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Sustainable Evolution of the Automotive Industry

Throughout the history of the automotive industry, car manufacturers have not focused on creating sustainable practices that warrant the effects of creating a more sustainable future. In addition to producing and selling commercial vehicles, car manufacturers also provide transportation services for millions of individuals.

Assembling products using traditional assembly lines still consumes significant amounts of energy, metals, plastics, toxins, and labour; thus, leaving a massive carbon footprint behind. Likewise, vehicles that are manufactured emit harmful emissions when they operate on fossil fuels. The large environmental impact of this entire process has brought us to this point in time creating a level of attention to start thinking about renewable energies and fuels.

A report from Greenpeace in 2021 in an analysis of global automakers’ decarbonisation, according to estimates, states that 86 million cars were sold in 2018 and contributed 9 percent to global greenhouse gas emissions. All the more reason to constitute a more sustainable practice within the automotive industry and to further enhance a more sustainable carbon footprint.

COVID-19 pandemic majorly disrupted supply chains and car sales, as well as the environment. In an interview, Dr. Yap from Liverpool University on the topics of COVID-19’s Environmental Impact: Positives and Negatives states that the “first quarter 2020 global carbon emissions at a 5% decline compared to the same in 2019 due to a drop in global energy demand.” (Xi’an Jiaotong-Liverpool University (XJTLU), n.d.)

Also, business leaders and car manufacturers understand that the future of the automotive industry requires immediate change, the attitude towards this new focus is “shifting gears” according to Judy Cubiss in an article with Forbes. (n.d) Additionally, manufacturers now lead the way when it comes to sustainable change due to maturing attitudes towards sustainability.

All competitors within the automotive industry are beginning to feel the pressure to incorporate new practices to become more sustainable. For starters, they must readdress their design and engineering philosophy when developing the cars, stemming from the manufacturing and shipping procedures to their vehicle's driving capabilities. Particularly, the required services to dispense over cars to the end of their lifecycle.

Although some manufacturer executives have already anticipated the overwhelming rapid climate demand, only a small number of them are able to meet their expected sustainability goals. An example of this would be Volkswagen’s latest electric car factory that manufactures only electric vehicles. Not only have Volkswagen built an entirely new plant for more sustainable production, but they have also created competition with one of the world's most prestigious electric car company Tesla.

While the plans of Volkswagen wanting to counter Tesla began in November 2021, since then Volkswagen has created a concept to rival the electric saloon car with their new VW ID.7 rival to Tesla’s Model 3. With Volkswagen's new vision of becoming a more sustainable manufacturer, they seem to have a goal to become the biggest electric car brand that can even rival Tesla. Although Volkswagen is primed to achieve its vision of transforming the automotive industry, many more industry players must make an impact sooner rather than later to create the same set of sustainability goals to achieve the level of difference set by Volkswagen.

The future of sustainability in the car industry is set to be competitive but also very challenging in order to achieve the demands of the 2030 Climate Target Plan. Although making such a difference creates skepticism amongst other car manufacturers, Volkswagen continues their sustainability journey by creating a concept, within the space of two years, from opening an electric car factory to developing its very first all-electric saloon the ID.7.

Created by: Aaron Teasdale


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