5 April 2019

OEM’s may need unlikely partners to develop electricity and charging point capacity

Global plug-in vehicle deliveries reached 2.1 million units for 2018, 64% higher than for 2017. These include all BEV and PHEV passenger cars sales, light trucks in USA/Canada and light commercial vehicle in Europe and China.

The largest growth contributor was China where sales increased by over 500,000 units to 1.2 million in 2018. China stood for 56 % of all plug-in sales. Europe growth was more moderate at 34%.

Whilst the growth in world sales of EV is notable there is still some huge hurdles to conquer, if national targets for zero tailpipe emissions are to be met- England (Scotland 2032) and France 2040; and Norway 2025.

Targets for lowering current emissions are tough; EU co2 emissions targets have set an OEM’s average to 95g per km by 2021; falling to 65g per km by 2030. In order to achieve these targets, manufacturers will have to introduce EVs and hybrids at a considerable rate. The various manufacturer collaborations and joint projects will assist; also the general public falling out of love with diesel, albeit the current most advanced models are unfairly tarnished by the bad press of their elder siblings.

OEMs are working hard to introduce EVs and hybrids, including the necessary manufacturing capability, but there is a limit to their role in boosting demand. Public acceptance is necessary including affordability (not helped say in the UK by reducing or withdrawing government subsidies), plus concerns about range and time/cost effective recharging. Standards are not universal- eg the Jaguar I-Pace has a range of 240 miles, 298 miles, or 336 miles depending upon whether respectively you are using the standards of WLTP (World Harmonized Light Vehicle Test Procedure); New European Driving Cycle (NEDC) or US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Confused?

One survey in 2018 indicated 16,500 electric charging points in the UK. By 2048 one estimate for the UK reckons 31.2m chargers are needed. Although an estimate omitting variables such as reduced vehicle ownership, as car sharing becomes popular; lighter vehicles; more efficient batteries; battery storage and road induction wire like the Litz loop so vehicles charge as they travel the highways. Whatever the real figure, a seismic increase in charging points and electricity output is needed; one estimate by the National Grid is 42.1bn kilowatts by 2048- that’s a lot of boiling kettles!

What about hydrogen power and even CNG (compressed natural gas) use? CNG’s features arguably include a 77% less particle emission than a diesel car; 11% reduction in CO2 emissions; 90% less nitrogen oxides; up to 35% cheaper than diesel and about 75% lower price than petrol. CNG acts as an attractive short term fix. Toyota remains very committed to hydrogen as a major power source.

The CEOs of most major OEMs say in one voice that central governments need to do more to increase the availability of charging points to enable a significant uptake in EVs. Some OEMs are not leaving it to chance such as IONITY led by BMW, Daimler, Ford and the VW Group to build their own network of reliable and powerful charging points. The major oil companies are future proofing too e.g Chargemaster was acquired by BP.

UK Power Networks (UKPN) is encouraging new energy generation and distribution models. Organisations like UKPN are becoming Distributed Systems Operators working with local power generators, including community run renewable energy generation sites, to help the transition towards well-coordinated management of an increasingly complex energy supplier network.

Community energy groups have played a significant role in the generation of renewable energy. In the US there is The Renewable Energy Buyers Alliance (REBA) which is a not for profit membership association for businesses and organizations seeking to procure renewable energy across the United States. Maybe an equivalent for the auto industry is needed with the mission to increase clean electricity capacity allied to developing a recharging infrastructure. The OEM’s commercial might allied to local community know how and dedication might seem an unlikely alliance, but as they say, opposites attract.

Julian Wilkins

Postscript: At the time of writing, former Nissan chief Carlos Ghosn has been re-arrested in Tokyo whilst on bail pending trial for alleged financial misconduct. The arrest occurs shortly after he announced a press conference to give his side of the story. Under Japanese law, the police can detain Ghosn for 20 days without charge. Hopefully, it is not too long before there is a fair open court trial to test the veracity of the allegations and determine Ghosn’s innocence either way. Ghosn maintains the allegations are 'outrageous and arbitrary.'

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