Electrification in automotive industry

Electrification and "crisis identity" in automotive industry

Some car manufacturers use the grille as an essential part of their visual identity. Can anyone imagine an Alfa Romeo without its iconic triangle? A BMW without its kidney grille (no matter the height, width, shape or position)? A Mercedes Benz or an Audi? Definitely for some manufacturers the grille it’s not a part of the brand’s identity and it’s significantly different from one model to another. But for sure, in some brands the grille is so distinctive and recognisable as their logo.

Let’s see though why almost all cars until now accommodate a grille. The grille is intended to provide the radiator with air in order to cool the internal combustion engine or directly the engine in an air-cooled car (air-cooled cars’ production has been stopped). Only some rear-engine vehicles don’t have a grille using side vents to provide adequate air circulation for cooling (even though most rear-engine cars have a grille and a radiator on the front).

Electric motors on the other hand, work in a totally different way compared to the internal combustion engines that we were using exclusively until a few years ago. Electric motors have no need for cooling and thus there is no reason for radiator and grille. Typical examples are some cars which launched as electric, such as some Tesla models, and they never had a grille at all.

What is going to happen though with the brands that use the grille as part of their visual identity if automotive industry moves totally in electrification? They will face a dilemma about the future of their grille. They will either keep it as a “decorative” feature or with another purpose, or they will remove it losing a part of who they are. Some companies already have transformed the grille in some of their models to a multisensory panel which helps in car’s navigation and safety. For sure, each company will find its way to go through this identity challenge and many attempts will be made during this transition process. It will take a couple of years – or a bit more – to see what is going to happen. It’s just that automotive industry (and transportation industry in general – but this is for another article) has never faced in its history so big and crucial/significant changes as these of our era.

This article intends to express thoughts and reflections upon the future of automotive design and it is not a scientific article. The referred brand names are indicatives and they are used as examples for the article to be comprehensible