What is Needed to Broaden Electric Vehicle Acceptance
Even on the scale of the universe, the basic force of electricity is pretty old. Humans, however, have only had some notion of it for several thousand years since the discovery of static electricity around 500 B.C. We just began putting it to useful work a little over two centuries ago with Faraday’s invention of the electric motor in 1821. Since then, a lot has happened, but you could argue that one of the most impactful modern applications of electrification is, and will continue to be, electric vehicles (EVs) for transportation.
What you may have learned from the news media and your own research is that using EV’s for transportation will lead to less air pollution, decrease our demand for fossil fuels, reduce noise on city streets, and save people some money, among other things. What other modern technology can offer so many benefits in one package?
Well, as an aspiring engineer or one who has been working in electronics, you’ve also realized that the gap between engineering and applicable technology efficiencies is often measured over many years. And this also seems to be the case with EV’s. We still have some hard work to do.
The Current Reality of EV’s for Transportation
The modern EV is already working its way into the public consciousness as a “smart” consumer choice. According to Statista, over 800,000 EV’s were sold in the U.S. in 2022. While that’s an impressive number, Statista also reports that over 14 million total vehicles were sold in 2022, including EV’s and internal combustion engines (ICE) vehicles. Cox Automotive also notes that, at current sales levels, there is a 92-day supply of EV’s on dealer lots compared to a 54-day supply of ICE vehicles. Clearly, EV’s have some distance to go before aggressive public sales adoption. So, what’s holding them back?
Strong growth in EV purchases by the public is currently being hindered by several engineering and financial factors. Here’s a quick review of the biggest ones in order of importance:
- Price: Simply put, EV retail prices remain high, commanding about a 14% premium (or more, depending on the model) over ICE vehicles. Much of this premium is currently being covered by government subsidies for EV purchases, but these are being phased out. And while the price is typically reduced by volume manufacturing, some creative engineering will be needed to close the circle.
- Range: Consumer range anxiety with EVs is high. This is based on an almost 50% range penalty for an average EV against a comparable ICE vehicle. Coupled with the range-limiting effects of both cold and hot weather, along with battery-sapping driving styles, EV’s are in need of some creative engineering solutions.
- Charge Time: Despite the ongoing deployment of public fast-charging equipment, average EV battery charge times remain long. While overnight charging with home equipment could help, consumers then have the additional price pressure of the required equipment and installation.
- Charging Stations: Despite their availability in California (where 22% of new car sales are EV’s per Bloomberg), there remains a continuing lack of convenient charging stations in many markets across the country. ICE vehicles have a very strong hand here, with over 145,000 public gasoline stations across the U.S., most with multiple pumps.
What Needs to be Done
If you’re aspiring for a career in automotive vehicle systems engineering, the challenges are pretty clear. Creative and elegant engineering solutions are needed to:
- Reduce vehicle costs through more efficient manufacturing
- Improve range through better batteries and control systems
- Reduce charge times via better batteries and charging technologies
- Increase the number of easily-accessible and consumer-friendly charging stations
- Improve the overall electrical grid robustness and general infrastructure
You may be sensing an underlying problem in this discussion of EV’s, and that is batteries. As the driving force behind the coming EV revolution, battery technology must continue to show consistent gains that are easily translatable into manufacturing. Those gains will not come from subsidies or regulations but from enlightened engineering.
Our Friends at OnlineComponents.com have also posted content on the multiple EV design challenges ahead. They also supply the market with high-quality power components via a robust supply chain. You can find out more about them at www.OnlineComponents.com.
Now, you know what to do. Let’s get to work!