ELECTRIC Vehicle (EV) sales in America was up by 81% by 2018 from the previous year. However, out of 17.2 million cars sold in 2018, only 2% are EVs. With all the hype around this technology, one would think the world would pick up and adapt the technology. But that doesn’t seem to be the case, at least just yet. Why?
Due to EVs being a newly-deployed technology in the market, manufacturers have yet to reach a large scale of operation to drive down their cost. The technology is also still in an emerging phase, which means new breakthroughs on manufacturing and design is still being developed, unlike petrol-fueled cars which are pretty much in a sustaining and stable phase.
The battery pack is the largest ticketed-item on an EV. On average, an EV consists of a battery pack of about 90-100 kilowatt-hour (kWh) The battery technology is still under sheer development where companies are racing to innovate cost-efficient and high-performance batteries.
When EV was first introduced to the mass market in 2010, a battery pack costs $1000 per kilowatt-hour (kWh). Today, the cost have shed 70% of itself to only $190/kWh on 6 years. As soon as new technologies and innovations are in place, driving the cost down to $125-$150/kWh would put EV in a comparable sales price as a petrol-fueled car.
Cobalt, a crucial ingredient of lithium-ion batteries, is the one that keeps battery prices high. When everybody needs cobalt, cobalt price will be competitive, which does not help in driving battery production cost down for everyone. Tesla, however, as per announced in its 2018 Annual Shareholder Meeting, is aiming to eliminate the use of cobalt. Cheers to more breakthroughs!
Aside from the intrinsic cost of the car itself, there is another factor that hinders EV adoption. Ever heard of the ‘Chicken or Egg’ dilemma? That seems to be the case. Consumers are hesitant to get an EV as they claim the infrastructure of charging stations are yet to be reliable. The providers of charging stations, on the other hand, claims that there is not enough demand for EV to invest in charging stations. So who should draft the first move?
With petrol-fueled cars, you will never have to worry about where to find a petrol station. Unless you’re driving out of nowhere, often you will find petrol stations in several miles apart. EV charging stations are much less abundant, especially in Malaysia where proportion of EV is way less than in America. Instead, hybrid cars are more popular in Malaysia as they opt to provide both options for electric and petrol.
Charging time for EVs are also much higher than fueling up for petrol which takes less than 5 minutes. One could not afford to stop by the highway for 1-hour just to charge up their batteries only to 50%. Thus proper planning and development of charging stations should be spearheaded to address this issue.
In America, MI Energy and Michigan Department of Transportation is working with Michigan State University to come up with an algorithm, that optimizes location and density of charging stations within an area. This model peruses the technology from Geographic Information System (GIS) to suggest an optimized solution of charging station placement with respect to EV growth demand and travel trajectory.
Sweden have recently installed an ‘eRoad’- an electrified road that enables travelling cars being charged as they pass through the road. There is also charging pavements, where cars can be charged wirelessly on designated parking spots. These are only a few of the breakthrough technologies available for EV infrastructure.
Today, there is no single car company that is serious to survive in the market, that is not serious in investing in electric vehicles. This, somewhat gives a sneak-peak of how the automotive industry landscape shall be few years down the line.
With vast research and development initiatives under the pipeline to address existing issues, the infrastructure and operational network for EVs are slowly becoming well-defined. Soon enough, when EVs are just as good, or perhaps better than conventional cars, petrol-fueled cars will be a ‘thing-of-the-past’.