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With the transition to cleaner energy accelerating amidst a global attempt to prevent catastrophic climate Electric vehicles could soon be the normchange, it seems that the age of the Internal Combustion Engine (ICE) vehicle being the dominant form of transport is coming to an end. This has been quickened by the UK Government’s proposals to ban the sale of all new ICE vehicles from 2040 onwards1. In this Industry Insight Powerstar will explore the potential of the electric vehicle (EV) as the likely replacement for ICE vehicles as the dominant form of transport, and issues such as:

  • The rise of Electric Vehicle’s
  • The obstacles to accelerated adoption of Electric Vehicle’s
  • In conclusion

The rise of Electric Vehicle’s

Electric vehicles’ (EV’s) have been championed as the vehicle for the environmentally conscious due to producing reduced or even zero carbon emissions. This has led to manufacturers introducing more EV options into their portfolios to cater to the segment of the market that places environmental concern as a key consideration in their purchasing decision. As a result of growing anxiety over climate change and sustainability, this segment of the market has grown significantly and rapidly in recent years. This can be seen by statistics that report approximately 162,000 plug-in cars are registered in the UK as of July 2018, this is an increase from nearly 140,000 at the end of 2017 and roughly 90,000 at the end of 2016.2

Due to this rise and the forthcoming ban on ICE vehicles, more and more manufacturers are beginning to electrify their vehicle offerings in an attempt to gain market share as the EV market transitions from attracting early adopters into the early majority phase, essentially meaning it has outgrown its fad phase and is becoming a long-term consumer trend. These manufacturers, such as Volvo, who have announced that they will make only electric or hybrid vehicles from 20193, and Jaguar Land Rover, which stated all ne lines will be electric or hybrid from 20204. They will use their strong reputations of manufacturing good quality, traditional ICE cars along with their extensive experience and skills to ease the transition into the EV market for their customers and strive to deliver solutions that innovate and develop the market not simply match existing models.

Even in the companies which are yet to announce a switch over to the exclusive manufacture of electric vehicles, there are notable steps that are being taken to prepare for the inevitable ubiquity of EV’s. This can be seen in the $90 billion that is due to be invested globally in EV’s by manufacturers5. This includes Ford, who earlier this year surprisingly announced an $11 billion investment in EV’s in the next five years, a significant increase from last year’s committed investment of $4.5 billion by 20206.

The obstacles to accelerated adoption of Electric Vehicle’s

Although there has been an outstanding increase in the popularity of EV’s and of the commitments by manufacturers towards them, significant obstacles still exist that threaten to halt the acceleration of EV’s as the dominant mode of transport.

The first barrier causing anxiety for drivers is charging time and availability. The quickest charging device available, rapid chargers can charge an EV to 80% in approximately 30 minutes8, yet as of July 2018 there are 1,636 public rapid charging devices in the UK7and whilst this number is low, it does not take in to account those rapid charging stations that upon connection, do not have the capacity to rapid charge at that moment and therefore leave the customer with a fast or slow trickle charging which can take anywhere between 2 and 8 hours . When compared to petrol stations it is clear that this is a significant issue as, in 2017, there were 8,407 petrol stations in the UK9 and as ICE drivers are aware, the entire fuelling transaction can be completed with 15 minutes. When the ease of filling up an ICE car at a petrol station is taken into account, this presents a large barrier for a potential EV buyer. This is because with the current charging time and lack of availability of even the quickest charger in comparison to petrol stations, somebody switching from ICE to EV will likely need to change their driving habits as they would need to plan their routes based on charging availability and the time of charge may add significant length to journeys, thus resulting in anxiety.

In addition to this, the current charging trend for EV users is to charge at home, in the early evening after work. If this was to continue in line with the increased uptake of EV’s it could lead to low voltage substations breaching their constraint levels due to the demand10. One potential solution to this issue is to combine the capabilities of energy storage technology with EV charging functionality, such as in VIRTUE EV. This allows the vehicle to charge using stored energy and therefore works independently of the grid and would not affect the local grid system. However, within well-populated residences this could be challenging meaning that battery-buffered storage would be best suited to the charging forecourt scenario.

A further problem is range anxiety. This is because, as mentioned in the most recent EV market overview, the majority of EV’s have approximately 1/3rd of the range of standard fuel consuming cars. When coupled with the charging situation, this makes the behavioural change for new EV drivers to methodically plan routes before their journey a necessity and therefore represents a significant barrier to greater uptake. However, as EV’s become more mature this problem is gradually decreasing, as seen in the example of the Nissan Leaf’s 2017 edition 30kWh battery being scaled up to 40kWh in the 2018 version, increasing the range from 107 miles to 150 miles11. However, the range that manufacturers claim has traditionally failed to match those of real-world driving conditions, but this is likely to be solved somewhat by the introduction of the Worldwide Light Vehicle Test Procedure (WLTP)12. This test replaced the New European Driving Cycle (NEDC), which was designed in the 1980’s and was based on theoretical driving, in 2017. The WLTP is based on real driving data collected from around the world to better represent normal driving profiles and on-road performance.

Another factor that is limiting the adoption of EV’s is the lack of model choice that is available for potential EV buyers. There are only 30 battery and fuel cell electric models on sale in Europe compared to around 370 conventionally fuelled models, with 90% of EV sales coming from just 9 models13. This is likely to change in the coming years as previously mentioned that manufacturers intend to increase production and develop new models of EV’s, but it is important that EV’s can accommodate the varying tastes and needs of the consumers as ICE cars have done for many years.

The final factor that is inhibiting the uptake of EV’s is cost. EV’s are not expected to reach price parity with ICE vehicles until 202514 despite their cheaper maintenance costs due to having much fewer moving parts15and the lower tax fees due to their economical aspects. This means that it is vital that the Government maintains the plug-in grant which reduces the upfront cost of EV’s by paying for 35% of the purchase price, up to a maximum of £4,50016.

In Conclusion

It seems clear that the era of ICE vehicles being the dominant form of transport is coming to an end. However, less clear is how quickly we will see electric vehicles become the norm, and this is dependent on finding solutions to problems such as range anxiety, charging availability, and the effect on the local network. It seems that the best current solution is to integrate the energy transition with EV’s and use the decentralised network as a means of charging EV’s independently of the grid.

Whilst the speed of acceleration of EV adoption hinges on effective charging infrastructure solutions, one such solution is Powerstar’s VIRTUE EV which is a combined DC rapid/fast charger and energy storage system. VIRTUE is a bespoke system which can be tailored to the needs of the client and provides benefits such as Uninterruptible Power Supply (UPS) capabilities, renewable integration and smart grid connectivity. By combining EV charging with energy storage it avoids costly infrastructure upgrades and allows charging independent from the grid which enables EV’s to be a more viable option even in the most constrained areas.


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