The Million Mile Battery – is it a big deal?

This is a part of the EV Innovation Intelligence series

For about a year now, there has been buzz around the concept of million mile battery.

Now, I think it was Tesla that started it all, though there are some variants of the million mile battery we keep hearing about in the e-mobility innovation circles.

What exactly are these guys talking about when they mention this term, and how close indeed is such a battery to reality?

Not a battery that runs a million miles without recharging

At first read, we tend to think that we can ride a million miles on such a battery, that is on a single charge.

That’s too ambitious, even by Elon Musk’s standards, and that’s not what he means by the million mile battery anyway. A million-mile battery refers to a battery that will last for 1 million miles or more before it pretty much needs to be disposed.

So is this a big deal?

It could be. Today’s batteries have limits on the number of times they can be recharged, most of them last about 1000 recharges (though some Li-ion batteries can hold up to 2000 cycles) – and at 200 miles a charge, these come to about 150,000-200,000 miles.

A battery that lasts 1 million miles could handle 4,000 full recharges or more, at about 300 miles a charge – so what we are talking about are batteries that are 1.5-2 times better than the current batteries in terms of number or cycles and perhaps another 1.5 times for the range

Not the eye popper that you originally thought it was, but 2-3X is certainly not a small deal.

Here are some factoids about the million mile battery concept:

  • The Chinese battery leader Contemporary Amperex Technology Co. Ltd(CATL) developed a power pack that lasts more than a million miles. The company  is ready to produce a battery that lasts 16 years and 2 million kilometers (1.24 million miles), Chairman Zeng Yuqun said in an interview at company headquarters in Ningde, southeastern China. Warranties on batteries currently used in electric cars cover about 150,000 miles or eight years, according to BloombergNEF.

  • A research paper released last September by Tesla-funded scientists at Canada’s Dalhousie University reported they’d created a million-mile battery in the lab. The team was led by Jeff Dahn, a major figure in lithium-ion battery research who began working with Tesla in 2016. The three-year project showed that by using specific combinations of cathode and electrolyte materials, charge-recharge limits could be pushed from about 1,000 cycles up to 4,000 cycles, a major step toward longer-lasting car batteries.

  • Also perhaps, swappable batteries could power long-haul trucks, city buses, and driverless robo-taxis, all of which log many miles a day, every day. The same batteries could also pump energy into the electric grid when the vehicle’s not being used, with less worry about battery life degradation.

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 it possible for small battery startups to beat big giants?

This is a part of the EV Innovation Intelligence series

The battery is a fairly old industry, over 100 years old. (The very first lead-acid battery was invented in 1859 by a French physicist, Gaston Planté).

Even the relative newcomer, Li-ion battery has been around for over 30 years, as part of a slew of electronics that we use. (The very first Li-ion batteries were commercially available in 1985)

Given this background, it should not be surprising that the battery tech industry is dominated by giants – LG, Panasonic, BYD, AESC, Samsung…

Yet, we hear about intrepid startups trying to make their mark in the battery world with announcements of innovations, some of which appear like quite fundamental.

Are these companies flying solely on hope, or is there some hope for them?

Could be difficult if working within the current generation

If these startups are trying to compete on the current generation of batteries, they are definitely playing a losing game. The global battery leaders are too strong and too big to allow too many gaps for improvement / disruption in the current battery chemistries

Solid state batteries are not currently commercial, and there’s scope for significant innovation in this domain. Many startups – including some of them from university research – are indeed working in this field. Even here, however, the prospects are moderate as it could take 5 years or more to get these to commercial – a very long time for startups to last.

Batteries such as metal air etc. offer more possibilities for startups

There are other companies working on metal air batteries. The challenge with these is that they are not rechargeable. The battery giants seem to be a bit less interested in this, but some smart startups are working on different technical and business models to make metal air batteries work for electric vehicles.

Capacitor based batteries

Super capacitor and ultra-capacitor based batteries enable really fast charging and discharging, though they hold little charge at any point in time. Innovations from startups are trying to match capacitors and batteries together to make the whole thing work better. This again is not an area where the big boys do not seem to be involved at the moment.

IP & core of their invention

The competitiveness of battery startups will also depend on what are the fundamental technologies that give them the differentiation. If it is nanotech or material sciences or even electronics, their IP likely will be more competitive than if it is mechanical or electrical, sciences mature enough that the old boys might already be in the know.

