Why software is more important to e-mobility than to conventional mobility

This is a part of the EV Innovation Intelligence series

While our EVNext team was researching the various innovations from EV OEMs, Tesla of course naturally kept popping up frequently.

Like everyone else, we also were intrigued about Tesla’s sky high valuation. While there are many theories on this, a couple of interesting analyses argued how Tesla has been able to get into a completely different valuation league because they were not building electric cars, but were essentially building software.

In fact, there is so much discussion and excitement about electric vehicles in the IT and software industry that one can indeed mistake electric vehicles to be a software offering in some form.

Except they are not. EVs take us from one place to another – that is their core value. Software provides valuable support to this core value proposition, but it is still support.

While that is the theory, in practice, and in business, software is likely to punch far above its weight in e-mobility. Why is this so?

One reason is of course simply that software does provide excellent value in some aspects of electric vehicles such as telematics, helping locate charging stations, helping make more efficient and safer batteries, and also helping EV makers build better vehicles through the use of design and simulation software etc.

But I suspect that the larger-than-actual value of software in e-mobility may have more to do with aspects that are less tangible. Here are some:

1. Electric vehicles are starting to grow at the same time that three other dimensions in transport are making a mark – connected, shared and autonomous vehicles. All these three dimensions rely heavily on software. While all these three are not specific to electric vehicles (any vehicle can use it), the timelines of electric vehicles growth is so well aligned to the growth of these dimensions that they almost appear to be made for electric vehicles!

2. Growth of distributed renewable energy, especially solar power – Solar power has been growing in leaps and bounds. By 2030, estimates suggest that it contribute be much higher to global electricity than the 2% that it did in 2020. But solar has an Achilles Heel – its storage! Storing power through is costly. But what if EV batteries could store this (especially from rooftop solar power plants) and supply it to the consumer or to the grid. Sounds wonderful doesn’t it. This is not fanciful. Called the Vehicle 2 Grid technology, it is already happening in parts of the world. But for this to work well, a lot of software needs to do their work properly.

3. Unlike conventional vehicles that every user if highly familiar with, electric vehicles are new. The range anxiety will hover for sometime. So will anxieties about battery safety etc. This is one another domain where software adds good value. By digging into battery and mileage data (and also smartly using data about charging station locations etc), analytics can provide vehicle users rich intelligence and inputs that can make them have better control over their riding experience.

The three above aspects are quite different from each other, but together, they make software a far more critical component in electric vehicles than they are for conventional vehicles.

Software for locating charging stations – With range anxiety likely to be a challenge for a while, software that can let vehicles riders know about the location and proximity of charging stations will be of high value.

Software for a connected vehicle – Connectedness is more important for EVs than for conventional vehicles, at least in the initial stages when users are concerned with range anxiety.

Software for telematics – Telematics can play an important role in electric vehicles. It can be used to monitor energy generation and consumption, constantly monitor battery’s state of charge and update the user, and also help in locating charging stations nearby.

Software to make batteries more safe and efficient – Through their use in battery management systems, software plays a critical role in both the performance and safety of EV batteries.

Software for fast charging – With DC fast charging becoming more commonplace, at least in the developed nations, embedded software is needed in charge controllers and the BMS that ensure that the entire charging process is safe and efficient.

Software for V2G – With the rise of vehicle to grid technologies in which the battery in an EV can act as the distributed electricity storage unit for the grid or for other distributed energy sources such as rooftop solar power plants, there’s a clear need for relevant software to make these happen seamlessly by synchronizing various components in the ecosystem.

Software for analytics, esp. for battery use – Beyond the basic analytics, today’s electric vehicles provide significant amounts of data and analytics to the users.

Software for design, testing, simulation – With a large part of the innovation in electric vehicle and component manufacturing yet to come, there is a clear need for software that can enable simulation during design of these components, which can both cut down production costs and bring the vehicles faster to the market. Once the prototypes or the first set of vehicles, batteries, motors or other components are produced, a similar need exists for software to comprehensively test their performance and safety.

