By Udita Shukla
The global climate change has reached shocking levels. Governments are trying their best to contain the catastrophic effects of worsening air quality. The automotive industry is one of the leading flag-bearers of the campaign against global warming with its new offering in the form of the all-electric and hybrid versions of an automobile.
An electric vehicle (EV) runs on an electric motor instead of internal combustion. The central nerve of an electric vehicle is the lithium-ion battery it houses. It essentially consists of an electrolyte which facilitates the passage of positively-charged lithium ions between the anode and the cathode. Automakers are banking on lithium batteries in the upcoming decade.
Global auto giants like Tesla and Nissan have pooled in enormous amounts of money for this technology. Although lithium-ion batteries (LIBs) boast a high cyclability, that is, the number of times it can be recharged whilst maintaining the same efficiency, their energy density—which is the amount of energy stored in a unit volume—is low.
Reducing the carbon footprint
One of the chief upsides of going electric is the reduction of the average carbon footprint per vehicle. For example, the ‘tank-to-wheels’ efficiency of an electric vehicle is nearly three times higher as compared to internal combustion engine vehicles. Moreover, pure electric vehicles dispense carbon dioxide and other pollutants like NOx without any tailpipe. This essentially makes the local atmosphere drastically cleaner and free of greenhouse emissions.
As per a report by the Environment America Research and Policy Center, almost 18 million metric tonnes of carbon pollution can be prevented with the use of electric vehicles annually by the year 2025, in the United States alone. That is tantamount to saving approximately two billion gallons of gasoline per year or removing exhaust pollution from 3.8 million cars and trucks on the road in the present day.
Harnessing the sun for cleaner energy
Some carmakers like Toyota have unveiled plug-in hybrid models with a solar charging panel. Toyota Prius Prime comes installed with Panasonic’s advanced solar panel system with a high charging output of 180 watts. It can charge the lithium-ion battery for up to an additional 3.7 miles on an average sunny day. This means that the emission generated by a car in consuming electricity from a grid network is nearly compensated by manufacturing as much from the eco-friendly solar panels fitted in the car.
Moreover, with the increasing adoption of renewable modes of commercial power generation like wind, solar and geothermal, electric vehicles are only going to get cleaner in the long run.
Limitations of infrastructure and battery
Despite the growing popularity of electric vehicles, there are certain limitations that both existing and potential customers should know about. Firstly, countries still lack a consolidated charging infrastructure. The absence of sufficient charging stations is a hurdle to the mass adoption of electric vehicles. Secondly, the current limitation on the performance of electric vehicles is the range of the vehicle. Other challenges in the field involve reliability and durability of batteries and super-capacitors, reduction of battery weight and volume.
Pioneering wireless charging
There are new technologies that intend to solve the problem of range and insufficient charging network. For example, Europe is expected to be a leading manufacturing hub for the latest wireless charging technology known as wireless dynamic electric vehicle charging (DEVC). It is currently being tested on special-built tracks in France. The project, worth over USD 10 million, is majorly funded by the European Commission. Moreover, the initiative is being managed by twenty-five organisations across nine European countries including carmakers, suppliers, and automotive research groups. The test track, built by VEDECOM and integrated with Qualcomm’s technology, will see trials until December 2017.
A growing global market
According to a leading market research and consulting firm, Mordor Intelligence, the global market for electric vehicles is anticipated to grow at a Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of approximately 31%, from 2017 to 2022. A major factor fuelling this demand for electric or hybrid vehicles is the increasing consciousness of the end customer towards the ecological footprint that their vehicles generate.
The worldwide electric vehicle movement is a classic example of how a concerted effort from inter- and intra- bureaucratic institutions and research and development (R&D) establishments, can steer an industry. A few years ago, electric mobility solutions existed only as a concept on paper, while the global automotive market ran and thrived on gasoline-powered combustion engines. A gift of the industrial revolution in the eighteenth century, the internal combustion engine (ICE), reigned over the industry, as well as the environment.
Green eMotion for electro-mobility in Europe
The Paris Climate Conference (COP21), held in December 2015, witnessed a unanimous resolution by 195 countries. They agreed to limit the increase in the global average temperature, well below two degree Celsius, among other commitments. The move spawned a slew of legal regulations on the carbon dioxide emission of vehicles. For instance, the European Commission has declared financial support for a continent-wide electro-mobility initiative, Green eMotion. The worth of the entire project is over USD forty-nine million.
Green eMotion has roped in players from forty-two partners from industry, utilities, electric car manufacturers, municipalities, universities and technology and research institutions. The project intends to share, exchange and develop technical know-how for the electric vehicle technology as well as expedite their launch across Europe.
The inevitability of the electric renaissance undeniable. The major question is which automaker is going to lead the pack.
Featured Image Source: Pixabay
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