IPs by startups are also more feasible if they are in specific areas within cathode or anode, than overall cathode or anode improvements. IP innovation is also quite viable in BMS, as there is a lot of software involved in this, and BMS has taken on a new importance after the advent of battery use in electric vehicles.

Core of their invention

There are many startups claiming significant improvements in energy density and efficiencies, but it is not clear what exactly they know that the global giants do not. As most of these companies are quite secretive about their work, it is a bit difficult to comment on the real prospects of their work.

Founder profile

And of course, the profile of the founder matters quite a lot. Our EV Next team regularly comes across founders who claim startling innovations, and the first thing we check is the background of the founder. If the founder does not have a specialized educational or professional background in the fields related to their reported innovation, we would be highly sceptical. Sure, innovation can come from anyone, but it is all a question of probability, isn’t it?

Support ecosystem

What also matters to the success of the battery startup is the support ecosystem that they enjoy. If they are working solo, they are on a tough pitch. If they have the support of a top notch university like Stanford, a big plus. If they have the support of a large company related to the core technology in some way, an even bigger plus.

Here are some examples of how small battery startups have actually performed better than the big boys

Battery startups may not compete with the tech giants with their comparatively miniscule manufacturing. However, the technology they develop or possess can be adopted by industry majors and can be scaled up. Most battery startups are validated by investments from auto majors who would like to co-develop, test and scale up the startup’s technology.

  • Mercedes-Benz owner Daimler has invested millions in an Israeli start-up whose battery technology can charge electric vehicles in a matter of minutes.

    • Tel-Aviv-based StoreDot announced Thursday that the trucking arm of the German automotive giant had led a $60 million funding round, and would partner with the firm to adopt its FlashBattery technology(10C rate charging)

    • The company claims these lithium-ion batteries are able to charge smartphones and electric vehicles in just five minutes. Its batteries are powered by organic (carbon-based) compounds and nanomaterials (substances made up of tiny particles).

    • StoreDot’s OneGiga factory would span 15,900 square meters and have an initial manufacturing capacity of 1 Gigawatt hour (GWh) – scalable to 10 GWh. This is a significantly smaller scale than Tesla’s 35 GWH Gigafactory 1.

  • The alliance of manufacturers Renault, Nissan and Mitsubishi, has invested in the Californian battery startup Enevate via its venture capital subsidiary Alliance Ventures. The amount of the strategic investment is not known.

    • Enevate has developed a battery technology on the basis of silicon anodes called HD-Energy. This technology will make it possible to build very fast-charging lithium-ion batteries with a high energy density. For electric vehicle owners, this means fast charging within five minutes – even at low temperatures.

    • Enevate is based in Irvine, California. The company currently grants licenses for its silicon-dominant HD-Energy Technology to battery and electric vehicle manufacturers in order to quickly generate production volumes.

  • Volkswagen, the world’s No. 1 carmaker, has decided to invest a total of 900 million euros to build a new battery production plant in Norway jointly with Northvolt, a battery maker from Sweden. The major OEM is also discussing the construction of an additional joint venture (JV) plant with SK Innovation. Yoon Ye-seon, head of SK Innovation’s Battery Business Division, said during a news conference in May that the company has been in discussion with Volkswagen about setting up a joint venture for about a year. “We have to be tight-lipped about further details because of a business confidentiality agreement,” Yoon said.

  • Sila Nanotechnologies (“Sila Nano”), developer and manufacturer of advanced battery materials has announced a partnership with the BMW Group on next-generation lithium-ion batteries. The company has developed silicon-based nanoparticles that can form a high-capacity anode material for lithium-ion batteries.

    • Silicon has almost 10 times the theoretical capacity of the material most often used in these batteries, but it tends to swell during charging, causing damage. Sila’s particles are robust yet porous enough to accommodate that swelling, promising longer-lasting batteries. Sila Nano’s team is focused on developing and commercializing the next generation of battery materials. Their first products are a family of silicon-dominant anode materials that replace conventional graphite electrodes.

  •  Mercedes-Benz AG is currently going into a development partnership with Canadian battery material specialist Hydro-Québec on future technological leaps of electric vehicles. The focus: Solid-state batteries.