Here are factoids and updates on how software and digital are playing a valuable role in e-mobility

  • Blockchain – Blockchain technology can prevent the age-old problem of mileage fraud through establishing a transparent, anonymous and manipulation-proof database for mileage.
    • Blockchain is solving problems and increasing transparency within supply chain processes, including the mobility sector. The vehicle manufacturing process involves an incredible number of components, stakeholders, companies and processes.
    • Blockchain technology enables the transparent and immutable logging of a vehicle’s sensor data in a decentralized network. Smart contracts allow this data to be processed and implemented into an insurance plan.
    • Volvo will become the first carmaker to implement global traceability of cobalt used in its batteries by applying blockchain technology. Traceability of raw materials used in the production of lithium ion batteries, such as cobalt, is one of the main sustainability challenges faced by car makers.
  • Cloud – Bosch announced in June, 2019, the development of a new service called Battery in the Cloud that it claims can help extend the life of electric car batteries by as much as 20%. Batteries connected to Bosch’s cloud system are constantly monitored and analyzed based on how much stress the battery is under due to driving style, environmental factors. That information is then used to not only forecast a battery’s remaining run time, but to optimize the charging process and deliver tips on how to conserve battery power to drivers through a dashboard display.
  • AI/ML – A new AI technology which has been created by automation company Comau is designed for industrial-scale EV manufacturing to optimise the construction and assembly of batteries. The AI technology automatically assesses the surface defects and the electrical resistance of each joint before final assembly, therefore saving the manufacturers time and costs while also ensuring the safety of the battery.
  • The battery sector is turning to artificial intelligence for clues on how to improve recharging rates without increasing the degradation of lithium-ion batteries.
    • The researchers wrote a program that predicted how batteries would respond to different charging approaches and was able to cut the testing process from almost two years to 16 days.
  • IBM has also been exploring alternatives to nickel and cobalt in a bid to find more sustainable materials and reduce costs. The job of evaluating the 20,000 possible compounds to use as the electrolyte would have taken some five years without AI. IBM was able to employ machine learning to get the job done in nine days.
  • Simulation tools – Process simulation with tools such as Siemens Process Simulate allow manufacturing engineers to design the assembly operation sequences, validate reachability and process cycle times, and generate work instructions from the operator’s point of view. Process simulation also supports flexible workcell design, robotics programming and workcell control and automation for complex processes that are unsuitable or unsafe for manual execution. With these capabilities, companies can realize efficient ramp-up to production and lower implementation risks.
  • Monitoring & IoT – Over the air updates – Tesla started rolling out a new software update for its vehicles that will precondition the battery as it reaches a charger – Tesla-branded or otherwise. That means the vehicle will warm up the battery, enabling it to reach higher charging speeds, when the driver has inputted a charger as a destination
  • Automakers can use monitoring software to collect data from the BMS. Analyzing the data gives automakers insights into which lithium ion battery packs or cells are performing better than others and safety information about the condition and performance of the battery under different pressures.
  • Big Data/Analytics – Big Data Analytics helps integrate EVs in a wide variety of ways like optimized charging, efficient battery management, EV status tracking, etc. While convenience, cost-effectiveness, etc., are important for efficient EV adoption, the analytics derived from the Big Data can help directly in improving these levels by providing insights on EV charging stations
    • Charging station selection – where the entire locality gets scanned to analyze and identify individual potential charging stations
    • Spread awareness among the people – by identifying the highly visible activity centers for chargers that boost maximum exposure so that it encourages people to opt EVs.
    • Right-sizing and optimization of grid load – by analyzing the number of chargers required, installation costs, the load on the grid, and the cost associated with charging
  • Navigation software – Electric car navigation based on the location of charging points can be a real solution to the problem of charging. Integrated with the car head unit, applications can help you find the closest station and battery management systems can inform you beforehand when charging or maintenance is necessary.
  • EV fleet management software – Fleet management is the management of a group of commercial vehicles over a large geographical area. It includes the handling of vehicle maintenance, financing, tracking, replacement, navigation, and routing.
    • Fleet management software refers to an application that helps business enterprises coordinate and manage work vehicles in a central information system for the smooth functioning of the entire organization. The software thus helps the enterprise to reduce costs and enhances performance according to government regulations.
    • It uses a basic combination of Big Data Analytics and GPS to track, analyze, store information and make predictions.

Related resources:

 EV  Digital Opportunities series

Download the free sample of EVI2 – EV Innovation Intelligence – 1000+ EV innovations for senior management, investors and innovators.


