Chemicals and specialty materials in electric, autonomous, and shared vehicles


Making the future of mobility

Chemicals and specialty materials in electric, autonomous, and shared vehicles

Tomorrow’s mobility ecosystem, with fleets of autonomous and/or electric vehicles, may require a new catalog of materials and chemicals to make everything from batteries to simplified powertrains and customizable interiors. For manufacturers, the future of mobility means challenges and opportunities.

The entire way we travel from point A to point B is changing. This transformation is creating a new ecosystem of personal mobility, with implications affecting more than just the automotive industry. Our Future of Mobility practice serves the entire ecosystem of companies working in and around mobility to actively shape its emergence.

In the competitive global chemicals & specialty materials sector, consolidation, globalization, in­creased competition, and economic uncertainty are generating both tremendous challenges and opportunities. At Deloitte, our range of services is focused on helping you improve performance.

A new “oil shock”?

Four decades ago, the auto industry saw the role of chemicals and materials fundamentally reshaped, as the oil shock spurred the need for lighter-weight and lower-cost components.

TODAY, a new series of converging trends could even more profoundly affect how—and of what—vehicles are made. Electric vehicles, autonomous vehicles, and shared mobility will help define the future of mobility, likely creating winners and losers in the chemicals and specialty materials (C&SM) sector.

In the past, shifts in transportation have deep­ened many of the relationships between auto origi­nal equipment manufacturers (OEMs) and sup­pliers and chemicals companies. As advances in materials enabled new designs, the C&SM industry has expanded its footprint. In the United States, $35 billion of annual chemical industry sales flow to motor vehicles, the industry’s largest single source of revenue.

The history of mobility has been mutually shaped and enabled by developments in chemicals and ma­terial science, and so too might its future. Shifting regulations and advances in battery technologies could signal a new phase of growth for electric vehi­cles, which would mean a radically simplified pow­ertrain with fewer fluids and other chemicals need­ed. While much remains uncertain, autonomous vehicles could be in commercial use as early as this year, and the technology could ultimately enable re­imagined vehicle interiors and new body materials for cars that hardly ever crash. And the ongoing shift toward shared mobility looks to place new demands on suppliers, with vehicles seeing higher utilization and specifications that are increasingly dictated by fleet operators rather than OEMs. The transforma­tion is global, with important advances in China, Eu­rope, and the United States in particular.

This article explores the challenges and oppor­tunities that the new mobility ecosystem could cre­ate for chemicals and specialty materials companies. Although the pace and breadth of these shifts may follow well-known paths, there is also the very real possibility that the changes will be highly disrup­tive across the entire C&SM ecosystem. In the face of marketplace shifts in material requirements and demand, firms may need to create value—and they appear to have an opening to actively shape this demand and co-create the new mobility landscape. Those that simply react are likely to find themselves with a shrinking—and commoditized—share of the transportation materials market.

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