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Electric vehicles are a key to the future of mobility. The German automotive industry is working to make them a real option for more customers.
Electric mobility could be the secret weapon of tomorrow’s mobility: vehicles that do not pollute or throw CO2 emissions locally may protect climate and resources – especially if the used electricity is obtained from renewable energy sources. On top of this, they are silent. In this manner, they can contribute to making our cities better living places. Yet, only few clients have chosen an electric car: Out of the 45 million cars licensed in Germany in early 2016, only close to 38,000 of them had an electric, a Plug-in Hybrid or a fuel cell drive.
What is the reason for this? After all, German manufacturers already offer nowadays over 30 different E-models, from Plug-in-Hybrids to completely electrically powered cars. Yet, in spite of all the variety, there are three hurdles that electric cars have to surmount on their way to a widespread dissemination: Their price is presently still very high, their battery performance only covers a limited route and there are not sufficient charging stations yet.
Electric cars are generally more expensive than those with combustion motors. This is mainly due to the cost of batteries. This will, however, change in the coming years because battery prices are sinking. Researchers at the Stockholm Environment Institute have calculated that prices for Lithium battery cells have been sinking at a yearly rate of 14 percent since 2007. At a battery price of 150 dollars per Kilowatt hour, electric cars can still compete with regular cars. It is foreseen that this limit will be reached in the coming 4 to 9 years. The National Platform for Electric Mobility (NPE) recommends to pave the way so that a sustainable production of battery cells in Germany may be gradually built and expanded.
Until then, it does make sense to try to make the higher price more acceptable by offering a buyer’s premium. Countries like China or the USA have already shown how it works. A so-called “environmental bonus” is being offered since July 2016, also in Germany: A subvention of up to 4,000 euros is offered to those buying purely electric cars and Plug-in- Hybrids. This financial start help will no longer be necessary when the market gets going.
The decisive factors for e-mobility are efficient battery cells and the appropriate battery technique. German manufacturers are leaders in battery technology-including, for example, battery control and the management of temperature.
At this time, there is a large excess of capacities in factories worldwide of the inner parts of the battery, the battery cells, which are mostly produced in Asia. This is due to the fact that the present generation of Lithium cells cannot be produced in an economic manner, especially in Europe, and has many weaknesses concerning range. In Germany, it would only make sense to produce battery cells if we would concentrate on the next generation of cells and would promote them particularly: New technologies like Lithium-Air or Lithium-Sulphur cells will be probably cheaper to produce and decidedly more efficient in relation to range.
Many clients hesitate to buy an electrical car because a fully-charged battery cannot keep up with the range covered by a full tank of gasoline. By comparison: While the distance between Cologne and Berlin can be covered with a full tank of gasoline, without having to replenish, today’s electric car models have to be recharged at a station at least once, depending on the brand. Plug-in electric cars, for their part, may be put into use like regular cars.
Still today, electric cars are not capable of handling equally every kind of application- scenarios. This is why we will still see for a long time a mixture of different kinds of drives in our roads. Yet, many do not know: the range of electric cars was sufficient for more than 90 percent of all rides- and this will be constantly increasing.
Further developments in batteries will make these not only cheaper, but also more efficient. Experts are certain that the range will be doubled by the year 2025 and costs will be cut in half. The German car industry constantly optimises drive systems in order to make cars more efficient. Progress in lightweight construction technologies reduce further the weight, thus increasing the range.
For many people, range would not be a hindrance to buying an electric car if only the infrastructure of charging stations were more expanded. Presently, there are about 6,500 charging stations open to the public. That is not much, if auto buyers are to see E-models as a real alternative. For this reason, it is good that the Federal Government intervenes here after deciding to invest the sum of 300 million Euros to promote charging infrastructure: With that, the network of charging stations should be increased by the year 2020.
In particular, it must be invested in fast charging stations because they increase significantly the possibility of charging electric cars. The goal here is that charging will only take a few minutes. The German car industry supports the choice of locations and the expansion of a federal network of quick charging stations with the support, among others, of partners from research, economy and politics.
Further, a uniform charging system for Europe was established with the Combined Charging System (CCS). Both are important steps towards making electric cars be a real option for clients.
The industry is being consequent in its commitment to enlarge and develop electro-mobility further: From the more than 30 billion Euros that German car industries invest in research and development yearly, a large amount goes into this field.