This is a part of the EV Innovation Intelligence series

Posts in the series

Tesla’s Valuation | EV’s in different countries | Purpose built EVs | Mainstream Fuel Cells | IT in Emobility EVs versus ICEs Advent of China in Emobility | Charging vs Swapping | Micromobility & EVs | Electric Aviation Li-ion alternatives | Million Mile Battery Battery Startups versus Giants Sales & Financing Models | Ultrafast Charging a Norm | Heavy Electric Vehicles | Material Sciences in Emobility | Lithium Scarcity | Solar Power in EV Ecosystem | EV Manufacturing Paradigm | Innovations in Motors EV Startups – a speciality Oil Companies’ Strategies EV Adoption Paths Covid-19 affect on the EV Industry |

Are EVs just conventional cars with batteries in place of IC engines?

This is a part of the EV Innovation Intelligence series

It’s easy to think of electric cars as conventional cars in which the ICE has been replaced by a battery-motor combination. In fact, you would not be technically incorrect if you think that way. EVs indeed are the torque version of the CC (cubic capacity) that are present for IC engine vehicles.

But in practice, electric vehicles are evolving into something that is far more than battery-motor instead of ICE. Many reasons for this evolution has more to do with trends outside the core transport ecosystem than anything with within it.

It’s about sustainable transportation, not electrification

One of the reasons electric vehicles are more than cars on batteries and motors is because of the context. EVs are dominating the news not just because they are more efficient than ICE vehicles (85% efficiency for battery vs. 35% efficiency for IC engines). EVs are in the news because sustainable transportation in the news. With climate change and global warming starting to gain a larger importance post COVID (some think COVID could be more like a small dress rehearsal compared to the havoc global warming can wreck), key stakeholders in industry and governments around the world are trying every effort to imbibe sustainability in all aspects of industry and business (and life). Transport is a dominant contributor to CO2 emissions (third in the list of total global GHG emissions). And electric vehicles are a key transport tool to reduce transport CO2 emissions.

Though it might be difficult for everyone to view electric vehicles as a climate adaptation tool, this is what could really drive EV adoption much faster than just pure technology or economics alone.

Use of low carbon energy sources

EVs are much better aligned to low carbon sources of power such as solar than are conventional vehicles. While conventional vehicles try to lower their carbon footprint by using less of the fuel through mileage efficiency, they can really do little about the carbon footprint of the fuel itself (gasoline or diesel). EVs, on the other hand, can go close to zero carbon footprint by also choosing to use solar power instead of power generated from coal or natural gas power plants.

Energy efficiency

An electric powertrain is in itself far more efficient than an ICE drivetrain. EVs, go a further mile towards sustainable energy, by using concepts such as regenerative braking to recover even more energy from the ecosystem. The most efficient combustion engines available on the market today have a fuel efficiency of 40 percent. That means they can convert only 40 percent of the fuel energy into movement whereas in an EV the total losses sum up to 35-38% and there will be a part of power gained from regenerative braking. this makes the energy efficiency of the EV 80 to 85 percent. In an ICE all the rest is lost in heat and friction – all the 60 percent left. In other words, for each $100 you spend filling the tank of a combustion-engined car, you literally burn the equivalent to $60 in the best-case scenario. This shows us that what you get is much less than that with most ICE vehicles. the most you can get from a car that only burns fuel is 33 mi – (with a Chevrolet Spark). If it is a hybrid, you can run 58 mi – (with a Hyundai Ioniq). That’s 46.7 percent of what Mazda and Honda E can achieve.

Sustainable materials & production

For another, EVs are not only about zero tailpipe emissions, they are also about sustainable materials – with a number of electric vehicles sporting interiors made from sustainable materials (recycled plastics, renewable polyurethane, etc.). Fisker Automotive for instance is using recycled materials and components derived from ocean plastics to develop its ‘Ocean’ vehicle.

Besides, to increase their energy efficiency even further, many companies are making efforts to incorporate as many lightweight materials in the EVs as possible.

As EVs are about sustainable transport, manufacturers are also giving an increasing thrust to making as many production aspects as possible to be sustainable.

