Uncover the Green, Clean and High-Tech world of electric vehicles.
The electric vehicle (EV) industry is flourishing, promising a bright future for society. However, one factor that may deter consumers from adopting electric vehicles is their limited battery range. Many individuals have daily commutes or travel long distances, making them understandably concerned about battery performance in real-world driving conditions. They wish to avoid frequent recharging stops and seek vehicles that offer extended travel range.
Recent innovations in the electric vehicles industry are primarily centered around batteries, bringing positive developments for consumers. As numerous governments worldwide commit to net-zero emissions goals, legislation is becoming more favorable toward EVs and battery production.
While several European governments have pledged to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050, the United States is also making strides in this direction. Some U.S. states have already taken steps to ban the sale of gasoline-powered vehicles as early as 2035. Furthermore, several major European cities are banning diesel vehicles, further encouraging the adoption of electric vehicles.
To incentivize higher electric vehicles sales, governments are offering discounts on electric vehicles. This has prompted manufacturers to design electric vehicles from the ground up, rather than adapting gasoline-powered designs for electric powertrains. This approach leads to more efficient battery placement within the vehicle's design, resulting in better handling, improved aerodynamics, and extended range.
Building batteries specifically for electric vehicles not only maximizes space utilization but also enhances the overall aesthetics of EVs, making them more appealing to the average consumer. Consequently, many automotive manufacturers are investing in battery production partnerships or establishing their own facilities.
The concept of "gigafactories" has gained traction in the electric vehicles industry. These factories, capable of producing over one million Watts (1 Giga Watt) of power annually, have multiplied rapidly since Tesla launched its first Gigafactory in 2016. China is a hotspot for gigafactory construction, housing over 75% of the world's gigafactories.
The top five gigafactories, as of 2020, are shared by three companies across three countries. CATL and LG Chem rank 4th and 5th, each with gigafactories in China producing 21.9 GW per year. These companies also secure the 2nd and 3rd spots, with LG Chem's plant in Poland and another CATL facility in China producing 24 GW per year. The largest gigafactory currently belongs to Panasonic/Tesla, producing an impressive 37 GW per year—over 50% more than the closest competitor. China dominates the global gigafactory landscape, housing 10 of the largest 15 facilities out of approximately 200 worldwide.
Gigafactories stimulate economic growth by creating numerous jobs in their respective regions. Additionally, their high production volumes enable the development and manufacturing of batteries with extended range at reduced costs. However, a key risk associated with gigafactories is the need for sustained battery demand. Establishing and launching a gigafactory can cost 4-5 billion USD, necessitating ongoing high demand to maintain profitability.
Gigafactories that successfully incorporate efficient recycling processes, can lead the way in achieving global net-zero goals. Efficient recycling has long been a utopian dream, however, with the advances in technology throughout the recycling processes, this is now achievable if combined with other new technological advances, such as blockchain technology. Blockchain can facilitate the tracing of each component in the production process, proving the origin of materials. Demonstrating efficient recycling practices reduces gigafactory carbon footprints, appealing to environmentally-conscious consumers.
The development of autonomous vehicles has been going on for many years, and this part of the automotive industry could benefit the net-zero goals as well.
Autonomous vehicles have the ability to deliver several environmental benefits for the world. Autonomous vehicles can be programmed to drive more efficiently than human drivers by optimizing speed and breaking, leading to reduced energy consumption during operation, as well as improved routing calculations and eco-driving algorithms, leading to optimized routes for travel, and an overall reduction in energy used on a single trip, by avoiding traffic congestion and other delays, as well as utilizing reduced idling by switching off the engine, when the vehicle is stopped.
For broad electric vehicle adoption, a robust charging infrastructure is essential. Many cities and countries are investing heavily in expanding their charging networks. In the United States, for example, a $200 billion investment is planned to enhance the charging infrastructure by 2026. High-capacity charging stations enable rapid charging, making electric vehicles more convenient for consumers. Short charging stops of 5-10 minutes can significantly extend vehicle range, akin to refueling a gasoline-powered vehicle. Planning routes often depends on charging station availability, with live data helping drivers avoid congested stations.
As electric vehicle technology and charging infrastructure evolve, we can anticipate the emergence of high-powered electric vehicles.
The automotive industry has long been experiencing a transformative shift, with increased popularity of electric vehicles, propelling us towards a cleaner and more sustainable future. Some of the new breakthroughs within electric vehicle innovation, are pushing the boundaries of what we thought was possible and could potentially force us to re-think the idea of a vehicle and how it is used.
Bidirectional charging, also known as vehicle-to-grid (V2G) capability, is moving from being an industry vision, to a market reality with the availability of commercial offerings for vehicle-to-home (V2H) that enable electric vehicle owners to power home appliances and keep the lights on during a power blackout. Some new electric vehicle models also come equipped with AC power outlets that allow the EV battery to power plug-in electric devices, equipment, and appliances. There is currently new legislation being developed in some jurisdictions in the US, which would make it a mandate for new electric vehicles to be produced as V2G ready as early as 2027.
Adding this flexibility to the powering of homes, can also help to alleviate the constraints on the regular power grid during peak hours, when most people come home from work, and start using their home appliances. If they can draw energy from their vehicle’s battery, they will essentially be off the regular power grid for a large portion of the peak hours, and once the family is done using the home appliances, and go to bed – then they are able to charge their electric vehicle for the next day’s work during the off-peak hours, resulting is large savings for a household across a full year.
Charging without cables. It’s common today for smartphones and emerging in the EV marketplace, with the promise of making EV ownership more convenient and appealing. There are two scenarios in which wireless charging can work.
One is electromagnetic inductive charging, where the electric vehicle parks over a charging pad that uses electromagnetic waves to transfer energy to the battery. We know this approach from charging our smartphones, tablets and smartwatches at home today. This approach is in the marketplace today but limited to a few electric vehicle models and mostly home-charging use.
The second scenario is dynamic in-road wireless charging, which uses devices embedded in the roadway that supplies electricity to the EV as it is driving. This resembles train and metro technology currently in place around the world, where trains are connected to the grid through a constant electric charge from the cables hanging above the train. Numerous trials are in place to demonstrate the feasibility of dynamic charging which, with widespread implementation, could lead to smaller batteries in electric vehicles, which would be continuously charged and eliminate the range anxiety within electric vehicles.
Achieving the second scenario would also allow the industry to stretch the current amount of battery material further. Having constant charging and thereby installing smaller batteries in each electric vehicle, means that the same amount of battery material will stretch to more vehicles, without having to mine additional battery material to achieve a higher number of vehicles, which ties into the government pledges for net-zero through electric vehicles, while maintaining a sustainable approach for the industry as a whole and having the smallest environmental impact possible.
By embracing these innovations and addressing challenges like battery recycling, the electric vehicle industry is accelerating toward a cleaner and more sustainable future.
Finally, I feel that it is important to touch on responsible sourcing as well in this article. While the innovation of new solutions, processes and products can give us wins and benefits, which will help to make the industry a “greener” - nothing will drive the industry quicker towards a sustainable future than responsible sourcing of materials.
Responsible sourcing begins with procuring your battery materials from upstream suppliers who adhere to environmental production standards, which means a minimal environmental impact during the extraction process, as well as suppliers who employ ethical labor practices within their production.
Focusing on recycled materials can immediately reduce the carbon footprint of your electric vehicle production. Building out a strong recycling process within the industry will benefit all parties. Breaking existing batteries down to each individual raw material will allow for easy recycling of each raw material. This will really reduce the environmental impact from the electric vehicle industry, and drive us all towards a cleaner and more sustainable future.