    • Hydro-Quebec has developed a first-generation solid-state battery in the 1990s and has continued R&D to improve both efficiency and manufacturing methods with a view to a new generation. Solid-state lithium metal batteries are supposed to be the next important technology milestone, having a very high energy density, are long-lasting and very light moreover harnessing the potential of solid-state-materials on safety

  • Quantumscape is a solid-state battery manufacturer which is heavily invested by Volkswagen and Bill gates.

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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 |

Can innovative sales and financing models accelerate EV adoption significantly?

This is a part of the EV Innovation Intelligence series

It was said that the stone age did not end because of the lack of stones.

It can be similarly argued that the reign of oil as the fuel for transport could end much before scarcity of oil hits the world, or even before electric vehicles become “cost-competitive” with ICE vehicles.

What we are currently witnessing in the world of e-mobility are diverse business concepts and business models that have the potential to significantly accelerate EV sales and adoption, in spite of the constraints.

Here’s one: Given that the high cost of battery is what makes an EV costlier than conventional cars, what if one takes the battery out of the equation and provides the batteries on a rental or pay per use basis? The upfront cost of EVs becomes lower than that of the equivalent conventional vehicles!

Battery as a detachable thing, or as a service

This is one of the business models that has already proven its worth in initial cases. Battery as a service could work pretty well in some business and end use sectors.

Nio, a Chinese EV manufacturing startup announced its own business model where the OEM sells the vehicle without a battery to reduce capital costs by a few thousand dollars. Enabled by vehicle-battery separation, battery subscription and the chargeable, swappable and upgradable batteries, NIO BaaS (battery as a service) presents innovation in both technology and business model. BaaS users enjoy a significant amount off from the car price (70,000 RMB), for a battery subscription starting from a reasonable price (RMB 980 per month), which represents a lower purchasing and use costs compared to ICE vehicles in the same segment.

Proterra, a California based electric bus maker announced a partnership with Mitsui of Japan to create a $200 million credit facility in support of a battery lease program. The battery leasing credit facility, reportedly the first of its kind in the North American public transit industry, is expected to lower the upfront costs of zero-emission buses and put Proterra electric buses at roughly the same price as a diesel bus. By decoupling the batteries from the sale of its buses, Proterra said it enables transit customers to purchase the electric bus and lease the batteries over the 12-year lifetime of the bus. As a result of the battery lease, the initial capital expense for the electric bus will be similar to a diesel or CNG bus, and customers can utilize the operating funds previously earmarked for fuel to pay for the battery lease.

Try before buy

As electric vehicles are a new product, many end users are hesitant to put full money on the table to purchase it. For these folks, models such as renting or leasing could help, as they abate the upfront cost challenge to a significant extent.

As an example: Through cooperations between Voltia and three European leasing companies, customers can use the electric van Nissan e-NV200 XL Voltia for less than 550 euros per month in leasing.( cheaper than a diesel van).

Opex schemes can overcome high upfront costs

Similarly, opex schemes – typically applicable for business users – in which the user does not at all buy the vehicle but instead pays only for the amount of vehicle used could really accelerate EV adoption in the small as well as large corporate sectors.

A similar pay as you use scheme could be applicable for battery use too – thereby making battery use economics quite analogous to that for oil.

Youth market needs

Many are looking at the youth market as prospective buyer segments. This market users have less savings but are more dependent on monthly income, do subscription is something they are more aligned to. These markets have affinities for smaller vehicles – electric bicycles, scooters, motorbikes and small cars, and subscription models are already being attempted for these segments.

Interesting updates on other innovations in EV business models

  • Norway is so keen to get people on bicycles that it has offered Oslo residents a free handout of up to $1,200 to buy electric cargo bikes. Citizens won’t need to be on a low income to apply for the funds, or even to promise to cut down on driving to qualify. Wow!
  • Nissan Energy Perks by EVgo is a new platform designed to encourage more U.S. drivers to make the switch to an electric vehicle (EV). Nissan will provide USD 250 of prepaid charging credits with EVgo to qualifying retail customers who lease or purchase a new Nissan LEAF or LEAF PLUS in participating markets on or after November 1, 2019.
    • The program will provide participating retail customers with access to EVgo’s network of more than 750 public charging station locations with more than 1,200 fast chargers, as well as charging on other networks accessible through cooperative roaming agreements. As a result, new Nissan owners and lessees will have access to more than 30,000 public EV chargers, the largest of any US partnership.