  • One way is to integrate renewable energy into their production processes. Many large EV companies already purchase solar or wind power to power their manufacturing facilities. For instance, GM has partnered with a wind energy firm to power one of its PHEV and BEV manufacturing facilities in the US.
  • Beyond sustainable energy, companies are also making efforts towards more responsible sourcing. BMW for instance has adopted Blockchain to monitor the sources and legitimacy of its Lithium consumption. Daimler is working towards similar goals as well.

EVs as energy storage devices

Finally, with the growth of V2G technologies, electric vehicles need not just be looked at as transportation vehicles, they can also be viewed as energy storage systems.

EVs could also run on fuel cells

For one, EVs need not run on batteries. They can also run on fuel cells, so that takes the battery out of the picture.

EVs can also run as hybrids

Through the use of hybrid powertrains, hybrid electric vehicles can run on either oil or electricity, thus providing an easier transition technology to a pure electric future.

Lot less maintenance

An ICE has 2000 components, a battery and motor based powertrain has 20 components. There is a significant reduction in the number of moving parts. All these result in a vehicle that requires far less maintenance than conventional vehicles.

New designs and layouts

Many OEMs and designers are seeing the EV opportunity as one that they can use to redesign the car from scratch. This is resulting not only in some really cool exterior designs (see Canoo), but also fundamentally different designs of the powertrain – the concept of placing motors on wheels (close to where the motion is) being of these exciting new thinking domains.

Implications

That EVs are much more than normal cars on batteries and motors could make a significant difference to its adoption. Not only could it mean faster-than-expected adoption, but it could also make a significant difference to many satellite industries that provide products and solutions that make EVs more than just – EVs!

Download the free sample of EVI2 – EV Innovation Intelligence – 1000+ EV innovations for senior management, investors and innovators.


This is a part of the EV Innovation Intelligence series

Posts in the series

Tesla’s Valuation | EV’s in different countries | Purpose built EVs | Mainstream Fuel Cells | IT in Emobility EVs versus ICEs Advent of China in Emobility | Charging vs Swapping | Micromobility & EVs | Electric Aviation Li-ion alternatives | Million Mile Battery Battery Startups versus Giants Sales & Financing Models | Ultrafast Charging a Norm | Heavy Electric Vehicles | Material Sciences in Emobility | Lithium Scarcity | Solar Power in EV Ecosystem | EV Manufacturing Paradigm | Innovations in Motors EV Startups – a speciality Oil Companies’ Strategies EV Adoption Paths Covid-19 affect on the EV Industry |

Will China dominate EVs the way it did many other industries including solar power?

This is a part of the EV Innovation Intelligence series

It’s early 2021. The way the rest of the world has been looking at China has changed dramatically in the last ten months. While there had been always been ideological conflicts between many western nations and China (even though what China follows is also capitalism, albeit without the constraints of democracy), the desire of many developed economies to reduce – if not completely eliminate – their reliance on China for their goods and products has significantly increased during this period.

Like they did in many other sectors, the Chinese government and bureaucracy had understood the importance of investing massively in e-mobility infrastructure earlier than those of many other countries. And throwing at the opportunity the same combination of speed and massive governmental support, the country had indeed gotten into a dominant position by 2020 – be it in the manufacturing of batteries and electric cars, or in massive transformation to electric bikes and buses in many cities.

So, will China continue and stretch its current dominance in the e-mobility space too?

There are many reasons why it could be different this time round

COVID impact

COVID 19 could be the real disruptor and game changer in this global competition. Whatever be the truth about the origins of the virus, the pandemic seems to have gotten many large countries (including mine, India) to wear self-sufficiency on their sleeves. The desire for countries to be self-sufficient is not new. But self-sufficiency does not come easy and most parts of the world were not in a position to make the sacrifices to make this happen. But all these countries know that the times of emergencies and deep uncertainties are the times when some of the sacrifices can be made, because these are the times when many other hard decisions are being made as well.

Non-Chinese battery leaders

Batteries, the key area of competition for EVs, is not exactly a new field like solar was in 2010. Li-ion batteries, the type of batteries used in EVs, have been used since the 1990s and many of the companies that are leaders in this field are Korean and Japanese (LG, Panasonic etc.). While China is indeed trying to massively scale LiB production through companies such as CATL, many leading LiB producers worldwide are still non-Chinese as of early 2021.

