3 Reasons why Electromobility Has a Place in the Future World of Motoring

2015-09-25

Juraj Mikula, ANASOFT project manager

3 reasons why electromobility has a place in the future world of motoring In 2011, when Barack Obama declared that a million electromobiles would be driven in the United States within 4 years, he had no idea how overstated his predictions were. He based his forecast on massive state support to motivate companies to innovate and consumers to buy electric drive vehicles.  Reality did not even come close to the president’s optimistic plans.

Last year, the sale of electromobiles represented 3.5 percent of total vehicle sales in the United States, and less than 300,000 of these cars were driven on American roads at the beginning of this year. According to the Automotive Industry Association in Slovakia, there were only 148 registered electromobiles in Slovakia as of April of this year.    

Unfulfilled Potential

The promise of electromobility is bright – starting with increased energy diversification by lowering oil dependency, through environmental protection up to the long term stimulation of the economy and the development of new technologies and entire sectors. However, substantial technological, social and economic barriers, such as high prices, limited range, long recharging times and insufficient infrastructure stand in its way.

Most people have no experience with electromobiles.  They’re not familiar with their operation, how they work or what they require; they’re also afraid that these vehicles will depreciate much faster than conventional cars.  According to a survey of the US National Academy of Science, customers are concerned about the shorter range than that of traditional petrol and diesel cars despite the fact that 80 to 90 percent of cars fall within the limit which today’s models can manage in one charging session.

Some consumers also perceive electromobiles as clumsy and cumbersome vehicles that lack the dynamics and take away the joy of driving.  Some cars, for example, the E Formula race, which is a new global series of electric drive formula one cars that can reach speeds of more than 240 km/h, are trying to change this impression. Other consumers complain that the selection in showrooms is insufficient and that available models do not come close to suiting all motorists.  

Lower Price

3 reasons why electromobility has a place in the future world of motoring The low global demand for electric drive cars can be a disappointment for electromobility enthusiasts, but it is not the end of the road, as some sceptics claim. There are at least three good reasons why electromobility has a place in the future world of motoring.

First, the governments of several countries are not discouraged by the initial lack of success; they are planning massive state support or they have already begun to provide it and want to continue.  For example, the French recently stated that diesel engines were a mistake and that they wanted to gradually eliminate them from their roads. Electromobiles are expected to be their replacement; consumers can get a subsidy of up to 10 000 Euro for such cars if they deregister a diesel car that is more than 13 years old.  Thanks to this, the price of electromobiles can be equal to or even lower than the price of models with combustion engines.  Higher production volume will bring a more distinctive drop in price. As Carlos Ghosn, head of the Renault-Nissan alliance said, there is nothing extremely expensive about the technology of electromobiles compared to that of combustion engines, thus prices will go down when automotive plants can achieve savings due to volume of production.  

Northern European countries have gone even further. In the Netherlands you can regularly find public and private parking lots with charging stations and reserved parking spaces just for electromobiles. The current share of sales of electromobiles in the Netherlands is at the level 5.5%. In Norway, the leader in the use of electromobiles, sales represent 6.1% of total automobile sales.

Better Technology

Better technologyThe second reason why electromobility is not a dead end is technological progress. In order to achieve longer range, electric drive cars need smaller, lighter and higher performance batteries than today.  There will surely be batteries like that in the future. For example, in comparison with batteries used today, the batteries used in Greenway electromobiles were twice as big when the project was launched. MIT and certain companies are developing new types of batteries with higher energy density, although according to preliminary expectations they won’t be ready for mass production before 2020.

The dimensions and lifespan of the battery is one thing, the charging period is another. Private overnight charging is no problem, but when an electromobile sets off on a longer journey nobody wants to spend 2 hours in the charging station. However, there is also progress in this direction – last year Tesla introduced a battery which when fully charged should ensure a range of 500 kilometers and approximately 270 kilometers with 30 minutes of charging. The following video shows that Tesla is even working on increasing comfort. It has developed a charging cable which moves on its own, and can find and plug itself in to the charging socket.

What’s Been Going on

The third reason to be optimistic about electromobility in Slovakia is provided by various larger and smaller projects and initiatives that use electric drive vehicles or count on their use. For example, 16A sockets for the charging of electromobiles are already provided to guests by several hotels and restaurants (Martinov Dvor, Holiday Inn Žilina, Majolika) and certain developers are planning for their installation in underground garages for residential buildings. With EU support, the network of battery charging and replacement stations is also gradually growing.

Project GreenWay - electromobilityMoreover, electromobility is not just about regular motorists. It is also finding its application in the commercial sphere. For example, Greenway enables companies to lease electric drive vans for a monthly flat rate which includes not only service but also insurance, taxes and fees. Batteries can also be charged or immediately replaced at one of 15 stations throughout Slovakia and this number continues to grow.

Ecological reasons also support electromobility. Vehicles today contribute almost 25% of worldwide greenhouse gas production. According to the WHO, air pollution represents the greatest environmental risk to health and is the cause of one out of eight deaths globally.  For example, 505 micrograms of fine dust particles per cubic meter were measured in Beijing last year while the safe level is 25 micrograms.

In conclusion, it is clear that in the case of alternative sources of vehicle drive, the question is not if they will dominate classical vehicles, but when. And existing developments show that it makes sense to keep our fingers crossed for electromobiles...

The author of this article is the project manager of ANASOFT, a partner and responsible party for the Central Information System of the Greenway project.