Electric car: no limits but technology

The forecasts for the electric car are quite nice and all major car manufacturers are strengthening in the industry, investing in research because the obstacles are still batteries and recharging

Published on 08 Jun 2018

The electric car is, along with shared mobility, independent driving and digitization, one of the four megatrends in 2018 that will be able to play a key role in the development of the automotive market of the future.

Even more interest
According to the Global Automotive Supplier Study 2018, the electric car is increasingly the core topic of industry players thanks to its ability to win the interest of consumers worldwide. However, the adoption of the electrical model will also be influenced by regional issues. In the United States, for example, it will depend heavily on the development of traditional fuel and battery prices; in Europe, restrictions on access to cities for zero-emission cars only and in China, pollution issues.

The autonomy issue…
One of the main challenges for car manufacturers interested in electric cars is the research and development of batteries that allow for greater autonomy and rapid recharging. Currently there is talk of 170-200 km per charge, but already Citröen states that the C-Zero model can cover up to 150 km without recharging, Nissan says that Nissan Leaf allows you to drive for 199 km per charge and the Tesla Model S P85, according to the American company, can guarantee up to 491 km.

…and that of the recharge time
In addition to autonomy, another main problem to be solved is the time needed to recharge the batteries: on medium-long ways (over 2-300 km) it is not in fact acceptable to have to stop for several hours on the motorway waiting for recharging. However, the time taken depends on two elements: the charging power and the maximum power accepted by the vehicle batteries. If the two values are different, the lower value should be taken into account. For example, if a charging station can deliver 7.4 kW but the car’s internal charger works at 3.7 kW, charging takes place at 3.7 kW. In the same way, if the internal battery charger is also 7.4 kW but the column has a maximum power of 3.7 kW, the charging takes place at the lower value. It is also necessary to consider that, on average, charging to 3kW of power (ie the average available at home) about 13-14 km of autonomy per hour of charging can be obtained, while charging to 11 kW (the average power of Enel columns installed in Italy) gets up to 50-55 km of autonomy per hour of charging. Tesla’s proprietary charging technology, Supercharger, allows to recharge to 150 kW, or about 300 km in 25 minutes. Many manufacturers (such as Toshiba) are however investing billions to increase autonomy and reduce charging times.

Where can electric car be charged
In a nutshell, electric vehicles work like mobile phones: when the battery level is low, they need to be charged. And the charge takes place both at home (preferably by installing an industrial CEE socket, because the standard ones, due to the high absorption, could overheat and be damaged) and through columns spread over the territory. The negative point is that, at the moment, these columns in Italy are only a little more than 400, and only in the most important cities, even if Enel has a plan to install 14,000 by 2022.

How to recharge
As with mobile phones, to recharge simply connect the car to the electric power supplier, by taking a plug from the charging station and plugging it into the car’s internal battery charger. For public charging stations, to start charging it is necessary to activate the supply through a card provided by the operator.

Recharging costs
Recharging through public points is paid for with a subscription: generally a fixed cost of 25 euros per month must be envisaged, which includes an unlimited number of recharges. To recharge from home, however, it is necessary to pay the rental fee for an additional meter (with the main one, while the car is charging, no other appliance can be used) which costs on average 60 euros per month. As far as pure energy costs are concerned, with one euro on average a plug-in hybrid vehicle travels (thanks to a charge of one and a half hours) for about 25 kilometres, while a distance of 150 km (obtained in 8-10 hours) costs about 5 euro.

Although electric cars are still a niche product, according to The Boston Consulting Group’s Electric Car Tipping Point report, the automotive industry will be at a turning point between 2020 and 2025, when manufacturers will have to meet increasingly stringent standards in terms of emissions and efficiency. After 2025, therefore, sales of electric vehicles will continue to increase, also thanks to the steady fall in the prices of accumulators (which, according to Bcg’s forecasts, will go from the current 152 dollars per kWh to 70-90 dollars per kWh in 12-years’ time), to the increase in efficiency and to the growing consumer demand based on the Tco (Total Cost of Ownership). By 2030, electric cars will account for more than 50% of all newly registered vehicles.

Who believes and who doesn’t
For these reasons also the CEO of Fca, Sergio Marchionne, initially very critical about electric cars (“It is a threat to the very existence of our planet”), later changed his mind radically, stressing that “by 2025 half of the cars produced in the world will be electrified and gas and gasoline vehicles will give way to hybrid and electric ones. Car manufacturers have less than a decade to reinvent themselves or risk to be overwhelmed by the change in the way to power, drive and buy vehicles. According to the AlixPartners Automotive Electrification Index, together with Marchionne, among the major manufacturers that are investing in electrification there are, above all, the Chinese (with BYD, BAIC, Geely, Zhidou and Jianghuai) but also some major European, American, Japanese and South Korean names: Renault-Nissan, the world’s third largest car manufacturer, ranks second with 6 million kilometres sold, General Motors ranks fifth (2.64 million kilometres) and Hyundai tenth (1.84 million kilometres), while Volkswagen, the world’s largest car manufacturer, ranks eleventh. While Toyota, which 20 years ago was one of the pioneers of the electric cars and continues to be one of the leaders of hybrid ones, in the future is focusing much more on hydrogen than on electric industry.

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