  • Tesla and Panasonic joint venture plant Giga factory 1 has been considered in 2018 as the world’s biggest lithium-ion battery plant after the plant reached a capacity of 22 GWh.
  • The world’s fifth-largest lithium-ion battery mega factory, according to Benchmark Minerals’ Lithium-ion Battery Mega factory Assessment was yet another new plant, LG Chem’s Poland facility which had a capacity of 15 GWh and seems to be in a state of perpetual expansion.
  • Panasonic is the fourth largest lithium battery company globally. The company ranks No.1 in Japan. Panasonic stands a good chance to gain in the battery market given its strong ties with Tesla.

Importance of software & digital

Software and IT are likely to play a dominant large role in EVs, much larger than they play in conventional vehicles. Software application development has not been a strong point for Chinese companies, especially when compared to countries such as India. Besides, Silicon Valley, where a significant portion of EV development is taking place thanks to Tesla, is the mecca of software innovation and this position is unlikely to change anytime soon.

  • China’s search engine giant Baidu Inc said it will set up a company to partner with carmaker Zhejiang Geely Holding Group to make smart electric vehicles (EV), the latest move by a tech company in the fast-evolving sector. Baidu, which has been developing autonomous driving technology and Internet connectivity infrastructure, said the new EV company will count on Baidu’s intelligent driving capabilities and Geely’s car manufacturing expertise. Geely will also be a strategic investor in the new company, which will be an independent subsidiary of Baidu. The unit mainly supplies technology powered by artificial intelligence and works with automakers such as Geely, Volkswagen AG, Toyota Motor Corp, and Ford Motor Co.

Quality aspirations

Transport vehicles – be they cars, scooters or electric bikes – are too near and dear to their users. With electric cars being new, users perceive more safety and performance risks than they do in conventional vehicles, at least in the initial stages of e-mobility sector development. With this in their minds, many users may want to go for quality over costs.

Companies in the developed economies – Germany for instance – can use their positioning as high-quality manufacturing economies can hence score some heavy points over Chinese at least in the initial stages. (The business case for something like solar panels is not that high in this context, because at the end of the day, solar panels are used and touched every day by users even in the case of rooftop panels and in the case of ground mounted panels, the perceived risks are far lower to the investor/purchaser).

Innovation impact on China

China, for all its might, is still an adopter of technology – though a damned good one at that – than a pioneer. The DNA of China is discipline, hard work and a willingness to obey orders. Innovation requires an independent, sometimes rebellious streaks in character and also some other things additional in the DNA – imagination and a willingness to experiment. Europe and USA (and a few other regions such as Israel) have proven time and time again how they are far ahead of the rest when it comes to the Innovation Quotient.

Battery raw material challenge

While the above are the reasons why China’s impact on EVs could be different from its impact on many other industries, there are also reasons why China might have a stronger grip on this industry than it appears at first read. And one reason stands out among others – its hold over critical raw materials.

In the last few years, China has smartly built entry barriers to access to critical battery raw materials. Through investments in Bolivia, Chile, and Argentina, China controls a large portion of the world’s Lithium processing facilities. China also owns a large portion of the cobalt resources in Congo, a politically volatile country. In 2019, China produced about 60% of the world’s graphite (used in Li-ion battery anode).

BNEF’s lithium-ion battery supply chain ranking provides a snapshot of a country’s position in 2020 and where it will place in 2025, based on its current development trajectory. It ranks countries across five key themes related to the supply chain – raw materials, cell and component manufacturing, environment, RII (regulations, innovation, and infrastructure), and end demand across EV and stationary storage. The report notes that China’s success has come as a result of its large domestic battery demand, 72 gigawatt-hours (GWh), alongside control over 80% of the world’s raw material refining, 77% of the world’s cell capacity, and 60% of the world’s component manufacturing.

One consolation: All these indeed make it appear that the country has a strong grip on raw materials, but then, what happens if fuel cells overtake batteries. Surely even China cannot control access to hydrogen!

Download the free sample of EVI2 – EV Innovation Intelligence – 1000+ EV innovations for senior management, investors and innovators.


