29-05-2019 | | By Nnamdi Anyadike
Improved technologies are on the verge of making electric vehicles a much more viable proposition in just a few years time. A recent study published by Cornwall Insight the provider of research and analysis in the energy markets, indicates that the average electric vehicle (EV) driving range already exceeds 200 miles. This is a key landmark and is based upon data from the Worldwide Light Vehicle Test Procedure.
Tom Lusher analyst at Cornwall Insight commented, “Range anxiety is one of the key barriers to EV adoption, but our latest research shows that the average range for electric cars stands at around 202 miles. This suggests that the range offered by electric cars at present is practical for a range of scenarios. We are now approaching the point where EVs will make a viable alternative to petrol or diesel.”
Enhanced EV range is being facilitated by the development of longer life and more powerful batteries, as well as new drive-train technologies.
In April, the German car manufacturer Volkswagen announced a ‘life time’ warranty for its next generation EVs. In an internal marketing interview Frank Blome, Head of VW's Centre of Excellence in Battery Cells, revealed that the company now expects the battery packs in its upcoming line of ID cars to last "the life of the cars." The company had previously said that its batteries will retain 70 percent of their original capacity for 8 years or 100,000 miles. VW’s ID cars could have a driving range of somewhere between 250 and 370 miles, according to company executives.
VW is working with Silicon Valley start-up QuantumScape to develop solid-state batteries for its next generation EV batteries. It is also engaged in a partnership with Swedish battery maker Northvolt through the European Battery Union (EBU), from where it is promoting more battery production in Europe. The EBU is expected to begin research in 2020. Currently, batteries for the Audi E-tron quattro, the first all-electric car from the Volkswagen Group's luxury division are supplied by Korean supplier LG Chem. LG's South Korean rival, SK Innovation.
Samsung’s ‘next generation’ EV battery could offer a greatly enhanced range of 370 miles by 2021, if company promises made in 2017 are borne out. Samsung SDI, the Korean conglomerate's lithium ion and renewable division that provides power for auto giant BMW, has announced development of a battery that offers 600 kilometres (373 miles) of driving and that can be ‘fast charged’ in just 20 minutes. The battery is designed to provide 500 kilometres (310 miles) of range or 80 percent of capacity within the 20 minutes charge time. This more than what the average fully-charged Tesla Model S currently offers.
Meanwhile in April, Innolith AG, a Swiss battery start-up announced an even more ambitious EV driving range target of 900km within five years. It said that a non-flammable, lithium-based electric vehicle battery capable of offering cars over 900km range is already in development at its German laboratories. The key difference between the design of the high-density Innolith Energy Battery and that of more traditional batteries is that the Innolith iteration uses an inorganic electrolyte to power the battery instead of an organic one. This option is non-flammable and helps “enable batteries to reach cell-level energy content values that have never been possible before". The battery will be first brought to the German market through an initial pilot production, after which it will be available to licensing partners with battery and automotive companies.
Developing a suitable electric motor to power heavy commercial vehicles has long been a problem. But now Sensor Technology Wiedemann (STW) GmbH has unveiled its new commercial vehicle powertrain package. Its powerMELA duo280 electric drive concept for the retrofit sector was showcased at the May 15-17 ‘Power2Drive’ trade fair in Munich. STW’s powertrain package comes with a capacity of 160 to 280 kW. These are two electric motors with 80 or 140 kW each. The motors drive the summing gear, which in turn transmits the power to the standard gearbox of the existing commercial vehicle. This says the company “makes it possible to realize the idea of ‘getting the diesel out and the electric in’ with little mechanical modification while retaining the original total weight (including the battery).”
The powerMELA duo280 was demonstrated on an all-electric 44-ton semitrailer tractor. This is a battery-electric truck with 200 km range. It was converted from a diesel truck supplied by the vehicle manufacturer Toni Maurer in a project backed by the Bavarian State Ministry of Economic Affairs, Development and Energy. The STW system can be used on all heavy commercial vehicles, including buses and trucks. The driving characteristics and the starting torques under high load after conversion to the power|MELA electric drive are exactly as they were before because the system uses the vehicle’s existing gearbox.
A Deloitte report suggests that a tipping point in the battery electric vehicle (BEV) market will be reached in 2022. This is when the cost of ownership of a BEV is on a par with its internal combustion engine counterpart. Among the technologies expected are: the optimisation of existing lithium-ion cell chemistries; advances in battery management systems that will increase range; increase in energy density of battery assembly; and continued improvement in vehicle weight.