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Electromobility: four challenges for e-cars

Hans-Dieter Seufert, Achim Hartmann
Electromobility
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W How easy it is to lie with statistics, A look at the registration figures for electric cars shows: They increased by 45 percent from 2014 to 2015. Sounds great, but the absolute numbers are still lousy. 12,300 new electric vehicles were added last year, which corresponds to a share of 0.3 percent of all new registrations. A manufacturer with such market shares would have withdrawn long ago.

Pathetic support

The federal government has not yet given up on its goal, but nobody believes in the targeted one million Stromers by 2020. 200,000 e-cars would have been necessary as a milestone at the end of 2015, but it was not much more than 30,000.

Falling oil prices and rising electricity prices are making sales of e-cars more difficult, as is the zigzag course of politics: First, Economics Minister Sigmar Gabriel announced a generous subsidy, only to be whistled back shortly afterwards by Federal Transport Minister Alexander Dobrindt . Interested parties prefer to wait there first.

Anyone looking at the four main problems of today's electric cars does not have to look in the dark: There are solutions to almost all obstacles, and from 2017 the e-business could actually pick up. The million should come true after all, but not before 2023.

Costs

Buying electric cars Above all, the high battery costs are expensive - and here it is 80 percent of the cells that make up the price. In contrast to the rapid drop in the price of other electronic products, no huge falls in prices are to be expected for raw material-intensive cells - but a noticeable decline is: analysts are assuming 180 euros from 2017 instead of the 300 euros per kWh that were paid just a few years ago. Increasing numbers due to new battery production facilities make this possible. A 30 kWh battery with a range of 200 km would cost 5,400 instead of 9,000 euros.

Second life for the battery

But not everyone needs such a large battery: If you only drive short distances, fewer cells will suffice, which is why the Tesla idea of ​​different battery sizes is taking precedence : For the facelift of the BMW i3 in the middle of the year, there will be two ranges to choose from. Further savings potential can be achieved by recycling electricity storage systems. So is currently being createdWith the participation of BMW and Daimler in Lünen, North Rhine-Westphalia, a storage power plant for batteries that have become too weak for the car. With 13 MWh, it does not compete with any nuclear power plant (up to 1,500 MW). However, it is ideal for cushioning peaks in demand in electricity consumption.

All of this leads to lower costs for e-cars. According to management consultancy P3, from 2018 onwards, electric vehicles should catch up with their combustion colleagues over five years in terms of total cost balance. However, the low oil prices are not fully taken into account. If the cheap oil remains, the point in time at which an e-car pays off will possibly be pushed back a little.

Range

Only a few electric cars - such as the Tesla - currently achieve ranges of around 200 kilometers. This is sufficient for the daily commute to work, small trips and errands. Longer distances or vacation tours are hardly an option, however, with current lithium-ion battery systems mainly due to the energy densities, which only reach up to 85 watt hours per kilogram. Not only the costs but also the weight prevent greater ranges.

The type of cell used is almost irrelevant. Round cells like those in Tesla store a lot of energy. Conversely, however, they only use around 50 percent of the available space in a battery module in which many cells have to be interconnected.

Double the energy density

The manufacturers want to double the energy density of lithium-ion cells by 2020 by means of technical improvements. The limiting factor is the material of the plus and minus pole (anode and cathode), which is largely made of graphite. A promising alternative are so-called solid-state cells, which Bosch is working on after acquiring the start-up Seeo Inc. The anode is made of pure lithium, which significantly increases the storage capacity. Energy densities of up to 400 Wh /kg should be possible. In addition, the solid-state cells do not contain any liquid electrolyte and are therefore not flammable. The manufacturer believes that series production by 2020 is realistic.

From 2025, lithium-sulfur and lithium-oxygen batteries with even higher energy densities could gradually go into series use. However, both technologies are still in the research stage.

Charging infrastructure

The topic of charging infrastructure was raised in this country Not only overslept from politics: Initially, even many e-car manufacturers assumed that electricity would be tapped predominantly at home and at work. The establishment of a fast charging network therefore began late and unstructured. The few direct current pumps are mostly thereFar off the beaten track, for example at car dealerships in industrial areas, there are also umpteen payment systems. Last but not least, the success of Tesla, which already operates more than 2,000 fast chargers worldwide, has led to a rethink , which foresees around 400 pillars at strategic points such as motorway service stations by the end of 2017. Initially, there will be charged with 50, later with 150 kW. A range of 100 km can be recharged within minutes. And 150 kW is just the beginning: For example, in its Mission E e-car study, Porsche developed a battery that can withstand 300 kW, which means that refueling times are finally moving towards gasoline-powered vehicles. A network of such potent charging stations is still a long way off, however, and the fast charging network is likely to lag behind demand for many years.

Movement on the subject of inductive charging: a charging device recessed in the floor mimics the annoying plugging in of the electric car unnecessary for every trip. Appropriate loading plates for the garage at home are being tested, and the implementation seems easier than expected. Chip manufacturer Qualcomm has now presented a 7.2 kW charger and is even talking about 22 kW chargers that could be positioned in front of shopping centers. However, such offers are not expected before 2020.

Emotion

After initial difficulties, the E- Mobility has largely abandoned its somewhat staid image. The former reason drive for environmental reasons arouses driving pleasure and fascination with more and more people. According to a study by the DLR Institute for Transport Research, when buying an e-vehicle, interest in innovative vehicle technology dominates just before the goal of reducing environmental pollution.

The automotive industry now offers a lot of nutrients for this. The first, still very sober and pragmatic electric models are now joined by spectacular studies and sensational sports cars.

E-car range is growing

The future of series e-vehicles also promises something new. Many manufacturers are currently presenting purely battery-electric models that are expected to be on the market by 2020. The offer is not only increasing in numbers. In terms of vehicle type, everything will be included, from small cars to SUVs to sports cars. And the fact that the manufacturers believe in larger sales volumes is revealed not least by VW's modular strategy. The BUDD-e study is the first model to be based on the new modular electrification kit - the ideal Bulli successor with a range of over 500 kilometers is due to go on sale in 2019. And more models will follow.

In motorsport, you have tostill claiming Formula E with long-established enthusiasts. But the quiet and locally emission-free racers could re-establish the sport in the city centers. Family events on the doorstep also arouse desires among the young.

Conclusion

Land in sight

Falling battery costs will make the e-car competitive in the future - that is the linchpin. After all, not everything about a Stromer is expensive, as components such as gearboxes or exhaust gas purification are omitted.

Continuous development

The successes in battery development can be felt with every new model, the big breakthrough is here but still out. German manufacturers have almost completely withdrawn from cell development.

It remains problematic

Too bad: If E -Cars actually sell better soon, queues are likely to form at the fast-charging systems. After all, the delay offers the opportunity to resolve the jumble of billing standards.

The goal in mind

Many new models for every purpose, including sports cars, are increasingly able to arouse emotions. E-mobility is gradually gaining a place in our society - a good basis.

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