This is a part of the EV Innovation Intelligence series

Posts in the series

Tesla’s Valuation | EV’s in different countries | Purpose built EVs | Mainstream Fuel Cells | IT in Emobility EVs versus ICEs Advent of China in Emobility | Charging vs Swapping | Micromobility & EVs | Electric Aviation Li-ion alternatives | Million Mile Battery Battery Startups versus Giants Sales & Financing Models | Ultrafast Charging a Norm | Heavy Electric Vehicles | Material Sciences in Emobility | Lithium Scarcity | Solar Power in EV Ecosystem | EV Manufacturing Paradigm | Innovations in Motors EV Startups – a speciality Oil Companies’ Strategies EV Adoption Paths Covid-19 affect on the EV Industry |

Between battery charging and swapping, which will become dominant by 2030?

This is a part of the EV Innovation Intelligence series

Some years back, when most of us thought electric vehicles were far into the future, a bright entrepreneur set up an ambitious idea in Israel called Better Place, which he felt could actually do away at least one key problem with electric vehicles  – their long charging times.

Shai Agassi pioneered the concept of battery swapping. He was possibly a bit ahead of his time and Better Place unfortunately did not succeed. But his ideas and efforts have inspired many companies worldwide venture into battery swapping.

The idea, as many of you already know, is quite simple: why bother to wait for hours to charge a battery when you can give your depleted battery and take a fully charged one? Battery swapping essentially rescheduled battery charging such that the user did not have to wait at all.

So, why has not battery swapping completely taken over battery charging? And if not today, is it likely to dominate over charging in the near future?

Well, one of the reasons battery swapping has not completely dominated charging is that it looks easy in concept, but not so easy when it comes to implementation.

Safety

The first part has to do with safety. EV batteries are heavy – even a bicycle battery can be as heavy as a Kg, as scooter battery as much as 10 Kg and a car battery (or batteries) as much as 100 Kg, not to speak of batteries for vans and trucks. It is thus easy to see that swapping is not just a matter of putting our hands in and out. In some case such as car battery swapping, you may need people with experience to remove depleted batteries and place new ones in their place. Even robots are being used for these operations.

Battery ownership

This is a critical aspect. If batteries are a core asset in an electric vehicle, vehicle owners might feel as much a sense of ownership for their batteries as they do for the vehicle themselves – if not in an emotional sense, at least purely from a quality and performance context. But in swapping, you are essentially giving up your battery and getting someone else’s battery. How safe is that battery? How efficient is it? These are questions that are likely to come up in a vehicle owner’s mind

Interoperability

Battery swapping will be successful only if there are many swapping points in every locality, just as there are many gas stations. Now, if there are dozens of OEMs sporting their own proprietary batteries, can each afford to have many, many swapping stations? Quite difficult. The only solution would be where I can swap any OEM’s battery at any swapping station (not unlike ATMs where I can draw cash from any bank’s ATM). But such interoperability does not exist now, and there are challenges before such seamless interoperability will exist.

Legal stuff

Then there’s the question of legal responsibility in case of accidents involving batteries. Who is responsible? Is the vehicle owner responsible? Even if it is well established that the fault was with the battery or in its use in the vehicle, is the swapping services provider responsible? Is the OEM responsible? Or the battery maker responsible?

Battery charging time

In early 2021, we are talking about an hour’s charging time at fast charging stations, and if you are lucky, perhaps 30 mins charging for 80% of capacity. That still looks fairly long if I am on my way to somewhere. But there are also experimentations with ultra-fast charging (10-15 minutes) and flash charging (3-5 minutes). At 3-5 minutes, I’m pretty much par with gas/petrol stations. But these flash charging cases are not yet mainstream. Even if they become commercial in a couple of years, not every battery can be charged this way – unless you want your battery to flunk with 6 months. And having these fast charging stations could require significant electrical and safety infrastructure in place, something even developed countries will need quite a bit of time to design, test and implement. Developing countries may have to wait quite a bit longer.

Battery Degradation

Battery performance degrades over time and as a result the range attainable with each charge. In a battery swap scenario, considering that all cars will be using the same battery pack format and power, we will find batteries with different energy storage capacities in the swapping station, mainly due to degradation. Logically, most people will opt for newer battery packs when swapping, as they give greater range and reduce the number of trips required to the swapping station. Lower capacity packs mean that range with EVs will not be the same as with new packs, so users will not be happy when their new battery pack is swapped with a lower performance pack, as they will get less mileage from their vehicle. This will result in batteries having shorter operating cycles, as in order to keep customers happy, battery packs with reduced performance would be replaced faster.