Related resources:

Business Models for EV – Cambridge Service Alliance

Business Models for EV – Innovation Portal

Financing India’s Transition to Electric Vehicles

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 ultrafast EV battery charging become commonplace by 2030?

This is a part of the EV Innovation Intelligence series

In its early days, charging an electric vehicle could take 8-10 hours. Surely no one would wait that long for a vehicle to be charged, unless of course it is charged while the owner is doing something else – sleeping, for instance, or at work.

Most EVs used to charged at home or at free public charging stations. Most of these public chargers were limited to 240-volt, or level 2 charging, while home chargers can even be limited to 110-volt, or level 1 charging.

The long charging time was obviously one of the real challenges for a battery based electric vehicle. A DC fast charger on the other hand takes the charging level way beyond these limits, and provides the quickest charging system. With newer Li-ion batteries and advanced charging technologies, you can in theory charge a car in as little as 15 minutes today (or 4C in industry lingo, where the numeral = 60/(number of minutes taken for a charge)).

There are even talks of flash charging technologies that are faster than the above mentioned one.

Here are some updates:

  • 480 km range in just 10 minutes of charge! Penn State University’s engineers have developed a new EV battery which takes 10 minutes to charge – Jan, 2020
  • Charging a car battery in 5 Minutes – Several companies have built lithium-ion batteries that can fully charge in a matter of minutes, but most of these are in the pre-commercial stages. These will most likely be used in racing cars. For instance, Formula E officials announced the specs for the third generation of all-electric race cars that will debut on the motorway in 2022, and these Formula E cars will use extremely fast charging stations that can fully charge a Tesla Model S battery in about 10 minutes.
  • New Flash Battery Allows Charging in 5 Minutes; Technology Scalable to EVs – A May  2019 report mentioned that the Israeli company StoreDot has introduced FlashBattery, a quick-charging battery that can fully charge in 5 minutes. The technology uses novel materials replacing the active graphite with metalloids such as Silicon, combined with proprietary organic compounds that protect the active materials during fast charging.

Current status

The current data point to ultra-fast charging (even less than 10 minutes available), but only in very select cases.

  • ABB’s TOSA is of these, for buses. It claims to be the world’s fastest flash-charging connection technology, which at select passenger stops connects the bus to charging infrastructure and in 15 seconds batteries are charged with a 600-kilowatt power boost at every stop and charge completely at the terminal stations in 3-4 minutes. The charging takes place by an overhead pantograph connection.

Cost

The high cost of the battery could be a big challenge for ultra-fast charging. Super-fast charging will need battery chemistries that are premium and high-end, and some of these chemistries could cost 3 or even five times as much as the prominent Li-ion battery chemistries used.

In the case of the purchase of the DC fast charging equipment, the cost varies depending on the manufacturer, the unit specifications as well as the number of units ordered. While the price of chargers has been declining, most stakeholders contributing to this research cite 2015 prices cited range from $25,000 to $40,000 per unit. The installation cost varies depending on

  • The availability of a suitable source of 3-phase electricity in close proximity
  • The civil work required on-site
  • The importance of the aesthetics to the operator
  • The time of the year at which the installation work is performed (a consideration in all provinces except BC)
  • The organization managing the project.

Based on the information gathered from Canadian stakeholders involved in the deployment of DCFCs, the installation cost can vary widely from $15,000 to over $60,000. This does not include the cost or installation of peripheral equipment, such as solar carports and heating pads, to ensure the space is accessible at all times to EV owners.

Safety

We are talking about a large amount of power being used ( sometimes as high as 1 MW). Such high wattage charging brings with it its own technical and safety challenges.

In addition to infra such as transformers and switchgear present at the charging facility, ultra-fast charging could also need significant safety infrastructure to be installed at these facilities.

Ultra-fast charging Li-ion must meet these conditions to minimize stress and maintain safety:

  1. The battery must be designed to accept an ultra-fast charge.
  2. The battery must be in good condition. Aging slows charge acceptance.
  3. Ultra-fast charging only works to 70 percent state-of-charge (SoC); topping charge takes longer.
  4. All cells must have low resistance and be well balanced in capacity. Weak cells are exposed to more stress than strong ones. This worsens the condition of the weak cells further.
  5. Charge at a moderate temperature. Low temperature slows the intercalation of lithium-ions, causing an energy over-supply. Unabsorbed energy turns into gas buildup, heat, and lithium plating. Some large batteries include heating and cooling systems to protect the battery.
  6. Increasing the charge current is simple — assessing how much energy a battery can absorb is more difficult.

