Six Ways Materials Can Enhance Ride-Hailing Vehicles

By 2030 ride-hailing is expected to be a $285 billion industry, with 97 million ride-hailing trips occurring daily around the world, according to Goldman Sachs.

Ride-hailing vehicles are currently manufactured for the everyday driver. But as the industry looks to capitalize on this massive growth opportunity, ride-hailing companies, automakers and material suppliers are starting to reimagine what makes an ideal vehicle for this service. A vehicle in near-constant use has different demands compared to one parked 95 percent of the time, as the average car does today.

The relationship between vehicle and passenger also changes, influencing the demand for antimicrobials and noise, vibration and harshness solutions.

Additionally, more rides mean more emissions, which increases the need for environmentally friendly fleets.

"BASF is well positioned to anticipate material solution needs associated with a trend as transformative as ride-hailing because of the breadth of our automotive portfolio and our leadership in research and development," said Johannes Sprafke, innovation manager automotive at BASF.

Outlined below are six ways materials that can be used to engineer a strong fleet of vehicles for ride-hailing while also improving durability, passenger experience and sustainability.

  1. Increase durability with lubricants, additives and coatings

A vehicle used for ride-hailing will quickly rack up mileage, wearing down its parts. BASF Emgard® lubricants protect drive axles and transmissions against wear, corrosion and pitting. Enhanced by extended oil drain intervals, they also reduce how often the vehicle needs maintenance, keeping it on the road longer.

BASF fuel additive, Keropur, increases the life of an engine by protecting its intake system from deposit formation and reduces energy wasted by friction within the engine, improving overall fuel economy and driver experience.

Vehicles may also accumulate small chips and scratches over time as the number of passengers grows. BASF developed its clear coat, iGloss, to set a new standard for scratch resistance. It helps the car look newer, longer. In fact, one automaker found that vehicle scratch resistance and appearance improved by more than 25 percent when using this technology.

2. Consider cleanliness with antimicrobials

The average number of germs found in ride-hailing vehicles far outnumber the germs found in taxis and rental cars, according to a new study from NetQuote. While ride-hailing vehicles clock in at 6,055,963 colony-forming units (CFU), rental cars and taxis average only 2,000,510 CFU and 27,593 CFU respectively.

"Materials play a major role when it comes to manufacturing vehicles intended for ride-hailing," said Sprafke. "These vehicles need to accommodate up to five times more people, and we are developing materials that are easy to clean and help limit the spread of bacteria and buildup of dust."

3. Enhance passenger experience with NVH solutions

Noise seeping into the cabin and jolts when the car hits a bump can all contribute to a one-star experience for the passenger.

For sound abatement, BASF offers Basotect, a lightweight, open-cell melamine foam, commonly used for engine covers, hood liners, transmission covers and dashboard insulators.

To further prevent street, wind and engine noise from entering the cabin, Elastoflex can fill cavities such as pillars and sills within a vehicle's body.

BASF also engineered Cellasto, a microcellular polyurethane elastomer, to isolate and dampen vibrations for jounce bumpers, top mounts, chassis coil spring isolators and mounts for electric motors or battery packs. This highly durable material is inside every second car manufactured around the world.

4. Personalize your brand with coatings

A vehicle's exterior can help make ride-hailing services more appealing to riders and help establish brand identity and build trust.

Lyft and Uber have already begun incorporating color as part of their branding model, with pink mustaches appearing on Lyft driver windshields, while Uber changes the color of its app based on a user's region.

Beyond branding, color has a psychological effect on riders.

When developing its annual Automotive Color Trend Report, BASF investigated the role color would play in ride-hailing. Colors emphasizing safety and trust proved most important. Learn more about BASF's global color predictions.

As ride-hailing becomes more prevalent, it is anticipated that individuals who choose to own a vehicle will want more personalized options to match their own brand. One potential application is the development of unique, customized coating color spaces.

5. Cut emissions with catalysts

A comprehensive study by the UC Davis Institute of Transportation Studies found ride-hailing in the U.S. increases, rather than decreases, the number of cars on the road. In fact, 49 to 61 percent of trips would have been made by transit, bike, foot or not at all without a ride-hailing option.

To combat this problem, engineers can cut emissions with BASF's expertly crafted mobile emission technologies.

BASF developed the Three-Way Conversion (TWC) catalyst that removes carbon monoxide, hydrocarbon and nitrogen oxide emissions from gasoline-engine exhaust and its Four-Way Conversion (FWC) catalyst that removes those three pollutants in addition to particulate matter. The portfolio also includes innovative technologies such as EvapTrap MX and EvapTrap XC, which drastically cut evaporative hydrocarbon emissions and PremAir, which converts ground level smog into oxygen as it flows over the radiator.

6. Electrify the fleet with innovative materials

A study by Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory found alternative-fuel vehicles will be the most cost-effective option for ride-hailing.

Despite the higher cost of an alternative fuel vehicle, the per-mile cost of fuel makes these alternatives worthwhile economically. For vehicles averaging 40,000 to 70,000 miles per year, typical for a U.S. taxi, the savings outweigh the cost of the extra investment.

BASF is heavily investing in research and development of battery material science. Through partnerships with academic and industry experts, it is finding ways to improve battery material formulas, which will enhance the range, life and pricing of electric and hybrid technologies.

In addition, BASF has a wide range of performance materials and technologies that meet requirements for electric vehicles while reducing mass, enhancing design flexibility and allowing for component and feature integration. Materials such as Ultramid and Ultradur allow automotive manufacturers to save on weight and installation space around the battery, polyurethanes such as Elastollan and Elastofoam provide heavy duty protection and extend the life of various car parts, and high temperature-resistant polysulfones such as Ultrason provide shorter distances between bulb and housing, enabling smaller intricate headlight design.

As the largest chemistry supplier to the automotive industry, BASF is working diligently to anticipate industry needs and develop innovative solutions that drive mobility forward.