Safety, connectivity and new materials in the automotive industry

Netherlands Innovation Network ChinaHigh Tech Systems and Materials Leave a Comment


The automotive industry is economically important but a growing public health concern. A seminar brought together a diverse group of contributors to development and production of new energy cars, which are cleaner and more safe. It aimed to improve connections in the industry, which may lead to a quicker implementation of new technologies.


The automotive sector is a dominant pillar of the global economy. For instance, in the EU, the industry accounts for 4 % of the GDP. However, the associated industry and combustion engines are responsible for a large part of air pollutants worldwide and pose serious health risks. A great challenge has arisen: maintain people’s mobility while forcing the automotive industry into a sustainable direction.

The EU has set very ambitious goals to tune down the emission of pollutants. This ambition strongly aligns with the current demands from the public domain. Also China has witnessed a sharp increase of public health issues related to pollution –largely due to traffic- in the past years. A recent documentary about air pollution from Ms. Chai Jing provided a turning point for both policy makers as well as public involvement in opening the public debate. Since then, various officials have openly supported the war on pollution in China.

It is striking that enabling technologies for clean and safe mobility are reaching mature stages. These involve improved materials, electric mobility, and rapid development of “connected cars” systems: solutions to optimize safety and advance self-driving capacities. Dutch research institutes and industries play leading roles globally. University teams from the Netherlands are front-runners in producing, designing and building award-winning solar-powered vehicles that can drive far and fast (Nuna from Delft University of Technology) or long distances with families (Stella and Stella Lux from Eindhoven University of Technology). The Stella Lux implements all available state-of-the-art new materials, technologies and connectivity solutions. In China, the governmental push towards electric mobility and the strong academic achievements in relevant advanced materials sciences will set off an exponential increase of applied new technologies in the automotive sector whenever the consumer is ready for it.

There is still a complex puzzle to solve in order to successfully integrate these technologies into the automotive industry, and to educate and/or meet expectations of consumers. The Netherlands Office for Science and Technology in Shanghai therefore initiated a discussion between different contributors in the new energy vehicle value chain. A seminar was organized for companies and universities who were related to safety, connectivity and new materials in the industry, ranging from new solar power technology to manufacturing robotics to technologies allowing cars to sense their surroundings (car-to-X communication). Here, participants could share their own expertise, anticipate future developments and shape ideas to what extend they should become involved.

A number of participants focused on new materials (either PV or carbon fiber reinforced composites) and may be able to optimize their products by sharing information and start partnerships. Material-focused organizations also saw potential in applying technologies –such as in-wheel transmission-less engines- in their designs, and vice versa. Most importantly, a small network was created of active contributors to the development of cleaner and safer ways of road transportation.

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