A well-designed ultra-fast charger evaluates the battery condition to match the charge current with the abortion rate. The charger should also adjust to temperature and observe cell balance. Furthermore, the recommended ultra-fast charger should have three settings: Overnight Charge (0.5C); Fast Charge (0.8–1C), and Ultra-fast Charge (above 1C). This allows the user to limit ultra-fast charging to only when needed and at a suitable temperature. While such a charger may not yet exist, basic battery knowledge and common sense should prevail when charging batteries in an unconventional way.

Material challenges

While some battery chemistry are in fact suited for ultra fast charging, it is not clear about the limits of materials, and also the overall lifetime of the battery when it gets such ultra-fast charging very frequently.

 

Type Chemistry C rate Time Temperatures
Charge termination
Slow charger NiCd
Lead acid
0.1C 14h 0ºC to 45ºC
(32ºF to 113ºF)
Continuous low charge or fixed timer. Subject to overcharge. Remove battery when charged.
Rapid charger NiCd, NiMH,
Li-ion
0.3-0.5C 3-6h 10ºC to 45ºC
(50ºF to 113ºF)
Senses battery by voltage, current, temperature and time-out timer.
Fast charger NiCd, NiMH,
Li-ion
1C 1h+ 10ºC to 45ºC
(50ºF to 113ºF)
Same as a rapid charger with faster service.
Ultra-fast charger Li-ion, NiCd, NiMH 1-10C 10-60 minutes 10ºC to 45ºC
(50ºF to 113ºF)
Applies ultra-fast charge to 70% SoC; limited to specialty batteries.

Timelines

Depending on who you talk to and the geography we are referring to, ultra-fast or even fast charging could be round the corner or could take over five years to become commonplace.

Charging protocols

The main charging protocols ChAedemo, Tesla protocol and other charging protocols need to evolve in order to accommodate fast charging. Currently, there are three dominant standards for fast charging: CHAdeMO, CCS and GB/T. These standards are partially compliant with IEC 61851 standard, or with an equivalent standard as the GB/T 18487. They differ from one another in the connector cable employed, communication protocol, or security procedures. Nevertheless, maintaining the general requirements for a DC charger. The output power specifications for the DC chargers have been updated from the first versions of the standards and have been associated with Fast and Ultra-fast terms according to the power level increases. However, these kinds of denominations have caused some confusion.

CHAdeMO and CCS have defined power charging levels above 350 kW and output voltages up to 1 kV, beginning the standardization process for heavy-duty vehicles fast charging, like buses and trucks. This could also improve the charging times of light vehicles. It also means that theoretically, a Tesla Model S battery could be recharged from 0 to 80% in less than 14 minutes, but as mentioned before, the charging time depends on the battery characteristics and its capacity to handle high charging currents according to the thermal management system capabilities present at the BEV.

Software

The software solutions around fast charging also need to evolve fast enough to ensure that the whole charging, monitoring and control process is seamless and efficient.

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 |

What are the viable pathways for electrification of heavy vehicles?

This is a part of the EV Innovation Intelligence series

A large car could weigh about 1.5 tons, the largest truck could weigh 25 tons (15-20 times as much as a large car), and could be required to travel much longer distances on a single trip compared to a car.

If car owners think electric vehicles pose challenges in charging times and ranges, surely truck owners should not even bother to think about electric vehicles for the foreseeable future?

The picture is however more nuanced that it seems at first, and as a result, electrification of trucks is happening faster than expected.

Hybrids

Hybrids are one way to transition for these heavy vehicles. Hybrid trucks for instance could use electricity during cruising speed and charge the batteries using liquid fuel. Hybrid electric trucks already exist but of course, the challenge is the cost. Running a dual powertrain and synchronizing between the two increases costs.