Battery swapping could make better use of solar power

How? Simply because I can charge swapped batteries anywhere I wish, and not necessarily at the charging stations. By removing the constraint of charging location, I can charge the batteries directly from solar panels at a large ground mounted solar power plant. One can have solar panels on charging stations too, but it is likely that these can supply only a limited portion of the total power required for charging the batteries at the station. (Of course, charging stations can purchase solar power from third parties, though this would not count as using electrons generated from solar).

Entry of big boys into battery swapping

As of 2021, no large company worldwide seems to have taken a strong stand towards battery swapping, though some companies have made investments in startups providing swapping solutions. Should some of the big boys (OEMs, battery makers, component makers) directly enter the scene with large investments, swapping could gain an upper hand

Swapping better aligned to leasing or rental models

In many regions worldwide electric vehicle leasing and rental models are picking up pace. Battery swapping could be better aligned to these models (as the user does not own the vehicle or battery anyway) and hence could be preferred by these service providers.

It could be vehicle dependent

There is this example in north India where electric rickshaws already operate on a battery swapping model. For these low-end vehicles with small batteries (some of them in fact lead acid batteries), swapping is a highly feasible avenue and as the vehicle owner does not need to buy the battery, it makes sense economically as well. For these types of segments, battery swapping could see fast adoptions.

Similarly, and interestingly, battery swapping could also find favour at the other end of the vehicle spectrum – truck fleets. When trucks get electrified, large fleet owners with multiple electric trucks could use swapping as a simple way to overcome charging times. As these companies own facilities all along the truck routes, trucks can simply stop at one of their facilities, get their depleted batteries swapped and move along.

So, what would it be: Charging or swapping?

Considering all aspects, it would be safe to infer that at least for the 2020-2030 period, both battery charging and battery swapping would co-exist around the world. What happens beyond 2030 is difficult to predict, and even the question might be irrelevant should fuel cells overtake batteries as the energy storage medium of choice!

Download the free sample of EVI2 – EV Innovation Intelligence – 1000+ EV innovations for senior management, investors and innovators.


This is a part of the EV Innovation Intelligence series

Posts in the series

Tesla’s Valuation | EV’s in different countries | Purpose built EVs | Mainstream Fuel Cells | IT in Emobility EVs versus ICEs Advent of China in Emobility | Charging vs Swapping | Micromobility & EVs | Electric Aviation Li-ion alternatives | Million Mile Battery Battery Startups versus Giants Sales & Financing Models | Ultrafast Charging a Norm | Heavy Electric Vehicles | Material Sciences in Emobility | Lithium Scarcity | Solar Power in EV Ecosystem | EV Manufacturing Paradigm | Innovations in Motors EV Startups – a speciality Oil Companies’ Strategies EV Adoption Paths Covid-19 affect on the EV Industry |

Is micromobility a big deal for EVs?

This is a part of the EV Innovation Intelligence series

Micro-mobility refers to very short distance transportation – of the kind almost every one of us to many times a week. It could be running to a grocery store nearby or just taking your bicycle out for a 3 Km fun ride. For a business, it could be the mobility of goods and services at a hyper-local level, within short neighborhoods.

Sounds like a rather trivial portion of the entire transportation ecosystem, doesn’t it? Except that it is not.

We cover a lot more micro-miles than we think, and as a result, micro-mobility is a bigger business that we tend to think as well.

And electric vehicles are ideally suited for this market. Here’s why:

Small vehicles

Most vehicles used in micro-mobility are small – bikes, scooters, LCVs…ideally suited for electrification at this stage of e-mobility evolution

Speed, motor power

Micro-mobility does not require large, high-speed vehicles. Small electric vehicles with low-powered motors will just do. For instance, micro-mobility fleets like Lime use 500W geared hub-motors at 36V in their fleets. Whereas a small EV car like the Peugeot e-208 uses a 100 kW and 260 Nm electric motor.

No charging and range concerns

With short distances and a possibility for flexible charging schedules, the micro-mobility market does not face the same challenges traditional end-user EV markets face in terms of long charging times and range anxiety.

