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11/01/2017

Massimo Brunamonti

 

FOR THE FIRST TIME EUROPE GOES BEYOND THE THRESHOLD OF 500.000 ELECTRIC VEHICLES.

THE  IMPLICATIONS FOR THE CAR MAINTENANCE AND REPAIR BUSINESS.

According to a recent report published by the Transport & Environment (T&E) Agency, Europe is now second only to China in the total sale of electric and hybrid vehicles, with 145,000 new recently sold electric vehicles.

The first place among manufacturers is occupied by Mitsubishi with 23% of total sales, followed by Renault, Volkswagen and Nissan. The first country in registrations is the Netherlands, with a prevalence of hybrid vehicles; followed by Norway, mostly fully electric and Britain, where government incentives certainly helped a lot.

Julia Hildermeier, T&E electro-mobility officer, said: "The electro-mobility revolution is under way and Europe is well positioned to gain a leading position. However, in order to make the best of this opportunity, Europe needs four major incentives by the legislators: setting ambitious CO2 limits in Europe for new vehicles, a widespread charging infrastructure, bans on polluting diesel vehicles from cities and tax breaks for electric vehicles".

Looking at the ranking, it might seem surprising not to see Germany and other major EU  countries on the podium. The cause seems to be a lack of incentives and investments in infrastructure. In a year when the global political class has been boasting about the success of the Paris Convention on the reduction of global warming, you would be quite justified in thinking that there is still much to be done to transform optimistic declarations of intent into concrete actions. If Europe is to become a leader in environmental protection, then it also needs  an adequate political support for the development of sustainable mobility.

The development potential of electric mobility is very large indeed and there are many areas of intervention: for instance, urban delivery vehicles, urban mobility vehicles, not to mention the growing number of electric bicycles and scooters. It seems that the average citizen’s approach once again exceeds the awareness of the political class, which is now called upon to intervene with appropriate tools.

T&E further reports that the prices of both electric and hybrid vehicles are rapidly dropping and new battery packs are outperforming older types. It is important to note how the automotive industry has understood the changes taking place and is already adapting to them. New production facilities, in fact, have been planned in Germany, Hungary and Poland, which, according to research, will probably create between 0,5 to 1 million new jobs.

But what does all this mean for the car repair sector? The implications are neither few nor small. Both garage equipment and services will be greatly affected, just think of battery pack management, diagnostics and  power unit maintenance and repair, body work on non-metallic materials. Not to mention the profound changes on garage equipment, which goes well beyond simple upgrades of already existing tools and instruments, to the creation of new working tools designed for a totally different use. Furthermore, specialists will have to follow in the same path, becoming also electric and electronics experts and obtain the necessary certifications.

At the moment the number of electric and hybrid vehicles circulating on our roads is quite limited but with a potential growth rate looking at double digit figures every year, to the point that they will soon reach numbers that could no longer be neglected. There will come a time when every garage will have a sign saying “electric vehicle specialist"; Once again, first comers will be the winners.

                 

LEADING COMPANIES CREATE THE “EUROPEAN AUTOMOTIVE TELECOM ALLIANCE”

During a round table on connected and autonomous driving promoted and chaired by Günther H. Oettinger, European Commissioner for Digital Economy and Society, both the automotive and telecommunication industries have formally announced the creation of the European Automotive Telecom Alliance.

The Alliance includes 6 major industry associations and 37 companies, besides telecom operators, automobile manufacturers and parts suppliers, with the main collective objective to promote connected, assisted and autonomous driving throughout Europe. The first concrete step is the proposal of a "Pre-distribution Project" designed to address three main use cases:

  • Autonomous driving including patrolling high-density residential areas, remote parking pilot, self-driving systems on freeways and hi-definition maps.
  • Road safety and traffic efficiency, including smart traffic for smart cities with the necessary infrastructures
  • Transport and logistics digitization with remote sensing and automatic data management.

The details have yet to be defined, but tests will soon detect and address both technological and regulatory issues. Among the main topics to be dealt with, the project will also address interoperability issues, investment in infrastructure and road safety developments including protection against theft.

Unfortunately, the aftermarket business was not involved in the creation of this alliance; the problems facing the car repair sector are currently left outside the purpose of the constituents. EGEA (European Garage Equipment Association), however, along with its allies within AFCAR (Alliance for the Freedom of Car Repair) will continue to monitor the work ahead in order to bring its contribution, if required.

