This is a part of the EV Innovation Intelligence series
It’s easy to think of electric cars as conventional cars in which the ICE has been replaced by a battery-motor combination. In fact, you would not be technically incorrect if you think that way. EVs indeed are the torque version of the CC (cubic capacity) that are present for IC engine vehicles.
But in practice, electric vehicles are evolving into something that is far more than battery-motor instead of ICE. Many reasons for this evolution has more to do with trends outside the core transport ecosystem than anything with within it.
It’s about sustainable transportation, not electrification
One of the reasons electric vehicles are more than cars on batteries and motors is because of the context. EVs are dominating the news not just because they are more efficient than ICE vehicles (85% efficiency for battery vs. 35% efficiency for IC engines). EVs are in the news because sustainable transportation in the news. With climate change and global warming starting to gain a larger importance post COVID (some think COVID could be more like a small dress rehearsal compared to the havoc global warming can wreck), key stakeholders in industry and governments around the world are trying every effort to imbibe sustainability in all aspects of industry and business (and life). Transport is a dominant contributor to CO2 emissions (third in the list of total global GHG emissions). And electric vehicles are a key transport tool to reduce transport CO2 emissions.
Though it might be difficult for everyone to view electric vehicles as a climate adaptation tool, this is what could really drive EV adoption much faster than just pure technology or economics alone.
Use of low carbon energy sources
EVs are much better aligned to low carbon sources of power such as solar than are conventional vehicles. While conventional vehicles try to lower their carbon footprint by using less of the fuel through mileage efficiency, they can really do little about the carbon footprint of the fuel itself (gasoline or diesel). EVs, on the other hand, can go close to zero carbon footprint by also choosing to use solar power instead of power generated from coal or natural gas power plants.
An electric powertrain is in itself far more efficient than an ICE drivetrain. EVs, go a further mile towards sustainable energy, by using concepts such as regenerative braking to recover even more energy from the ecosystem. The most efficient combustion engines available on the market today have a fuel efficiency of 40 percent. That means they can convert only 40 percent of the fuel energy into movement whereas in an EV the total losses sum up to 35-38% and there will be a part of power gained from regenerative braking. this makes the energy efficiency of the EV 80 to 85 percent. In an ICE all the rest is lost in heat and friction – all the 60 percent left. In other words, for each $100 you spend filling the tank of a combustion-engined car, you literally burn the equivalent to $60 in the best-case scenario. This shows us that what you get is much less than that with most ICE vehicles. the most you can get from a car that only burns fuel is 33 mi – (with a Chevrolet Spark). If it is a hybrid, you can run 58 mi – (with a Hyundai Ioniq). That’s 46.7 percent of what Mazda and Honda E can achieve.
Sustainable materials & production
For another, EVs are not only about zero tailpipe emissions, they are also about sustainable materials – with a number of electric vehicles sporting interiors made from sustainable materials (recycled plastics, renewable polyurethane, etc.). Fisker Automotive for instance is using recycled materials and components derived from ocean plastics to develop its ‘Ocean’ vehicle.
Besides, to increase their energy efficiency even further, many companies are making efforts to incorporate as many lightweight materials in the EVs as possible.
As EVs are about sustainable transport, manufacturers are also giving an increasing thrust to making as many production aspects as possible to be sustainable.
- One way is to integrate renewable energy into their production processes. Many large EV companies already purchase solar or wind power to power their manufacturing facilities. For instance, GM has partnered with a wind energy firm to power one of its PHEV and BEV manufacturing facilities in the US.
- Beyond sustainable energy, companies are also making efforts towards more responsible sourcing. BMW for instance has adopted Blockchain to monitor the sources and legitimacy of its Lithium consumption. Daimler is working towards similar goals as well.
EVs as energy storage devices
Finally, with the growth of V2G technologies, electric vehicles need not just be looked at as transportation vehicles, they can also be viewed as energy storage systems.
EVs could also run on fuel cells
For one, EVs need not run on batteries. They can also run on fuel cells, so that takes the battery out of the picture.
EVs can also run as hybrids
Through the use of hybrid powertrains, hybrid electric vehicles can run on either oil or electricity, thus providing an easier transition technology to a pure electric future.
Lot less maintenance
An ICE has 2000 components, a battery and motor based powertrain has 20 components. There is a significant reduction in the number of moving parts. All these result in a vehicle that requires far less maintenance than conventional vehicles.
New designs and layouts
Many OEMs and designers are seeing the EV opportunity as one that they can use to redesign the car from scratch. This is resulting not only in some really cool exterior designs (see Canoo), but also fundamentally different designs of the powertrain – the concept of placing motors on wheels (close to where the motion is) being of these exciting new thinking domains.
That EVs are much more than normal cars on batteries and motors could make a significant difference to its adoption. Not only could it mean faster-than-expected adoption, it could also make a significant difference to many satellite industries that provide products and solutions that make the EVs more than just – EVs!
This is a part of the EV Innovation Intelligence series
Posts in the series
Tesla’s Valuation | EV’s in different countries | Purpose built EVs | Mainstream Fuel Cells | IT in Emobility | EVs versus ICEs | Advent of China in Emobility | Charging vs Swapping | Micromobility & EVs | Electric Aviation | Li-ion alternatives | Million Mile Battery | Battery Startups versus Giants | Sales & Financing Models | Ultrafast Charging a Norm | Heavy Electric Vehicles | Material Sciences in Emobility | Lithium Scarcity | Solar Power in EV Ecosystem | EV Manufacturing Paradigm | Innovations in Motors | EV Startups – a speciality | Oil Companies’ Strategies | EV Adoption Paths | Covid-19 affect on the EV Industry |
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