  • Kenworth delivered its natural gas-electric hybrid trucks to drayage and warehouse supplier Total Transportation Systems Inc. in Southern California. The prototypes were developed over four years, funded by a California Air Resources Board (CARB) grant. They share components that Kenworth, a PACCAR Inc. brand, is using in a fleet of hydrogen-powered fuel cell trucks built with Toyota (NYSE: TM). Five of the 10 trucks are being tested in the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach. The hybrid T680 day cab tractors provide emissions-free motoring for 30 miles. Their batteries recharge by a generator powered by a near-zero-emissions natural gas engine that also can run on negative net-zero emissions renewable natural gas (RNG).
  • F-150, the PowerBoost hybrid pairs Ford’s twin-turbocharged 3.5-liter V-6 with a 47-hp electric motor, making this the highest-output powertrain in the current F-150 lineup. The motor is sandwiched between the engine and the stand­ard 10-speed automatic, while a 1.5-kWh lithium-ion battery tucks under the bed. The battery may seem a bit small for a vehicle of this size, but Ford chose it because it’s easy to package and less costly than larger packs, and its weight won’t considerably impact the all-important towing and payload capacities. The combined output for this powertrain is a stout 430 horses and 570 pound-feet of torque—gains of 30 ponies and 70 pound-feet versus the updated nonhybrid EcoBoost 3.5-liter.

Battery swapping

Another way by which heavy vehicles can get electrified faster is through the battery swapping route. While these vehicles will be sporting large batteries that could take a while to charge, many medium and large truck operators have the facilities to install EV battery charging systems at distributed locations along the route of the trucks, and thus battery swapping for these trucks becomes quite feasible.

  • Bus Rapid Transit System (BRTS), Ahmedabad introduced new electric buses into the system in August 2019. BRTS was introduced with the promise of being a substitute for private vehicles and ensuring last-mile connectivity for passengers. Last-mile connectivity is still missing and the number of people who shifted from private vehicles to BRTS is not very high. The cycling routes too have not been successful due to various reasons, including encroachments of footpaths. In the initial phase, 18 buses were introduced on RTO circular routes 1 and 2 which cover many of the city’s key residential and business centers like RTO Circle, Ranip, Bhavsar Hostel, Shastrinagar, Gujarat University, Andhjan Mandal (IIM), Nehrunagar, Anjali Cinema area, Vaikunthdham Mandir, Swaminarayan College, and Kankaria Telephone Exchange. While normal electric buses can run up to 200 km per charge, buses with swap facilities can run only up to 40 km. Swapping the 600 kg battery after each trip takes just 3-4 minutes as the number of batteries per bus was reduced to increase the number of passengers each bus can carry to 50. . The buses are tendered from Ashok Leyland under gross cost model, which means Ashok Leyland will own, operate and maintain the buses, while AMC will pay the company a per kilometer rate and bear only the operating expenses.

Fuel cells

Fuel cells are making a commercial impact faster than expected and one of the segments they are kicking off with is the heavy vehicles segment. Here are some prominent examples:

  • Toyota with Hino is jointly developing class 8 fuel cell electric truck for North America – a Oct 2020 update
  • Nikola Motor Company, a pioneer in zero-emission trucks, offers both pure electric and also hydrogen electric powertrains across multiple applications.
  • Hyundai Motor and H2 Energy plan to bring the world’s first fleet of fuel cell electric trucks into commercial operation. The company had also planned to provide 1,000 fuel cell electric trucks to Swiss commercial vehicle market, beginning 2019 through to 2023.

Combination of conventional and electric in fleets

Another way by which trucking companies are trying out electrification is by dipping their toes ever so lightly into electrification. While they operate a large number of their vehicles with conventional drivetrains, some are inducting a small number of electric trucks to pilot and get a feel for the whole thing, without risking much.

Use electric trucks for shorter and conventional ones for longer distances

Companies that operate many different sizes of trucks are also smartly trying electrification of their smaller vans and pickup trucks to begin with, and graduating to larger ones later.

Retrofitting

Replacing old ICE trucks with an electric powertrain could be a viable option for the medium term. Retrofitting is the economical and sustainable alternative to buying new vehicles.

  • e-trio offer a retrofit solution for commercial vehicles (For buses and trucks). The e-troFit® is a series-ready retrofit solution for existing and new commercial vehicles: e-troFit gives used vehicles an environmentally friendly “second life” as an electric vehicle.  The e-troFit solutions adapt individually to one’s requirements: they analyze the route profiles during operation and thus determine the actual battery capacity requirements. Thus saving unnecessary costs and weight. At the same time, they also develop a suitable charging concept for you and design the vehicle to meet all requirements of daily operation. After this initial analysis phase, the conversion can take place within a few weeks.