 

CONNECTED CARS: NEW EUROPEAN CASE STUDIES AND PROPOSALS FROM GERMAN MANUFACTURERS. ANOTHER THREAT TO INDEPENDENCE?

It seems that issues such as access to data and vehicle resources, the so-called "connected car," have finally come under the magnifying lens.

The European Commission has announced a study, entitled "Study on access to on-board data and resources", and entrusted it to a specialized agency ,TRL (Transport Research Laboratory). The study aims to make a further step forward in the decision-making process relating to standardized access platform to vehicle data (C-ITS platform), as requested by the European Parliament, by analyzing from all points of view (legal, civil, technical and economic) the three possible solutions identified as viable, as analyzed with the help of some of the major players in the industry, including EGEA.

Of the three solutions identified, the first consists of a fully integrated open platform in the vehicle. The second is a standard interface that will connect to "nomadic" devices, such as smartphones and their apps. The third and final solution is external servers in the form of so-called ExVe (extended vehicle) or a neutral shared server or B2B access used by car manufacturers.

The purpose of the study is to determine the viability of all the existing solutions. The need for a specific study comes from the vastness of the topic, as outlined by the legislator, which requires an in-depth point of view on, not so many technical aspects, as much as on data security, guaranteed access, non-discrimination and privacy. Not to mention the estimated cost / benefit ratio, decisive for the success of the project.

During the same period, a further announcement was made about the signing of a "common position" agreement  in Germany by the association of car manufacturers (VDU) and a trio of primary parts suppliers: Bosch, Hella Guttman and Continental, in relation to access to data and in-vehicle resources. The agreement, which the signatories declare to be compliant with security requirements, privacy and non-discriminatory regulations, was presented to the German government and was announced to the European Commission as part of the C-ITS.

The “common position” provides that car manufacturers responsible for the quality and integrity of the data, are the system administrator and as such are responsible for the production and transfer of data through an OEM B2B interface. Third parties can access such data directly or through "neutral servers" stipulating appropriate access contracts. In this way, says the agreement, any supplier can offer any kind of service in various fields: whether navigation, road safety, data security, entertainment, e-commerce, etc. Third party access to the OEM B2B interface will be based on specific contracts.

As for information on diagnosis and vehicle repair, the agreement provides for the standard compliant maintenance protocol for both the OBD and OBD2 interfaces, , while reserving the right to manufacturers of specific initiatives to protect the integrity of the vehicle during operations.

The data produced by manufacturers are classified in 5 categories: data related to road safety, data on communal services, data on manufacturer-specific services, data for the analysis of vehicle components and personal data. Each category interests a specific sector: the car repair sector, for example, is interested in services related to communal data.

The position of VDA, Bosch, Hella Guttman and Continental on the matter has many implications in the aftermarket world and all operators will have to analyze it very carefully. Meanwhile, it will be important to see how much and how the OBD interface will still be in use. How "deep" the level of diagnostic and repair data via OBD will be? What will become of local diagnosis? Will reverse engineering still be possible? The, not so remote, possibility of a transfer of many of the technical data to a management service through the B2B interface may actually prevent access, for example, to real-time data.

The agreement repeatedly emphasizes the compliance of any possible solution to EU guidelines regulating free and fair competition, security and privacy: certified and secure data under the manufacturers' responsibility, protection of privacy and access to "honest" non-discriminatory costs. Nevertheless, the framework is rather complex and expensive. It is no coincidence in fact that neutral servers have been introduced for third party access, with the aim of not having to force each individual trader to build or buy its own server. But whether the neutral server can or wants to offer reasonably priced access remains to be seen. From the standpoint of an independent car repair workshop, or equipment manufacturer, the doubts are still quite strong especially when you consider the difference in power with, for example, the subscribers of the agreement.

The "common position" agreement is very well structured and suitably discussed, therefore the chances for a positive response from the political world is rather high, considering the benefits in terms of standardization and data maintenance. It will be interesting to see the reaction of the DG Connect of the competent European Commission in the field of data exchange. The question is how sensitive the DG Connect will be to primary issues such as free competition, which is crucial in the car repair sector. The associations will have to assess very carefully whether to resort in the future to the Competition Authorities.

 

 

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