Busting the Myth: Electric Vehicle Technology
In about a decade, the EV industry has undergone dynamic evolution particularly with the technology that drives these new energy machines. EVs have evolved from unreliable charging and low-power vehicles in the intial days to convenient charging, high-performance transport solutions in the present. There have been significant strides of innovation and techno-commercial development in technologies such as the electric powertrain (technology used to power EVs) and battery in the recent years, which are sure to disqualify some of the age-old myths around EV technology.
Myth #1: EVs are slow
Acceleration: Electric cars and high-speed electric two-wheelers have advanced high-performance powertrains. These vehicle systems can offer better acceleration in comparison with IC-Engine powertrains and allow comfortable speeds for intra-city driving. Superior discharge rate capabilities of present-day lithium-ion batteries allow higher current transfer in shorter time which facilitates generation of large amount of torque in EV motors. In fact, with a few software tweaks, the Tesla Model S leaves most gas-guzzlers catching up. Capable of doing 0-100 kmph in 2.4 secs, it is among the world’s fastest accelerating cars – ICEs included. Speed: Currently, there are electric cars in the Indian market with top speeds ranging from 80-170 kmph (Figure 1) from players like Tata, Mahindra, Hyundai and MG. Drive Motors in EVs are delibrately speed-limited to balance between range and travel time. Moreover, the application of more efficient motors such as Permanent Magnet Synchronous Motors (PMSM) in EVs is fostering the development of more advanced vehicles that utilizes energy economically from the battery, without compromising on its range.
Top speeds of electric cars and high-end electric two-wheeler variants in India
Source: JMK Research
Myth #2: EVs have limited range
The advent of lithium-ion battery technology has been a major influence on the EV market. These batteries have much better lifespan and higher energy density than lead acid batteries. With significant research and development on li-ion battery in the recent years, the energy density has been enhanced to 250-300 Wh/kg of the battery from about 100 Wh/kg a decade ago. This increase in storage capacity of the batteries translates to pushing the limits of EV range to a great extent. Out of the total vehicle stock in India, around 70-80% of the vehicles is constituted by two-wheelers. This fact suggests Indian consumers’ innate preference for two-wheelers – which is also the vehicle segment that is rapidly being electrified. According to a study conducted by JMK Research on a sample of 85 electric two-wheeler models that were/are present in the Indian market, the average range of the electric two-wheelers was found out to be about 84 km per charge.
Average range of electric two-wheelers in India
Source: Company websites, JMK Research
For inner-city commute, this range is sufficient for daily travel, even when home-charging is the only option available. If there is availability of charging system within office premises as well, then, this range becomes more than sufficient. There are several new models launched recently or are in pipeline from players like Hero electric, NDS Eco motors, Okinawa, Pure EV, Revolt, etc. where product range is more than 100 kms. Similarly, the average range of the five electric cars existing in the Indian market is 300 km which is more than enough for day-to-day use.
Range of Electric cars in India
Source: JMK Research
Myth #3: Lithium batteries have low life
Lithium-ion battery life for use in EVs is around 4-5 years. With new advancements in technology some Indian players such as Tata motors, Revolt, etc. are also offering battery warranty of upto 8 years/1.6 lakh kms. Moreover, once the first-life battery application is consumed in EVs, they can still be used for second-life applications like UPS, inverter batteries and stationary storage applications as well. In certain segments, new-age solutions like battery-swapping eliminate battery-life concerns for the user altogether. The responsibility of battery maintenance is transferred to the battery swap operator, who specializes in monitoring key battery-life indicators and maintaining healthy charging environments. This, in turn, prolongs battery life.
Myth #4: Lithium batteries can’t operate at high temperatures
Lithium is a highly combustible metal that delivers high energy, even within a small form factor. Therefore, it has a fire and explosion risk. Further, under operation in various EV applications, lithium ion batteries may encounter shifts in ambient temperature, which may affect their performance. This challenge is addressed by most EV players with their efficent and intelligent Battery Management Systems (BMS) which can perform task of cooling, heating, insulation and ventilation, etc. The Automotive Research Association of India (ARAI) does rigorous testing on these battery cells including overcharge, short circuit, vibration as well as nail penetration. It is said that the latter isn’t even mandatory in most countries but in India, it is. ARAI tests vehicle batteries according to the AIS 048 standard, which takes care of safety, friction and abuse to make sure nothing compromises their safety.
Strategies in sustainable transport are increasingly adopting an avoid – shift – improve approach. While walking or biking should surely be the most preferred options, new mobility solutions which involve motorized vehicles are transitioning to be affordable, shared, clean and reliable. Recent technology trends are rapidly improving speed, range, battery life and safety of electric vehicles. They are now inspiring a complete shift in the transport system. These trends further suggest that while the future of mobility in India and the world is electric, the technology to enable that future is already here – and continues to get better by the day.
Link to this opinion piece published in ETEnergyWorld- Busting the Myth: Electric Vehicle Technology