Current Development of the Electric Vehicle Segment

Many statistics visualize the rate at which the global battery electric car stock has been increasing. At exponential growth, the 1 million mark was surpassed in 2016. In the same year, China also passed the United States as the country with the largest electric car stock (hybrid and battery electric). However, considering the national market share, Norway is far ahead with almost a third of all registered cars being electric driven.

Supporting new Technologies

Climate objectives of worldwide politics affect the development of the global EV market by defining targets, quotas and regulations. A remarkable example is the EV30@30 campaign, in which the participating members agree to a goal of 30 % EV market share by 2030. Such agreements provide a rough frame for more concrete guidelines and goals in smaller areas, like in a national or regional scope.

These guidelines come to life in concepts of supporting alternative drives, which may include subsidies for car purchases and infrastructure, banning ICE (Internal Combustion Engine) cars from registration (e.g. by 2040, according to plans of France and Great Britain), prohibition of ICE cars in cities (which many cities consider now) and forcing EV quotas for residential car manufacturers. Many of the latter proclaim ambitious announcements of their own set goals, showing they realized the importance to act and react to the progressing changes in the car market.

Generous subsidies such as exemption from taxes, VAT and road charges provide one-time as well as recurring cost savings, making EVs competitive to ICE cars in many countries. But once the market is booming, politicians will start to reconsider the subsidies for the future in a way that the EV market becomes self-sustaining. In Norway, for example, experts already reflect about how and when to gradually remove the incentives without reducing the appeal of EVs too much. According to the Norwegian EV Association, the leap from early adopters to the mass market is the most difficult one and needs lots of incentives. [2]

Until then, with the help of public funds, many regions and cities around the world serve as testing labs for developing and testing best practice models. These can then be rolled out to a wider area with more competent foresight of which and how much infrastructure is needed in certain environments.

Progress of Technology Development

Research and Development (R&D) is an important and very progressive pillar of the EV segment. Since EV batteries are a major cost factor, especially the rise of energy density and the simultaneous decrease their costs have a huge influence on how economic electric cars are. For the future, a further fall of cost is expected.

Many companies prepare for the rising demand on EVs by building or considering large cell production factories. The scaling effect may lead to lower costs per kWh and thus to reduced overall manufacturing costs.

Research institutes are working together with the industry and are continuously improving existing cell technologies as well as discovering and developing entirely new possibilities. Promising examples like Supercapacitors (“Supercaps”), Lithium-Sulfur and Natrium-Sulfur batteries cause experts to expect development leaps in the future.

Electric Vehicle Supply Equipment (EVSE)

Not only batteries are constantly being researched on, also charging technology is estimated to be heavily improved in terms of performance and cost efficiency. Being a key factor for electric vehicles’ usability, EVSE deployment influences the EV market entrance and is influenced by it at the same time.

For residential charging, a wide variety of low-cost charging equipment is already available, providing home owners with very efficient day-to-day solutions. For local and regional battery recharging the market offers mid-priced charging points, ideally used when EVs are parked for a longer duration, e.g. while shopping or visiting places of interest. Both of them can be operated economically at the present time.

But when going on a longer trip, fast charging is much desired. Especially alongside highways and near key places, people demand for a sufficient amount of quick charge points. With current charging powers of up to 200 kW, electric cars with the proper equipment can be recharged to 80 % of their battery capacity in less than 30 minutes, depending on the remaining charge and maximum capacity. Current developments target 350 kW for an even quicker recharge of bigger battery sizes than today.

More and more goals and initiatives (politically and economically supported) force the expansion of quick as well as slower charging infrastructure to provide EV users with more comfort and safety. The number of 320,000 publicly accessible charging points worldwide in 2016 represents a growth of 72 % since 2015 [1]. The increasing amount of EVSE may lead to lower costs per charging point, thus to lower charging fees and in the end to higher approval of EVs.

The move from ICE technology to e-mobility is also having a gigantic impact on the worldwide economy: new businesses and jobs are being created, manufacturers have to adapt their production lines as well as their R&D departments to the EV developments. Businesses setting and adapting to these trends are virtually redesigning the automobile over again, no matter if it’s related to new OEM designs, drivetrains, power storage and distribution or safety and protection components, such as EV fuses.

Summary

Altogether, the EV market and the connected industries can be forecasted as to be further growing. This is driven by several factors. One of the reasons is the higher environmental awareness of the people and as a result of the national politicians and local authorities. They support the growth by buying or using EVs as well as by establishing policies and guidelines for EV and EVSE expansion.

On the other hand, R&D progress and the continuous transition into mass market make EVs increasingly economically competitive with ICE cars. Not only will the manufacturing costs become less, but also the lower running costs provide lower total costs of ownership.

Even though not every aspect in and around the EV sector is ultimately resolved, the world is progressively setting the course for an electromobile future.

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