Related resources:

Electrifying freight pathways to accelerate the transition

Medium- and heavy-duty vehicle electrification

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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 |

Will material sciences have a dominant role to play in EV industry?

This is a part of the EV Innovation Intelligence series

Until recently, conventional vehicles were dominated mainly by mechanical engineering and petroleum engineering.

The former ensured the vehicles were safe and robust. The latter ensured that the vehicles had fuel from any place imaginable, at a reasonable price.

Since 2000, even the conventional cars were being invaded by other engineering streams. Electronics and software became an increasing part of every vehicle, especially cars. Fuel economy started showing on the radar and car makers had to start worrying about having lightweight parts to make the vehicle fuel efficient. And then, out of nowhere, the iconoclastic concept of autonomous vehicles sprang onto the road and overnight, an army of mathematicians and computer people with fancy titles such as data scientists had invaded the automobile.

With the advent of electric vehicles, one additional stream of engineering / sciences will make themselves felt in the room – material sciences. While material sciences had helped the industry last two decades in reducing the weight and increasing safety, these sciences will now play a role closer to the heart of the vehicle – their fuel.

Material sciences may not be used in isolation, in many cases within EV and even battery development. There are cases where material sciences fuse with mechanical engineering. For example a simulation software company Paramatters simulates and analyzes different materials and different topologies to form different components of the vehicle to study its load bearing abilities, thermal resistance etc. The software weighs different materials at different locations and gives a suitable material and the material topology for that component. This is an example of how material sciences have to blend themselves with the overall design of the vehicles.

Material sciences for better batteries

To a significant extent, batteries belong to the domain of material sciences. Though batteries are known as electrochemical devices, with EV batteries become larger, and with fast charging looming, the use of material sciences for battery performance and safety are coming to the fore.

Many developments within a battery chemistry could be defined as cross-products between chemical and material sciences because of the use of different chemistries to derive a suitable material for an application. For example, nano-porous silicon is developed by chemical scientists which would be formed into usable anode structures by material engineers. Another example is the effort in which many different ion-emitting chemicals are being fused with lithium to form cathode materials.

Lightweight materials

Material sciences could make a still bigger impact on electric vehicles through application of lightweight materials in the main body of the vehicles. Composite materials are not new to the automotive industry and their use could increase much further with vehicles keen on providing better mileage and lower carbon footprint to its users.

For instance, The ACRIM (All Composite Reduced Inertia Modular Wheels) wheel project, being developed by a consortium of UK composite experts comprising Carbon ThreeSixty, Far UK and Bitrez Ltd, has won accolades and even a recent funding. This project  developed the world’s first commercially viable, low-cost, lightweight, all-composite wheel for electric and driverless cars, among others.  The all-composite wheel will be 4 kilograms lighter than a generic 8-kilogram 15-inch wheel, and is predicted to provide efficiency gains of 5-10% representing a 5% fuel saving.

Material sciences in metal mining

Material sciences, more in the form of metallurgical science could also significantly play a role in metals mining (Li, Co, Ni…) and refining in the upstream component of the electric vehicle / battery value chain.

Rise of nanotech

Within material science, nanotech is becoming one prominent area of research and development. Nanotech promises many new material science improvements for electric vehicles by enabling lighter, safer and longer lasting materials.

