Recently, I had the opportunity to interview Alexander Lewis-Jones, EVs and Electricity Product Manager at Delta-ee, and in a wide ranging discussion, we covered a number of topics associated with the development and up-take to all-electric vehicles. In particular we looked at a number of issues that the customer can be faced with.
Recent articles in FleetPoint have highlighted some of those issues; range, access to charging, speed of charging, cost of initial purchase of the vehicle and resale. Society and industry – particularly the power generation industry, are also faced with problems supporting an increase in electric vehicles on our roads. Disposal of the vehicle at the end of its life is another conundrum to be solved.
Alexander believes that some of the problems are in the process of being addressed. Electric vehicles being produced today have a reasonable range of about 200 km (approximately 125 miles), but for many this is still short and a range of 300 km (about 185 miles) is the threshold on which a purchase would be considered. However, that is still only half the average of traditionally fuelled vehicles. There is still some way to go regarding range.
“The issue of range is being tackled on two fronts: technical improvements to batteries and drivetrain efficiency and driver education around how much (or how little) range they actually need for ‘day to day’ journeys. This is propelling manufacturers to segment between premium long-range EVs from smaller, cheaper and shared urban EV models”, says Alexander Lewis-Jones.
The time it takes to charge a vehicle is another primary concern with most chargers currently available offering between 3.7 kW AC to 50 kW DC. Even at the top rate, significantly charging a vehicle could take 30 minutes or more. Alexander sees potential in High Power Charging (HPC) which can provide power over 150 kW with the potential to deliver 350 kW plus. This could mean that a charge of 5 minutes or so could give the vehicle a 200 km range. The time would be equivalent to refuelling a petrol car today.
“Ultimately, the EV charging market will be dictated by customers’ demand for convenience. On most occasions, charging can be done wherever you are: at home, work or places you go. However, when these are not available, our research shows that customers will pay for the quickest, easiest option to reduce inconvenience. For the market, this means HPC”, adds Alexander. Energy production, particularly if produced from renewables, should not have to significantly increase and with smart charging taking into account off-peak consumption, should balance and smooth out production and consumption within the 24 hours.
Charging points are broadly compatible utilising type-2 cabling, but connection to charging points are not wholly inter-changeable. Tesla is moving towards a standard connection, but most companies are still developing their own.
Smart charging is the intelligent charging of EVs, where charging can be shifted on grid loads and in accordance to the vehicle owner’s needs. The development of smart cables that can interact with the energy supplier to provide optimum charging for both the vehicle and energy supplier. Delta-ee’ has identified three communications options to deliver smart charging to the customer: charger-centric, home-centric and car-centric option, each of which has distinct characteristics. The charger-centric option is expected to grow the fastest in the coming years due to the fact chargers do not rely on any other niche technologies and smart charging is typically marketed during the sale of the charge point. The market for home-centric and car-centric options is quite niche and the growth will be limited as existing technologies are in a very nascent state.
“Smart charging is key to the unlocking mass adoption of electric vehicles for most countries. We are in a transition but very soon all charging will be “smart” to a varying extent. This is driven not just to fit with the energy system but also because of it offers the customer greener, controllable, and most importantly, cheaper charging,” explains Alexander
Data security is a major concern. Using public charge points will require those points to know who is authorising the charge-up, what the vehicle is that is being charged and payment information. Secure processes will need to be robust and upgraded in line with any online threat. This is of paramount importance if the customer is to sell their vehicle. Any personal data associated with that vehicle would need a quick and thorough means of removing such data without affecting any of the vehicle’s other systems and operations.
Finally, we come to the question of disposal, and in particularly the most polluting element of that vehicle – the battery. Recycling centres are in the process of being developed, but concern has to be the safe dismantling and extraction of the highly toxic and dangerous elements used in the construction of the battery.
The pressure is on to significantly move away from fossil fuel energy to cleaner, renewable energy. Slowly, but surely, that move is gathering pace, and electric vehicles will have a major role to play in that process. However, the question as to whether EVs are a step in the right direction or a transport cul-de-sac.
“There is no “one-size-fits-all” solution to cleaner transport in the 21st century. Solutions are as varied as the journeys we take every day. Battery electric vehicles are increasingly important for certain vehicle segments, but all viable technologies need to be explored to reach an ultra-low emission future, faster”, concludes Alexander Lewis-Jones. In America, Nikola Motor is developing a fuel cell heavy duty truck, where the electricity to power the electric motors is generated on-board the vehicle itself. This is possibly where the future of transport will be going.