Harness sustainability in automotive with green 5G

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Circular economy under the automotive lens

New priorities are emerging in this quickly changing world. Sustainability now tops the global agenda as consumers and businesses labor to preserve our environment. Meanwhile, technologies like 5G bring an opportunity to amplify our efforts and make a real difference.

The automotive industry makes for an interesting case study of the tremendous potential of 5G. The 5G-enabled car will revolutionize driving by forever changing how consumers interact with their cars. Vehicles will be connected to a truly high-speed and low-latency network, superseding the limitations of 4G and enabling cars to communicate rapidly with surrounding elements such as signs and other vehicles, fostering the conditions for safe autonomy. Software-defined vehicles will drive their own shift in the market, as cars become more like intelligent devices with the same functionalities as smartphones.

All this evolution is new and exciting, but it is critical sustainability is not undermined in the manufacturing process. Circular-economy practices are no longer optional – they are critical, and many OEMs are awakening to this fact. Consumers are starting to demand sustainable operations from car manufacturers, with 24 percent now researching environmental and sustainability factors before making a purchase.

The circular economy is a model for economic development that benefits our society and environment by decoupling business growth from the consumption of finite resources. Circular practices include buying used products, repairing items instead of replacing them, and recycling whenever possible. Many of us are familiar with these habits in our daily lives.

How does this model look when applied to automotive? Here are the 7Rs of the circular economy under a mobility lens:

  • Reduce – reducing the number and volume of resources going into vehicle production
  • Reuse – reusing assets from older vehicles in new cars, e.g., tires
  • Redesign – designing parts so they can be remanufactured
  • Repair –repair of broken or worn-out parts rather than replacement
  • Refurbish – restoring parts and systems to their original functionality, e.g., engines
  • Return – establishing a recovery plan for different materials to be reused and repurposed for new and used vehicles
  • Recycle – recycling metals, plastics, filters, engine oil, and other components to be directed back into the production cycle.

What is compelling about 5G is not just the milestone it marks or the connectivity it enables, but how it can help achieve global sustainability strategies. In the automotive sector, it provides the foundation for a more distributed supply chain with better tracking and tracing through connected sensors. On the roads and the assembly lines, car companies will need to work together with the right partners to extract the valuable data that will guide decisions for operational sustainability. This data can then be studied to determine the environmental impact of processes and to uncover ways of reducing the brand’s carbon footprint.

Drivers will also be able to monitor their own impacts with 5G and connected tracking, giving them the control they increasingly desire and empowering them to take their own preservative actions. It’s worth noting that the 7Rs are not just for manufacturers; consumers have their own part to play in driving what we call circular mobility.

The harmony between sustainability aims and 5G capabilities is the essence of green 5G. Technology will unlock a next-generation driving experience, but green 5G will ensure the value we harness can be sustained and leveraged for building a better future for us all.

Daniel Davenport is a Principal – Automotive Connected Mobility Solutions at Capgemini. He works with a range of global clients to develop connected use cases that drive innovation, enhance the owner experience, and create new revenue streams. He can be reached at daniel.d.davenport@capgemini.com or on LinkedIn

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