No concerns due to gas station access

Not having to run to a petrol station but can charge at home is aligned to this segment – Many micromobile segments would rather “fuel” their vehicles right on their premises or close to that than run to a gas station every time. Electric vehicles are well aligned to this need as well.

Noiseless

Some uses of micro-mobility for instance, in parks, in airports etc. benefit from the noiseless nature of electric vehicles.

For many eco-sensitive locations, aligned to sustainability (airports, railways stations, parks, industrial complexes…) – for eco-sensitive locations such as parks, beaches and eco-travel and eco-tourism locations, electric vehicles are more aligned to their sustainability aspirations

Hybrid electric bikes can be a good fit for exercise lovers

And then there are niche micro mobile markets such as those of bicycling enthusiasts. Hybrid electric bicycles are an attractive offering to this market – riders can use the motor when tired and pedal when they feel the need for exercise.  E-Bike can increase your fitness by using the different modes to increase and decrease the level of assistance. On a climb, reduce the assistance down to the ECO mode (found on the Bosch system) to create a training zone that puts your heart rate up and into an anaerobic threshold. This has many benefits for your fitness, including increasing your Vo2 max and the length at which you can sustain your maximum output. This will help when you’re sprinting to the end of a sprint, or simply getting up over that last bit of your climb on the hardest part of your newest challenge. Then you can increase the E-bike assistance and drop back down into the aerobic.

  •  Italian designed by Enzo and built for the great outdoors. Enzo folding eBikes are the lightest, most durable folding eBikes on the market. Marine ready, lightweight, and compact, these bikes fit easily in the trunk of your car, camper, boat, aircraft, home or office.

Off-road vehicles such as tractors

Many off-road segments such as the use of vehicles (tractors) for farming can also be considered micro-mobility markets, and these could also present attractive business opportunities for electric vehicles.

  • Sonalika has launched Tiger Electric, India’s first field-ready electric tractor, at an introductory price of Rs 5.99 lakh. The Sonalika Tiger Electric tractor is equipped with an Etrac motor that is claimed to offer high power density and high peak torque with zero RPM drop for optimal performance. The motor is paired with an IP67-compliant 25.5kW natural-cooling compact battery that can be juiced up to 100 percent using a regular home charging point in 10 hours. The new Tiger Electric tractor is equipped with the Sonalika transmission. It offers a top speed of 24.93kmph and a battery backup of 8 hours while operating with a 2-tonne trolley.
  • YDX Moro, the Yamaha Motor Corporation USA launched their first complete full-suspension eMTB (Electric MountainBikes) . The Yamaha PWX-2 motor, a 500 Wh battery, 160 mm travel, and 27.5″ wheels. The Yamaha YDX Moro and the Yamaha YDX Moro Pro, the company has now presented two models intended to stir up the performance market. The Yamaha YDX Moro models are US category 1 e-bikes, which means they offer to support up to 20 miles per hour with the help of the current Yamaha PW-X2 motor.
  • The G6, a full-suspension mountain bike with 150mm of travel. It’s carbon-framed, available in three versions (6.1, 6.2, and, yes, 6.3) costing from 6,499-7,499 euros (roughly £6-7,000 in the UK), and has a more comprehensive dashboard than your average car. Powered by a 12kW electric motor, it was capable of 40mph with a claimed 75-mile maximum range from its 1.3kWh battery.

Related resources:

Making micro-mobility work for citizens, cities, and service providers

The future of mobility is at our doorstep

Will the micro-mobility market boom or bust?

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This is a part of the EV Innovation Intelligence series

Posts in the series

Tesla’s Valuation | EV’s in different countries | Purpose built EVs | Mainstream Fuel Cells | IT in Emobility EVs versus ICEs Advent of China in Emobility | Charging vs Swapping | Micromobility & EVs | Electric Aviation Li-ion alternatives | Million Mile Battery Battery Startups versus Giants Sales & Financing Models | Ultrafast Charging a Norm | Heavy Electric Vehicles | Material Sciences in Emobility | Lithium Scarcity | Solar Power in EV Ecosystem | EV Manufacturing Paradigm | Innovations in Motors EV Startups – a speciality Oil Companies’ Strategies EV Adoption Paths Covid-19 affect on the EV Industry |