We, at AUTOBEST, understand that we are in a new, disruptive phase of the automobile history development. We are facing a shift to a future that we are still trying to understand and predict. Therefore we look to keep things simple and clear; to separate trends from fashion. To make people in Europe and elsewhere aware of what is coming tomorrow and further down the line.
We believe we must build future zero emissions mobility while also protecting the environment, making life easier and more entertaining for all people using cars. The AUTOBEST Jury was the first in Europe with this in mind. Our `ECOBEST` award, pioneered 16 years ago, is today a European accolade in the field of green technologies, products and initiatives.
Simply asking what is the future of the automobile is not the right question. We know the answer; the future, both medium and long term, is electric. With one, two or four electric engines – one each for every wheel. The real question is, how we will create and deliver the electricity to these cars? With Lithium-Ion batteries? With Hydrogen fuel cells? With wireless induction from the road? Harnessing solar energy? Or a new way? The future developments will focus on these solutions. We have already started. Batteries today are much more efficient and cheaper than five years ago. Fuel cell technology is also progressing. However, by today investments, to build a network of fast charging stations is far cheaper than a hydrogen supply stations network.
The discussion about renewable electric energy sources in Europe is only political. As has already been proven in many European countries, the development of solar and wind power plants are limited only by policy decisions. Today the technology used in solar and wind energy plants could supply everything we need. Additionally, the efficient energy storing possibilities and capabilities are increasing every day.
We also identify as a clear trend the connectivity, the transformation of the car in a powerful computer on wheels. There is no coincidence that four years ago we launched the `SMARTBEST` award, the first European prize for the smartest connected technologies in cars. We see the fast smartphone evolution to the `key of everything` status. It is the most portable device we all keep closer even more than our IDs. The connected car will play a role in conjunction with the smartphone. The evolution of smartphones will continue at a fast pace, and the automotive industry must continue to innovate with a similar rhythm as the mobile industry.
`Autonomous Driving` will continue to represent an extremely important trend in our future. But the day, when we are all driven in robotized cars, is still far away. Even in Europe, many things must happen before we reach such a stage of motoring. Even if we all agree that car/ride sharing is the fourth major trend of our time, it remains the weakest one. The logic behind sharing cars is there, and we expect a significant development in the short to medium future. But we also see a lot of customers around Europe keeping their vehicles for personal use. No matter which generations we belong to, the car we drive is personal and often linked with our families. Therefore, many people will still keep it in this way.
For many years already, the car industry has offered different types of alternative propulsion – hybrid, plug-in hybrid, BEV- with the idea of `customer choice`, the customer’s mission is to choose. As we can see more and more in Europe, the decision is ultimately political. If the European states decide to go only for zero emissions vehicles – as it already started in Germany, Norway and The Netherlands – it will not be any more about the customer choice but the need to comply with new regulations. If this kind of political decision continues to spread around Europe, as we expect, in the next 10-15 years all the cars will turn to zero emissions with an electric-only propulsion system.
Consequently, the primary investments of the industry will go into this direction and not to the traditional propulsion systems. This shift change is already becoming more visible. Most of the automotive engineers tend to agree that the diesel engines are almost at the limits of their green performances. The required investments in R&D to gain more from these engines are far too big compared with the benefits. Petrol engines can deliver better consumption with less pollution and CO2. More, the hybrids are even better and we see opening a „time frame window” in Europe valid for the next 5-7 years for this technology. Therefore we suspect R&D spending will continue in this direction. But beyond this period, we will leave more and more space for zero emission propulsions technologies.
At AUTOBEST, we will continue to observe all of the developments in the industry. We will always adapt our `Best Buy Car of Europe` concept to the present realities of the European motoring landscape. We are very sensitive to the European consumers’ needs in buying new cars, evolving our 13 criteria’s matrix of voting.
From all of these will always come the judgement behind the AUTOBEST awards.