Chellenge Bibendum, Michelin Tyre's signature event addresses issues beyond climate change

It is not sheer happenstance that Challenge Bibendum, Michelin Tyre's signature event, was held in Brazil this time.

With fossil fuels meeting a small portion of its energy needs, Brazil harnesses renewable energy sources in a significant manner and the country has come to be regarded as a benchmark of the quest for sustainable and less-polluting energy sources.

However, Challenge Bibendum, a sustainable mobility event that entered its 10th year, addresses many issues beyond climate change. Initiated by Michelin in 1998, the event is not only its largest global show but is also billed as the world's only event which brings together makers of cars, buses, trucks as well as academics, original equipment manufacturers and energy-suppliers as also research institutions, government authorities, NGOs and sustainable mobility stakeholders to discuss issues pertaining to sustainable mobility.

Areas of concern

Globally, there are an estimated 900 million four-wheelers. Projections that this figure may touch 1.5 billion by 2030 has triggered areas of concern not only on air quality and fuel consumption but also the safety aspects of road transportation.

It is felt that if these issues are left unattended then the natural economic demand for mobility, which for over a century has been a catalyst for economic growth, will overwhelm the ability to sustain it. Today's mobility stakeholders — the energy sector, the automobile sector and the parts suppliers' industry as well as governments and consumers — are adjusting to global trends. The economic downturn has brought restructuring, downsizing and new focus to traditional players of the sector but the basic challenges remain.

Challenge Bibendum is a powerful catalyst for change for all persons and institutions with a stake in mobility. The event provides in-depth insights. It encourages information-sharing and greater mutual understanding. It acts as a real stimulus to presenting a clearer vision of what tomorrow could bring. This insight can then be translated into meaningful and concerted action for mobility around the world. Many participants return year after year with their latest vehicle, enhanced fuel-efficiency and new safety device or technology breakthrough. Many choose to take part in the tests and evaluation while others opt for a stand in the Technological Exhibition Centre. Whatever the participation, each individual progress moves us all one step further along the road to the collective goal of managing this shift to a more sustainable future.

Industry challenges

The challenges before the industry are to provide technology and concept, while the policymakers need to provide goal and relevant frameworks. The task of the society is to adapt itself with the shift and change its attitudes towards transportation.

The participants at this edition of the event included car manufacturers like Chevrolet, Fiat, Volvo, Mitsubishi Motors and Mercedes Benz, technology solution developers like Honeywell, IBM and Wipro, energy suppliers like Air Liquide, Exxon Mobil and Petrobras, besides other actors of sustainable mobility and transport fleet operators.

The issue of emissions, of course, took centre-stage during the three-day deliberations with fuel options, electric vehicles and hybrids being discussed. Manufacture of fuel cell vehicles were also discussed wherein the issues of major obstacles like cost were debated. It was also concluded that by acting in concert, the new technologies can become the toolbox that can be used by the road transportation sector to reach its goals of reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Many companies presented their innovations. Wipro Solutions was among these, making a proposition for green-driving. The company has developed a solution that supports the various stakeholders involved in emission reduction efforts with an innovative and inexpensive approach to tackling emission reductions across all types of cars. A GHG sensor placed in the exhaust pipe of cars — ICE, hybrids and electric vehicles — could measure the data related to emission which could be displayed to the driver to provide driving behaviour feedback.

This could either be used to improve driving techniques to lower emission or for further business opportunities.

Michelin too unveiled its latest innovations ranging from fuel efficient automobile tyres to wheel/tyre assemblies in new sizes to motorised wheels which eliminate many constraints. The motorised wheels presented at this year's event and fitted on the highly innovative Peugeot BB1 are an illustration of this type of innovation. The Michelin Active Wheel used on electric vehicles and hybrid vehicles represented an even greater advancement in integrating components into the wheel, enabling electric vehicles and hybrids to operate in emission-free mode.

However, sustainable mobility is not only about emission and efficient vehicles. As integrated to the entire matter is the issue of safety in road movement. Annually, 1.3 million people are killed and 50 million are injured on the roads with increased number of vehicles, especially in emerging countries, where the human and the economic costs on this accounting is growing. As traffic intensifies, this toll will increase.

While there were also suggestions that mass transportation was one of the solutions that effectively addresses the issue of safety as well as emissions, it was clearly stated that mobility without safety is not sustainable.

In sum, Michelin foresees a world of sustainable mobility that is clean and safer and more connected. In today's deeply troubled global economic environment, revitalisation of the automobile industry will depend on the ability of its key players to meet three challenges. These are: offering more environment-friendly mobility solutions, providing people with access to safe mobility and adapting the mobility of people and goods to the constraints of an increasingly urban world.