Steps in the Development of E-Mobility
The development of new sectors of the economy progresses in steps. At the beginning of the development and transformation vehicles are more expensive compared to petrol and diesel vehicles and they are gradually developed towards increasing user friendliness and lower prices as volumes grow and companies learn about the requirements of the new systems and the volumes allow companies throughout supply chains to invest in automation and they exploit other advantages of scale.
As the development progresses system bottle necks are identified that need to be removed for the development to progress further. There are several systems that need to be expanded in terms of capacity for bottlenecks for e-mobility to be removed:
Power grids need to become smart to facilitate the controlled use of effect for purposes with different priorities. The bulk of charging has to be transferred to times during the day and night when there is a surplus of electricity and when demand for other purposes is low.
Communication needs to be developed between vehicles and grid operators to make control of charging possible.
Charging infrastructures need to be expanded and for cars and a system solution has to be developed to facilitate the expansion of transportation by electric trucks, both for stationary charging at night and for continuous charging when vehicles are moving at night and during the day.
Battery production needs to be expanded and this expansion will also cause increasing demands on power consumption, as battery plants are very power intensive.
A stepwise model can be developed that illustrates the different steps that the expansion of e-mobility is likely to go through. The method of predicting the steps was developed by Mats Larsson and David Lundberg in 2000 as they described the growth of e-business and the steps that this development would take in the book “Den transparenta ekonomin.” The predictions made for the development turned out to be accurate and the same type of reasoning can be used here for e-mobility.
Step 1 – Small volumes of cars and light trucks as stand-alone implementations
Initially a small number of affluent customers buy electric cars and there is enough surplus electricity available to charge and drive them without expanding power production or the capacity of the power grids.
Step 2 – Restrictions to growth and benefits of integration are experienced in power grid
As fleets of electric vehicles grow there are indications that further growth will meet with bottlenecks in the electricity grid. Bottlenecks could arise both from the perspective of effect and the volumes of power demanded. This will spurn activities to expand the capacity of power grids, for example to invest in smart grid technologies that creates flexibility of demand and the opportunity to reduce the load on the grid from usages that are not prioritised during peak hours. The development of smart grids on a large scale will take several years and require large investments. Up until now, only a few countries have started to analyse this and even fewer have started the development. As electric mobility develops and the potential to utilise the existing power supply gets used up a need will arise to expand power generation, something that will require further investments.
Step 3 – Volume Expansion of Electric Cars
The expansion of e-mobility is likely to go through several phases in each country when bottlenecks are identified, removed, and new bottlenecks are discovered and removed through an iterative process over decades. The prices of batteries and electric vehicles are likely to gradually go down and electric vehicles will become affordable to new segments of consumers. Initially electric cars have been targeted at buyers of premium cars. Even the most inexpensive models cost 10,000 euro more than comparative petrol and diesel cars. In the countries where the largest share of sales has been achieved governments generously subsidise electric cars to promote sustainability.
Over the coming decade prices will gradually decrease and electric cars will become increasingly competitive. The range will also increase and make electric vehicles more user friendly from this perspective. At present slightly more than one million electric cars are sold every year across the globe. At this pace it would take one thousand years to transform global vehicle fleets of 1.2 billion cars to electric drive. The pace of transformation is going to speed up, but the pace is limited by the production of batteries and the production capacity for batteries is increasing at a predictable pace short term.
Step 4 – The Construction of Electric Road Systems
Sometime during the progress governments and large industrial companies are likely to discover that the only way to limit the need to install large battery packs in each vehicle will be to build networks of electrified roads that can power electric vehicles continuously as they are driven. Such networks will constitute very large investments, similar to the construction of railways in the early years of the twentieth century, and car owners and logistics companies will find it difficult to invest large amounts of money in electric cars that can use these roads until substantial stretches of road are in place. In cities electric roads can be built for local transportation, such as buses, waste collection vehicles, and other vehicles that are used only locally, but it will be difficult for logistics companies that run networks for long-distance transportation to invest in electric vehicle fleets until stretches of road covering their main routes have been put in place, inside or between countries. An important aspect for companies will also be that the systems will be operated by companies with stable ownership or that there are government guarantees that the systems will be operated for a significant time.
At present test stretches of electric road are in use for test purposes and new alternatives are planned and discussions are in progress regarding which alternative should become standard. There are also bus lines in many cities where buses are charged at intervals. In these cases, charging requires that buses are stationary. In the case of electric road systems an important aspect is the efficiency of transportation and the capacity of vehicles, which makes it necessary to be able to charge as vehicles are driven, via pantographs or power rails in the road surface.
In the absence of electric road systems cars, buses, and trucks are fitted with battery packs that are charged at different intervals. These vehicles represent a form of competition for electric roads. As the number of vehicles increase the question will arise if there will be a need for electric roads, or if electric mobility can take over without them. An analysis of this needs to include aspects related to the complete transformation of all transportation to electric drive, the capacity that will be needed and the cost and investment needs to build the entire systems. Analyses based on a restricted view of the situation are likely to lead to suboptimal solutions.
Step 5 - Dominance of E-Mobility
It is difficult to forecast when the present slow growth of electric mobility on the global scene will be sped up and e-mobility will take over, but the change is necessary. By 2040 the production of conventional oil will have declined substantially, and it is uncertain whether shale oil and other forms of unconventional oil will increase to these levels. At some point the growth of electric mobility will have to take off also in large and important countries like Germany, France, the UK, Italy, Spain, and the United States.
In this situation charging will be automatic and built into infrastructure in the way that the connectivity necessary for mobile computing has been made a matter of little concern. In the early stages of Internet use people had to connect to the Internet via modems. At present we use devices that are automatically connected, and we supply data to service providers even when we are not aware of it. In the same way the development of electric mobility will lead to the application of technologies that reduce range anxiety and also reduce the need to plan charging and driving. In some situations, it is still necessary to consider aspects regarding mobile telephony, but they are becoming fewer and fewer. The same will be true for electric mobility. Some aspects will need to be considered for a long time into the future, but for the most part electric mobility is likely to develop into something that most people use without thinking.
In the phase of dominance of e-mobility the advantages of e-mobility have made this the most competitive and cost-effective alternative. At this stage it is difficult for most people to understand how they and their peers could not see the advantages of electric mobility and how generations could have used petrol and diesel cars for so long without driving the development of electric vehicles forward with force.