The EV future: “You need a break after 300km anyway”
Range was often quoted as a reason to stay away from electric cars. Availability was another, as was cost. Increasingly, these objections no longer hold true. So has the time come to embrace alternative powertrains for your fleet?
André ten Bloemendal, Chief Sales International of smart-charging provider NewMotion, thinks it has. “I don’t think there is anyone left who does not believe EVs will play a big role in mobility in the coming years,” he says, adding that the predominant feeling changed in the course of 2018. No longer are EVs seen as something that may happen in the future, they are now a given.
“In part,” says Mr ten Bloemendal, “we can attribute that to governments that introduce plans to reduce CO2 emissions but more importantly, that’s the result of OEMs that are revealing their plans and their commitment to launch full EV platforms in the coming years.”
“Today, there are alternatives to fossil fuels,” adds Michel Davidts, eMobility Manager BeLux of sustainable energy and charging solutions provider Eneco.
“When talking about consumer cars and cars that are meant for transporting people, those will go to EV on a short term. It’s a different story when you look at commercial vehicles, small and large trucks and long-haul transportation,” says Mr ten Bloemendal.
According to Mr Davidts, that’s where hydrogen could come in. “Energy density for hydrogen storage is very high compared to electricity stored in batteries, which is what’s needed for goods transport.”
Nevertheless, he does not see a future for hydrogen for people transport. “Battery prices are going down around 7-8% per year. Other technologies and hydrogen in particular can’t compete with this.”
Mr ten Bloemendal does see a role for hydrogen. “You can increase the autonomy of a car by adding far less kilos than if you were adding batteries – and the same goes for cost. So, an electrical drivetrain with some battery capacity and then hydrogen as an energy-rich addition to that will, for certain use cases, absolutely be a solution.”
At the end of 2018, Volkswagen announced it will introduce its last generation of combustion engines in 2026. These will be produced for some time, but they will not be replaced as the manufacturer plans to go all electric. The carmaker from Wolfsburg has been preceded by a large series of its competitors that have already announced plans to stop development of diesel engines. So when can we expect the tipping point when EV sales will surpass those of ICE cars?
“That’s a matter of cost,” says Mr ten Bloemendal. “That tipping point will be somewhere between 2022 and 2025, depending on who you believe and how the market will develop exactly. There is however a general consensus that the price of an electrical drivetrain including the batteries will be at the same level or below the cost of an ICE by that time. At that point, it’s a no-brainer.”
Both experts agree that range is no longer an issue now electric cars offer ranges of 300 kilometres or even more, considerably more than the average commute. Mr Davidts: “When you’ve driven 300 kilometres, it’s probably a good idea for your personal well-being to take a break anyway. Have a coffee, stretch your legs, and take that time to recharge your car.”
Not only are average car trips well below the maximum range most contemporary EVs offer, at least 80% of vehicle charging is done at home or at the office, according to numbers of Total. In practice, range anxiety and the fear of not finding a charging station is not borne out by the facts.
Charging electric vehicles is less straightforward than it may see at first glance. Not only do you need the infrastructure to charge vehicles, you also need electricity supply to follow. According to numbers provided by Eneco, a household with one EV sees its electricity usage go up with a factor of 2.5.
Earlier this year, UPS only succeeded in switching the fleet for its central London site to a full EV fleet once it had introduced a smart grid and on-site storage batteries to overcome the challenge of simultaneously recharging an entire fleet.
“Energy is not always generated at the moment you need it,” explains Mr ten Bloemendal. “In other words, demand and supply become disrupted and we need a solution to organise that by connecting as many cars to the grid as possible. That can be the national grid, the local grid or your office grid. This makes it possible to optimise energy usage and energy movement around batteries, solar and wind production.”
“Cars will indeed be able to absorb energy peaks for which there is no demand and to give back energy at times of peak demand when renewable energy production cannot keep up with demand,” concurs Mr Davidts.
Technology may be ready to implement such charging practices, legislation has to follow and vehicles need to be equipped with telematics solutions so they can communicate with the grid.
Contrary to what some people fear, reverse charging does not harm batteries. You need to do it in a controlled fashion, though, explains Mr ten Bloemendal: “Research shows, if you have the right way of discharging your battery and you understand and control the discharging curve, it will actually extend your battery life.”
The time is right
The time is right to introduce alternative powertrains in your fleet.
- Make sure to install charging infrastructure at home and at the office.
- Include telematics solutions to monitor charging behaviour.
- Have no fear, technology is much more mature than you may expect.
Bye bye diesel
The number of carmakers that are ditching diesel is growing. These are just some:
- Toyota is dropping diesel car sales in Europe
- PSA won’t develop new diesel engines after the current generation
- Renault and Nissan will slowly phase out diesel
- FCA will stop selling diesel cars by 2022
- Volvo will no longer offer diesel options in newly launched models
- Porsche has stopped selling diesel cars
|This article was also published in the Fleet Europe Directory 2019 (page 27). The information regarding the carmakers that are ditching diesel was partly wrong, for which the editors would like to apologise.|