The Challenges of Creating an Electric Vehicle Ecosystem

one month ago by Lianne Frith

Electric vehicles (EVs) being positioned as a clean energy alternative that will help countries across the globe achieve their zero carbon emissions targets.

However, batteries and charging technology, with circuit-level designs built by our electrical engineers, are critical to their success.

Automakers across Europe are creating EV business units to prepare for the boom, but the question is whether we will be able to meet the demand for charging infrastructure, safety regulations and standards. New entrants, diversification and significant investments will be required to capitalise on growth and deliver a sustainable solution.

 

The Concept of an EV Ecosystem

An EV ecosystem is every part of the system that makes the electric propulsion of vehicles and fleets a commercial viability. The core parts of the ecosystem include electric powertrain technologies, in-vehicle information, communication technologies, connected infrastructures and charging stations.

There are multiple design considerations around control systems, charging devices and battery management. And, to find the right solutions that will enable the ecosystem to work, electrical engineers need to work together with civil engineers and city planners. A stable EV ecosystem will depend upon the following providers:

 

Oil and Gas Companies

Traditional energy stations will need to add new services and revenue streams to help meet the needs of electrification.

 

Utility Companies

Electric companies will need to leverage networks and energy storage to meet supply and demand during peak times.

 

Charging Station Providers

Manufacturers will need to provide fast-charging stations on motorways and to optimise safety and efficiency for home charging. 

 

Charging Station Operators

Operators will need to emerge to maintain consistency across charging stations and to provide maintenance to hardware and software. 

 

Highway sign electric vehicle recharge.

A sign for an electric vehicle charging station on the motorway. 

 

The European EV Market

The European automobile industry has been talking about electric vehicles for some time, but after slow progress they are finally coming to fruition. The main driver, of course, is the carbon emission standards for the next few years. Carmakers have to reach an average of up to 10 per cent production of EVs by 2021 if they are to avoid fines.

What this means is that better performing and more affordable EVs are appearing on the market. Estimates suggest that the European EV production will reach four million vehicles annually by 2025. However, to achieve these targets, European countries need to prioritise electric charging at both public and private charging points. 

 

European Countries Investing in EV Ecosystems?

Many governments are making investments in the infrastructure that is required for ECV ecosystems such as charging stations and special parking spots. In addition, European governments have been investing in EV-related research and development, building programs to address environmental and congestion issues and incentivising consumers to choose EVs. Some of the key developments across Europe include:

 

Estonia

There are fast chargers throughout the country, every city with over 5,000 inhabitants has at least one.

 

Amsterdam

Special citywide parking permits are available for electric car-sharing fleets.

 

Norway

A package of subsidies up to 17,000 euros is available when consumers purchase an EV.

 

United Kingdom 

Buyers receive a one-time premium of £4,000 to £7,000 for all vehicles emitting less than 75g/km and 46 percent of automotive firms are putting significant resources into electric and hybrid vehicles.

 

Netherlands

Income tax additions for electric lease cars are 10 percent less than their internal combustion engine (ICE) counterparts.

 

Paris

Reduced toll and parking fees available for EV owners.

 

Oslo

Electric vehicles are allowed to drive in bus and taxi lanes.

 

Electric vehicles charging.

Two cars parked in the sun at an EV charging station. 

 

At the end of 2019, there were around 185,000 public charge points in the EU, which equates to 7 cars for each point. While over half were still slow public charge points, there have been progressions with approximately 9,000 CCS fast charge points and 640 ultra-fast charge points. The fast charge points are predominantly located on the passage from the south of the UK to the Netherlands, Germany and Switzerland. 

 

European Manufacturers and Companies Leading the Way

It is not necessarily an easy switch for manufacturers to move from ICE vehicles to EVs. As such, they need partners that can offer high efficiency and global support. Two such companies that are leading the way in creating an EV ecosystem are:

 

Schneider Electric

The European multinational company has developed partnerships with utilities and automobile manufacturers to deliver EV integration and power support infrastructure. The company’s Inno2grid venture in Europe aims to help fleet-intensive companies convert from ICE to EV. 

 

Groupe Renault

Has forged partnerships with energy providers, charge point suppliers and local authorities. It has developed smart charging systems that trigger charging when a building’s solar panels produce more energy than it can consume. It is also investing heavily in bi-directional smart charging to send a portion of the energy stored in a car’s battery back into the grid, thereby helping supply and demand. 

In fact, Renault has recently launched its INCIT-EV project, collaborating with 32 partners across Europe to promote electromobility with innovating charging technologies. The project aims to address the needs to test charging technologies in real-life scenarios, considering the likes of contactless dynamic charging technology. 

 

Multiple electric charging stations at Belarus.

Several electric vehicle chargers in Belarus. 

 

Challenges That Still Need to be Solved? 

For electric vehicles to be viable on a large scale and EV adoption to continue to rise as predicted, there are some key areas that electrical engineers still need to focus on: 

 

Battery Type

Small batteries rely on quick-charging stations, which are expensive and power-intensive, whereas longer-range vehicles currently use slower stations; fast charger prototypes are needed that don’t impact battery lifespan.

 

Range

Current charging infrastructure needs to be strengthened to eliminate range anxiety; increasing range by increasing battery size would increase cost and introduce new design challenges for engineers.

 

Costs

Large scale deployment of charging infrastructure is too high for the public sector alone; commercial viability will be fundamental in the coming years. 

 

Capacity

The electric grid needs to be able to manage supply and demand and handle the massive power requirements of fast-chargers.

With the race on to deliver the most efficient energy consumption and lowest cost per/km, manufacturers are going to have to up their game. What’s more, in a time of rapid change and opportunity, market disruption is extremely likely. 

 

Goals of a Successful EV Ecosystem

A successful EV ecosystem will improve accessibility to charging infrastructure, affordability and economic opportunity. To deliver, Europe's engineers are being tasked with improving battery performance while designing efficient charging stations with better power conversion.

Charging stations will need to be able to perform any type of charge, be it constant voltage, combination or pulse charging. While EVs can be made to be incredible vehicles, without this critical infrastructure coming to fruition we will not see the levels of adoption that Europe has predicted. 

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