Automotive parts market Strong position of Poland’s automotive producers
Even though Poland is not Europe’s leader in car production, it is second to none in the Central-Eastern region of Europe in terms of producing automotive parts and components. Poland’s automotive industry produces approx. 8% of GDP (gross domestic product) and constitutes 13% of the country’s total exports. According to the KPMG, it employs close to 1.1 million people.
The automotive industry is the key branch of the Polish industry in terms of production value, investment expenditure, participation in export and employment. And it is still developing. According to the data from the Polish Agency for Investment and Trade (PAIiH), in Poland, commercial activities are carried out by approximately 1000 producers of automotive parts, out of which 115 companies employ over 250 people. Independent producers employ 80% of people within this sector. Apart from the potentates with full Polish capital, global potentates are also represented on the Polish market.
The polish market requires development
Polish producers invest large means in research and development (R&D) in order to compete on this demanding market. As the free market economy has a short history in Poland, domestic companies had little time to develop adequate brands like their foreign competitors. Some of the global automotive leaders have existed for over 100 years. The majority of Polish entrepreneurs operating in this industry generate a large part of their revenue from export sales – mainly to Germany, but also to Belgium, Netherlands, Italy and Scandinavian countries. Foreign clients realized that Polish products are cheaper but equally good (or even better) compared to the products of their competitors.
R&D in Poland
Thanks to rich academic background and the co-operation network between academic institutions and car and spares manufacturers in Poland, R&D is well developed in the country. This has led to many patents and improvement ideas which do not exclusively involve the automotive industry.
One of such examples is the extraction process of liquid fuel by appropriate processing of plastic waste. It may be used to produce fuels with properties equivalent to petrol and diesel fuel. According to the project of an EU directive, major recipients shall be under obligation to partially use bio fuels which also include fuels from plastic. The fuel which is currently being produced on a small scale, has the same properties as the fuel commonly found at petrol stations. 1 kg of waste can be used to produce a litre of liquid fuel such as diesel fuel EN590, petrol EN228 or aviation fuel. The impact of such production process on the environment is also substantial. Production of one litre of fuel from plastic results in 12.5% smaller emission of carbon dioxide compared to fuel produced from crude oil.
Strength in graphene
Hydrogen has been called the fuel of the future for a long time, however its storage remains a big challenge. Because of the size of hydrogen’s atom, it penetrates the atoms of all materials from which containers for its storage are made. For this reason, hydrogen is best stored in the form which is chemically bound – as metal hydrides.
The technology of hydrogen as a propulsive fuel is developing relatively slow compared to other types of hybrid propulsion. This, however, may soon change thanks to graphene. In the Laboratory of Photosynthesis and Solar Fuels at the University of Warsaw’s Centre for New Technologies, research is underway on the artificial graphene leaf, i.e. bio-hybrid electrode which produces electricity from light. Research is also being carried out on the use of graphene in binding atoms of hydrogen. This is because graphene’s properties allow for the storage of hydrogen in much smaller volume compared to metal hydrides which has a significant impact on the size and weight of the containers.
The bio-hybrid graphene electrode may become a part of the complete fuel cell within the next 5 to 7 years. Currently, the biggest barrier to the introduction of such a solution to the market is its costs. However, as it is the case with every new technology, the costs will gradually decline. At present, the cost of hydrogen produced via bio-hybrid electrodes is approx. 6-7 dollars per kilogram, whilst a kilogram of hydrogen produced from fossil fuels is approx. 1-2 dollars.
Coal but not graphene
Another child of Polish scientists is a battery which uses carbon plates instead of lead plates. The battery will utilize appropriately modified RVC (Reticulated Vitreous Carbon) – a modern carbon material similar to pumice which is characterized by high porosity, electrical conduction and high chemical resistance. In the lead-acidic battery, lead as well as lead dioxide react with sulfuric acid. These reactions generate electricity which may be used, for instance, to power an electrical engine or start-up a combustion engine. In turn, powering the circuit, i.e. loading the battery results in a reverse reaction and the circuit returns to its initial state.
With such a large research and development background and with its simultaneous co-operation with many producers of cars and automotive parts, Poland is a very strong player not only on the European but also on the global arena. Despite having its own car production, the country clearly influences the technologies which are used in the products worldwide.