Promote parts industry to raise competitiveness
BMW last year unveiled an entirely new concept car that is purely electric - the i3. The model is fueled by a lithium-ion battery to power not only the drive system but every vehicle function. A fourth of the plastic that went into the car is recyclable. The floor and framework were made out of carbon-fiber reinforced plastic to reduce the weight and energy consumption. To be truly “eco-friendly,” BMW used sustainable resources, such as a dashboard made from wood derived entirely from sustainable forestry and cowhide sourced from southern Germany that was tanned using a 100 percent natural extract from olive leaves. The assembly lines were also powered by renewable wind power. BMW offered textbook direction as to where the automaking industry should head in the future.
Luxury electric car maker Tesla plans to unveil an all-wheel “auto pilot” sedan. Google is working with Audi and Apple with Mercedes-Benz to offer auto-pilot vehicles. Germany and Japan are sponsored by their respective states to make headway and maintain the lead in the automaking industry.
But what about us? We have nothing in the electric concept field that can catch the world’s attention. The only comfort is that we are ahead in the battery industry that powers electric vehicles. But there are no companies that have key technologies in future concept vehicles such as a radar, a radar scanner and an inertial navigation system, which are essential in an auto-pilot driving system. Lack of investment for the future darkens prospects for our automaking industry.
Our automobile and automotive industries must move their focus beyond mechanics to invest their capacity and resources to evolve into a versatile and comprehensive sector that incorporates electronic, communications and semiconductor capabilities. The automaking industry is not only about engineering but also about parts technology. Technology can develop the industry, and such skills don’t come from the manufacturer but from the parts division. The government must promote the parts industry to raise competitiveness in the field in order to sustain our automobile industry. Electric cars and auto-pilot driving are the future of the automobile industry. Both the government and industry must devote attention and investment toward that direction.
Sunwoo Myung-ho, Professor at the automotive engineering department at Hangyang University