Mobility industry in Asia
Asia is the main engine of urban growth in the world; and with some of the world’s largest cities, this is where the future of the mobility industry is developing.
At the end of the 20th century, Asia took the lead in the manufacture of clothing, toys, and electronics on the international market. Today it is again taking a clear lead in mobility technologies, helping its largest cities deal with 2 increasingly serious problems: congestion and pollution.
ELECTRIC VEHICLES (EV)
When we think of electric vehicles, American companies like Tesla or European companies like BMW probably come to mind. But the reality is that Asia, and specifically China, is the largest producer and user of electric vehicles in the world, and by far.
For example: in 2018, it was estimated that there were 5 million electric vehicles on the road worldwide, and of these more than 1 million were in China. This number has increased to more than 5 million in just 4 years and, according to MIT, it is estimated that by 2030 more than 40% of vehicles in china will be electric. This will represent more than 35 million units.
China is also a leader in electric public transportation, with more than 420,000 electric buses by 2021 compared to a couple of hundred in the United States. In addition, China controls more than 60% of global lithium production, an indispensable resource in the manufacture of electric vehicles.
Finally, the government has been offering subsidies and support for electric vehicles for more than a decade, including limiting the number of license plates issued for combustion vehicles. The “Made in China 2025″ initiative provides support to both large companies and small startups in the mobility industry.
This not only makes China the leading country in EV production, but also a paradise for foreign producers. This is why Tesla decided to build its giga-factory there in 2020, which, by tripling weekly production in its first year, far exceeds the output of the original plant in Fremont, California.
However, it is not only this giant that is moving towards the transition to electric vehicles. Asia has other gems that are constantly working on electric vehicle innovation, some models of the most well-known brands are:
On the other hand, the exploitation of lithium and the manufacture of electric cars is not the only front on which Asian powers are at the forefront. For several years now, innovation has taken several steps further in the automotive industry, and the next step in the world of driving is to stop driving.
It is no surprise to anyone that when thinking of Tesla, the most popular automotive brand dedicated to electric vehicles, the first thing that comes to mind is its Autopilot function.
Since we first learned about autonomous driving in 1999 with the “ParkShuttle”, vehicles that can take us from one place to another without anyone driving them have become a futuristic fantasy for many of us. Fortunately, autonomous vehicles are an affordable reality on the market today.
And we are not only referring to private vehicles; companies such as AutoX provide a service of rides requested from cell phones with a fleet of autonomous vehicles. This company currently has more than 1,000 “RoboTaxis” distributed in the main cities of China. And their service is available to any user with a mobile device.
Even large companies whose primary focus is not autonomous driving have begun to enter this world. For example: leading ride-hailing service Didi Chuxing began a partnership with Volvo Cars in 2021 to bring a fleet of autonomous cars to market. At the same time, it continues to conduct tests of these vehicles in China and the United States.
Although U.S. and European producers are constantly improving their autonomous driving capabilities, and even surpassing Asia in the number of field tests conducted per year, several municipalities in Asia strongly support the development of autonomous driving technologies with public and private funds.
Shanghai was the first city in China to designate a space for testing autonomous vehicles; the National Intelligent Connected Vehicle Pilot Zone, a 5.6 km-long enclosed track. And it recently closed more than 40 km of roads to increase the number and variety of tests that can be conducted.
Singapore’s national university, Nanyang Technological University works with MIT in a Technology Research and Development partnership that has recently focused on autonomous vehicles.
The Singapore government has also launched the Smart Nation initiative in 2018. Which, among other things, seeks to identify, support, and develop initiatives and startups in mobility solutions, traffic management and autonomous vehicles. The most famous startup that has been supported by this initiative is Grab; a mobility network app, identified by Crunchbase as one of the best funded mobility initiatives of 2018.
Asian governments are not only promoting these technologies by supporting companies, but also by encouraging the population to learn about and become more involved in the future of mobility. This is why, in July 2022, the “Future Mobility in Asia“ will be inaugurated. A one-of-a-kind event that aims to be an integrated global exhibition on advances in the mobility, electromobility, autonomous driving and electric vehicle industries, among others.
Fortunately, leading companies in the United States, Europe and Asia are not zealous in this race to develop innovations in the mobility industry, they are even sharing information, technology, and testing spaces to ensure faster progress towards a more sustainable future.