  • Nanotechnology can be incorporated in various automobile parts such as paint, batteries, fuel cells, tires, mirrors, and windows. The introduction of nanotechnologies enhances the performance of existing technologies for the automobile industry. The main advantages of applying nanotechnology in automobiles include providing lighter and stronger body parts (to enhance safety and fuel efficiency), improving fuel consumption efficiency, and therefore achieving a better performance over a longer period.
  • The first utmost benefit of nanotechnology applications is that lighter and higher strength materials can be achieved. As a result of the weight reduction of automobiles, the fuel consumption could decrease tremendously. In addition, it helps to improve \ CO2 emission reductions in urban areas. Moreover, new advanced green lightweight materials for vehicles will only help vehicle reliability as well as fuel efficiency over a longer period.
  • To enhance passenger safety in case of accidents, higher-strength steel has been adopted for vehicles. However, it is tough to recast high-strength steel in the cold state because of a change in size and spring-back effects. Recasting at a higher temperature around 1000 °C helps to avoid such adverse circumstances. To recast the steel at higher temperature nanotechnology coatings can be applied. For this purpose, recent multifunctional coatings are formed using aluminum particles combined with connected and bonded nano-sized vitreous and plastic-like materials. This process will provide higher strength and safety to vehicles during their operation in the real world. Lighter-weight vehicles provide a faster and smoother ride and crash protection which helps safe and sustainable vehicle operation on the road.
  • Apart from automobiles, applications of nanotechnology have been proved a sustainable approach for aerospace uses due to their higher tensile strength and lighter weight. This will not only reduce the overall weight of the aircraft but also decrease fuel consumption. Next-generation aircraft require lightweight, higher speed, and maneuverability. CNTs are the optimal approach to fulfill these requirements, as they are multifunctional. Carbon nanotube applications include lower weight, higher tensile strength, removal of CO2, icing mitigation, and electromagnetic shielding on aircraft, contributing to effective wing materials and lubricants. Apart from strength, CNTs are electrically conductive materials that help enhance the conductivity of composite panels which permits current to move throughout the whole structure of the airplane. This further protects the aircraft against electrical discharge accidents. Aerospace applications require high perfection and security as a tiny defect/error in operation will risk the lives of the passengers. Therefore, there is a need for materials that have high tensile strength, as well as higher resistance to corrosion and fire. Another major concern that requires great attention is a selection of lightweight materials for aerospace.

Recycling of battery materials

Finally, material sciences could play a critical role at the downstream end of the value chain, especially of batteries. With battery recycling fast becoming an important part of every country’s EV ecosystem, both for sustainable management of depleted batteries as well as to overcome scarcity of metals such as Li and Co, the contribution of material sciences to this part of the industry could take on an increased momentum. A handful of large-scale facilities recycle lithium batteries today using pyrometallurgical, or smelting, processes. These plants use high temperatures (~1500oC) to burn off impurities and recover cobalt, nickel, and copper.  Lithium and aluminum are generally lost in this process, bound in waste referred to as slag. Some lithium can be recovered from slag using secondary processes.  Today’s smelting facilities are expensive and energy-intensive, in part due to the need to treat toxic fluorine emissions, and have relatively low rates of material recovery.

Some of the material sciences based innovation updates for EVs:

  • A Tel-Aviv startup claims its lithium-ion batteries are able to charge smartphones and electric vehicles in just five minutes (at 10C rate). Its batteries are powered by organic (carbon-based) compounds and nanomaterials.
  • Battrion offers Aligned Graphite® and regular graphite electrodes for lithium-ion batteries. The Aligned Graphite® technology allows controlling the orientation of flake graphite particles in the negative electrode for lithium-ion batteries. Orienting the flakes vertically leads to short effective lithium transport distances and therefore to very high charging currents without degradation.
  • Nohms has developed electrolyte solutions containing a new functional ionic liquid material that allows for the creation of non-flammable batteries for electric cars. Named HV electrolyte, for high voltage performance requirements and SF electrolyte for  safety oriented requirements.
  • There is also a vertical of materials innovation aimed at sustainability where components are made from natural and organic fibres or upcycled from waste, so this would be more of bio-materials innovation and not material sciences innovation in the strictest sense.
    1. Vegan leathers have entered automobiles. Porsche’s taycan electric supercar has an option where the buyer can opt fully vegan leather to be used in the vehicle that forms 80% lesser CO2 emission during production. The Taycan’s flooring will feature Econyl recycled fiber, which is made from recycled fishing nets.
    2. Future Jaguar and Land Rovers will be fitted with floor mats and trims made with fibres from recycled industrial plastic, fabric offcuts from clothing manufacturers, fishing nets from the farming industry, and those abandoned in the ocean– known as ‘ghost nets’.
    3. Ford is trying to do its part to combat climate change by recycling old coffee waste from McDonald’s into car parts. The automaker will be taking food waste from the fast food giant, diverting it from a landfill to its laboratory, where it will be engineered into bioplastics, Ford said. In addition to reducing food waste, the effort will make car parts lighter, use less petroleum, and lower CO2 emissions.

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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 |