Efficiency: The New Currency to Accelerate EV Adoption

Article By : Nitin Dahad

As electric vehicle numbers grow, we explore some of the developments in EVs plus batteries, fast charging and more.

One of the certainties in the automotive industry is the quest by car manufacturers to ramp up electric vehicle (EV) production or to go all-electric within the next few years, and encourage EV adoption. We’ve already seen a record 6.6 million EVs sold globally in 2021, according to the International Energy Agency (IEA), and 2 million already sold in the first quarter of 2022, despite the strains on global supply chains.

Within electric vehicles itself are several categories, including fully electric or battery electric vehicles (BEVs) and hybrid cars. We are also seeing electric sports cars and electric sports utility vehicles (SUVs).

Polestar_3
Polestar will premiere its first electric performance SUV, the Polestar 3, in October 2022, which uses lidar sensors from Luminar and centralized Nvidia-based computing power. (Image: Polestar)

One such announcement this week is from Polestar, the Swedish electric performance car company, who said it will premiere its first electric performance SUV, the Polestar 3, in October 2022. This car plans to introduce some degree of autonomous highway piloting powered by LiDAR sensors from Luminar and centralized Nvidia-based computing power. At launch, Polestar 3 will feature a dual-motor drivetrain and a large battery, with a range target of over 600 km / 372 miles (WLTP).

Later this month, Lexus will make its first European presentation of its vision for a future all-electric, high-performance sports car. Making its debut outside Japan at the Goodwood Festival of Speed, the company will present its Lexus Electrified Sport concept, as well as show its RZ450e battery electric SUV for the first time in public. The RZ 450e is constructed on a new, dedicated electric vehicle platform with the battery unit integrated into the chassis beneath the cabin, and featuring a steer-by-wire system with its new One Motion Grip – which the company said is an automotive world first. The latter does away with the mechanical link to the wheels, and hence no conventional steering wheel. Instead, an electrical connection is used to send inputs from the steering wheel and the wheels. The result is instant response and more precise steering control.

Lexus RZ450e-One Motion grip
The new Lexus RZ 450e features a steer-by-wire system, One Motion Grip, which does away with the mechanical link to the wheels, and hence there is no conventional steering wheel. (Image: Lexus)

Like last year, electric mobility will again be a key focus at Goodwood, and hence it will also feature the Electric Avenue. In addition to an array of popular electric vehicles, this will showcase some debuts and premieres, including the European debut of the Electra Meccanica Solo, the UK debut of the Fisker Ocean, the premiere of Porsche 718 Cayman GT4 ePerformance. This part of Goodwood will also feature Britishvolt’s Concept Paddock, which will showcase a number of electric vehicles that are in pre-production stages.

Policy is driving sales

More broadly, sustained policy support has been one of the main reasons for strong electric car sales in many markets, with overall public spending on subsidies and incentives doubling in 2021 to nearly US$30 billion, according to the IEA. A growing number of countries have ambitious vehicle electrification targets for the coming decades, and many carmakers have plans to electrify their fleets that go beyond policy targets. Five times more electric car models were available globally in 2021 than in 2015, and the number of available models reached 450 by the end of 2021.

One company whose EV mission is in overdrive is the Volkswagen Group. At its annual general meeting (AGM) last month, CEO Herbert Diess said, “We expect the e-mobility business to match the profitability of our combustion engine business earlier than planned. Because we are rolling out our e-mobility toolkits across the board, converting a growing number of production plants and selling our technology to competitors such as Ford.” The company said in Europe, every fourth pure electric vehicle (BEV) came from the Volkswagen Group in 2021; in the USA, the group’s share of the BEV market was around 8% last year, roughly double its market share for combustion engines; and in China, its largest single market, the group delivered some 93,000 pure electric vehicles last year, more than four times as many as in 2020.

Volkswagen plans to build over 40 million vehicles on its future electric SSP single platform (scalable systems platform), which reduces complexity of the vehicle build. It hired 1,000 additional software developers last year, to advance development of the group’s software stack for autonomous driving. Further expertise has been added through the integration of the camera software manufacturer Hella Aglaia and other tech companies. And it is cooperating with Bosch to jointly generate traction in the development of autonomous driving. “Taking software development 100% in-house is an entirely new approach that will need two lifecycles. In the automotive industry, that means 15 years,” Diess said.

Faster charging and efficiency are key to more EV growth

Battery efficiency, charging speed, and EV range are important factors that could hold back adoption of EVs among consumers who are still unsure whether they should switch to EVs just yet. At the recent FT Future of the Car conference, the CEO of Mercedes-Benz, Ola Kaellenius, said, “Efficiency is the new currency for electric vehicles. We can expect to see better efficiencies probably in 2024-25.”

Speaking to EE Times Europe at the FT Future of the Car conference, Antonio Leone, director for battery management systems at NXP Semiconductors, said that new levels of diagnostics were needed for battery health including prediction. He said, “Today, batteries are being over-engineered, and weight is important, so there is potential for reduction of 20-30% in the cells. There is a shift towards better estimation of the battery [health].” He indicated that enabling prediction would be important.

StoreDot battery image
Israeli startup StoreDot is developing silicon-dominant lithium-ion cells delivering 100 miles of range in five minutes of charging, which it hopes to introduce by 2024. (Image: StoreDot)

While battery management systems including health diagnostics can help improve range, another development in progress is fast battery charging. This week, Israeli startup StoreDot announced it has grown its portfolio of strategic investors and partners to help enable mass production of silicon-dominant lithium-ion cells delivering 100 miles of range in five minutes of charging by 2024. It has raised a total of $200 million to date and its investors and partners include Daimler, Volvo, Polestar, VinFast, Ola Electric EVE Energy, TDK, BP Ventures, and Samsung Ventures.

Polestar, who announced its investment in StoreDot last month, said it is exploring, adapting and applying StoreDot’s technology to proof-of-concept Polestar cars. Test cases already being explored include customizing StoreDot’s cell technology for its cars, to enable faster charging and improved circularity. Polestar CEO, Thomas Ingenlath, said, “Charging and range anxiety are common concerns holding owners of combustion engine cars back from making the switch to EVs. StoreDot’s advanced battery technology potentially provides real solutions to these obstacles. If our current pilot projects with StoreDot are successful, we could see these solutions being implemented in Polestar cars by 2026.”

This article was originally published on EE Times Europe.

Nitin Dahad is a correspondent for EE Times, EE Times Europe and also Editor-in-Chief of embedded.com. With 35 years in the electronics industry, he’s had many different roles: from engineer to journalist, and from entrepreneur to startup mentor and government advisor. He was part of the startup team that launched 32-bit microprocessor company ARC International in the US in the late 1990s and took it public, and co-founder of The Chilli, which influenced much of the tech startup scene in the early 2000s. He’s also worked with many of the big names—including National Semiconductor, GEC Plessey Semiconductors, Dialog Semiconductor and Marconi Instruments.

 

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