The auto industry is facing tremendous demand due to global population growth, increasing affluence in the emerging markets and the universal aspiration for personal mobility. A steady rise in vehicle sales, especially in emerging markets, is expected to continue over the next several decades. By 2030, we expect the world's more than eight billion people to operate one billion vehicles. By 2050, the world's population is expected to top nine billion people. Over two-thirds of these people will live in cities, many of which already experience traffic congestion and poor air quality.
Clearly, this exponential increase in demand creates significant challenges with respect to energy, the environment, safety, congestion and land use. Today, people in cities spend approximately 5.6 years of their lives in traffic. Seventy percent of car owners have trouble finding parking at least once per day, and, under congested conditions, up to 30 percent of fuel is consumed looking for a parking spot or waiting in traffic. Additionally, more than 50 million people are injured in traffic accidents each year.
As we contemplate solutions, we increasingly question how closely the vehicles of today are suited to the needs of tomorrow. Today's average car weighs at least 20 times more than its occupant, relies for the most part upon a single energy source — petroleum — and releases most of its energy as heat. Though the automotive industry has made marked improvements in emissions reduction, fuel economy, safety and affordability in recent decades, a substantial degree of cost, energy, mass and space inefficiency still remains in the design of today's automobile. As the world's cities continue to grow and the automobile enters its second century, new thinking is required — thinking that we believe will lead to the reinvention of personal mobility as we know it today.
Fortunately, the convergence of an array of new technologies is making it possible for the first time to form an entirely new vision of how the automotive world could evolve. This vision foresees a time when vehicles could be:
Electric-drive vehicles have the advantage of producing zero tailpipe emissions and opening up an array of domestically produced energy sources, many of which can be renewable. Electric vehicles also support a diversity of efficient energy-generation and storage options, including lithium-ion batteries and hydrogen fuel cells. Powered by these options, electric vehicles can be recharged in practical, everyday places — homes, commercial garages or street spaces equipped with charging facilities.
Autonomous driving technology, enabled by network connectivity, could further increase energy efficiency by dramatically improving traffic flow. Connected vehicles have the capacity to move simultaneously through intersections as a unit, much like a flock of birds, with uniform speed and direction, yet constant separation, and the ability to break off from the group at any time. Traffic flow is thereby optimized so that average speeds are increased and travel times decreased. Since a large percentage of fuel is wasted in searching for parking, autonomous, self-parking vehicles also could have a substantial positive effect on reducing energy use, as well as congestion and door-to-door travel time.
Vehicles equipped with autonomous driving technology have the potential to be significantly safer vehicles. This technology can dramatically reduce the potential for vehicle collisions at speeds that cause injury or significant property damage. More precise chassis control will make vehicles more responsive and nimble. The benefits are already apparent today with electronic stability control systems like GM's StabiliTrak, which have proven highly effective in reducing the frequency and severity of certain types of collisions.
The prototype of our vision for urban mobility is the
EN-V, short for Electric Networked Vehicle, which was unveiled in 2010 at the Shanghai World Expo to support the Expo's theme of "Better City, Better Life." The EN-V maintains the core principle of personal mobility — freedom — with a design that encompasses the future reality of urban transportation.
The two-seat vehicle is powered by electric motors and has zero tailpipe emissions. Lithium-ion batteries store electricity to enable 40 kilometers of travel before recharging, which can be accomplished via conventional household power in as little as four hours. As a small-footprint, highly maneuverable vehicle, the EN-V also can reduce parking space requirements, energy consumption and ownership costs.
In addition, the EN-V establishes a technology foundation that could migrate to future advanced vehicle safety systems. On-board technology combines GPS with vehicle-to-vehicle communications and distance-sensing technologies to enable autonomous driving. The EN-V's 360-degree vehicle-sensing capability and its ability to communicate with other vehicles and infrastructure could dramatically reduce the potential for accidents. The vehicle also leverages wireless communications to enable a "social network" among occupants on the go.
It will take widespread implementation and supporting infrastructure for the promise of the EN-V to become reality. But we know that technologies exist today to prove the plausibility of our vision. The promise of these technologies is so real that GM has signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Sino-Singapore Tianjin Eco-City to explore integration of next-generation EN-Vs in an effort to solve the urban mobility challenge. In April, we unveiled the Chevrolet EN-V 2.0 at Auto China 2012. This vehicle takes the first steps toward making real the vision of the original EN-V. It adds features that consumers demand, such as in-vehicle climate control and personal storage space, in addition to capabilities to handle all weather and city road driving conditions. We expect to use the EN-V 2.0 in pilot studies throughout China.
We are excited about the possibilities presented by our vision for urban mobility — a vision that has the potential to transform automotive DNA. We are convinced that this transformation will not only deliver freedom from petroleum, emissions, congestion and collisions, but also will reaffirm the freedom, functionality and, yes, fun that have been the hallmarks of personal mobility for more than a century.