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In celebration of its 10th anniversary, Automotive Campus Helmond, together with TNO, is organising the mobility debate “Realistic Routes to Paris”. In this debate, on 3 December, prominent guests from politics, science and the mobility sector will discuss the ways to achieve the Paris agreements, without putting society to a full stop. The themes in the debate are passenger transport and Heavy Duty. In two parts we look ahead to the discussion. Today: Jan Wouters on the challenges of passenger transport.

All major car brands are working towards electrification of the powertrains of their newest models. Both environmental directives and the rapid fall in battery prices are the reason for this. But is it going fast enough? And will full-electric win the battle, or will the hydrogen fuel cell take care of it? Or will there be a new hybrid version in combination with a more sustainable fuel?

Jan Wouters, who in his professional work focuses on both the future and the past of the automotive sector and thus has a keen eye for the trends that really matter, warns that an answer to these questions is mainly to be found across the border. “We often hear that e-driving is the future because traditional fuels are becoming more expensive and batteries will only get cheaper. But we don’t live on an island. Geopolitical developments can simply lead to scarcity and price increases, and then another direction can suddenly become much more feasible.”

This is one of the reasons why it is good to get exactly those people around the table, when debating the future of passenger transport, who can also make these kinds of considerations, says Wouters. “We, therefore, want to conduct the debate with experts who are able to think in a scientific way, but who are also prepared to fight each other with arguments. With Jaap Tuinstra from PON, we ensure that the existing solutions can be heard as well. We will certainly also be talking about liquid gas because by using that, it would be relatively easy to directly reduce CO2 emissions by 20%. We would also like to invite an EV-adept and a party that thinks of alternative directions.”

Wouters immediately thinks of Toyota, where, as is the case with many other Asian brands, huge investments are being made in the fuel cell. “It doesn’t seem to work here yet, but it certainly does in Asia. So it could just happen that we will still see a breakthrough. Take a look at their Prius plug-in hybrid, with a small 10 Kwh battery for short distances, which is more than enough for most days. By the way, that could be an interesting proposition: ‘ten times a Toyota Prius has the same battery capacity as one Tesla, but it covers a lot more kilometres’!”

In addition, Wouters thinks that TNO’s contribution to the debate is interesting because of their independent research and advisory role, and their view of the government’s long-term programmes. “So if one of the parties involved calls for a certain development to be slower or faster, we have TNO to indicate the different technical and policy options to be able to achieve ‘Paris’.”

According to Wouters, the exciting thing is in the many uncertainties. “And there is a lot of doom and gloom. So often, we’re just shouting out our of fear of the future. What if the electricity grid can’t handle it? Where is my charging station when I live on the fourth floor of an apartment building? Where and how are these batteries actually made…? And then there are the incidents that unfortunately are part of a transition period like this and are being magnified to ‘prove’ that someone is right. But we have to get over these bumps. You can be resistant to innovation, but it’s better to take the initiative: after all, we make the future ourselves.”

Look here at the participants in this part of the debate. Tickets are still available: registration can be done here.