growth coming from China, the world’s largest electric vehicle market.

Interestingly, BMW which has the now well-established ‘i’ electric division, does not see the 100-year rule of the internal combustion engine coming to an abrupt end and expects electric models to make up just 15-20% of sales by 2025. From the technology perspective, Mazda is looking to buck the electric trend with the announcement of its Skyactiv-X petrol engine which eliminates the need for spark plugs by igniting the fuel by compression, increasing efficiency by as much as 30%.

The transition to electric vehicles has also opened up the industry to new entrants due to reduced complexity, since electric cars possess approximately 11,000 components, compared to 30,000 for a vehicle with an internal combustion engine. The rapid growth of Tesla is perhaps the most visible example of this but more recently, non automotive brands such as Apple, Google and Dyson have stated their plans to build electric vehicles.

As mentioned earlier, consumer concerns about pollution, along with confusion about the air quality debate and negative media reports have impacted on sales of diesel cars, which have reported double-digit drops since April this year. This is further highlighted by research undertaken by Auto Trader. Almost 50% of the 13,000 motorists surveyed said the messaging about diesel had made the car buying process more challenging and 35% claimed they didn’t understand the benefits of different fuel types. Furthermore, some 60% admitted to giving up trying to find their perfect car and settled instead for their second choice.

It’s clear that efforts to educate the consumer better in regard to diesel, as well as increasing confidence in electric vehicles on issues such as range anxiety are big challenges that need to be addressed if the Government’s plans to ban pure fossil-fuelled car sales by 2040 are to succeed. In response, vehicle manufacturers are seeking to change the narrative from one which criticises ‘dirty diesels’, to one which educates consumers about the benefits of electric powertrains and explains the differences between pre- and post- Euro 6 vehicles in terms of emissions performance. The recently introduced diesel scrappage schemes for pre-Euro 6 vehicles from a number of manufacturers marks an important step in raising consumer awareness.

As vehicle manufacturers and their retail partners continue to work hard to break down the barriers to adopting electric vehicles and do their best to clear the air when it comes to diesel, it is inevitable that more consumers will look to dealers for advice and reassurance. This presents an opportunity for those manufacturers and partners that are prepared to remodel their businesses accordingly to capitalise on increasing demand and expectations.

When it comes to supporting customers, offering a compelling added value proposition with clear benefits is equally important for third-party brands in the showroom, such as Autoglym. As a leader in car care for over 50 years, we work with motor retailers across all sectors of the market to help them secure incremental business by taking advantage of the strength of the Autoglym brand. As a result, LifeShine can add real value to dealers, supporting their customer service ambitions by helping generate revenue from a highly recognised and trusted brand.

To find out more about how LifeShine can boost your business, please call 01462 677766 or email lifeshine@autoglym.com.


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