Tech could someday let people even in dry climates
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In July 2022, Bloomberg analysts reported that the U.S. has now reached the “tipping point” for mass adoption of electric vehicles. According to the report, the nation has reached the magic number that signals a period when “technological preferences rapidly flip.” That magic number is just 5 percent — and 5 percent of new car sales in 2022 were electric vehicles.
The Middle East brings its own challenges to EV adoption
Although consumer interest is high in the region — local company M Glory Holding Group in the UAE opened its electric vehicle manufacturing plant in 2022 with plans to produce 55,000 electric cars annually to meet a rising demand for green mobility — there are still numerous obstacles hindering the widespread adoption of EVs. The limited availability of EV charging stations is one concern, but more pressing is the new demand placed on power grids by at-home charging stations. Traditional power-distribution grids are not designed to handle a significant number of EVs charging in the evenings when their owners return home from work. Utilities providers will need to predict and account for this surge in demand. Read more›››
EV manufacturers also face the challenge of keeping up with demand, not just for EVs themselves but for their constituent parts. Replacement parts are expensive relative to components needed for internal combustion vehicles, especially when supply chains are not fully developed and hampered by the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic on logistics around the world. Localized procurement is the answer for the future, but companies and suppliers need time and investment to set up and serve the local market. In a relatively nascent industry, this is not a short-term solution.
Included in those replacement parts are batteries and tires. Saudi Arabia announced a U.S.$6 billion investment in a steel plate mill complex and electric vehicle battery plant in 2022 to take advantage of its geographical location at the crossroads of the producers of the necessary minerals: lithium, cobalt, manganese, nickel and graphite. But this investment also foresees the need for more batteries in the Middle Eastern EV market than anywhere else. Put simply: The sun and car batteries don’t mix well. Hot weather means higher temperatures under the hood, which accelerates corrosion inside the battery. In an electric vehicle, full of batteries, this is naturally an exponentially larger concern.
Beyond damaging them, heat also drains batteries, meaning less range available for drivers. A 2019 study by the American Automobile Association found the driving range of an EV could reduce by up to 17 percent if the temperature is constantly above 35C — which it is for almost half the year in the Gulf.
Charging the EV only adds to the heat experienced by the battery. Charging in the evening makes it easier on the cooling systems but that puts a strain on the power grids.
It’s all connected!‹‹‹ Read less
Sales for electric vehicles, commonly called EVs, are on track to double every couple of years, says Loren McDonald of EVAdoption. The industry analysis group predicts 40 million EVs on U.S. roads by 2030. In 2020, some 276 million vehicles were registered.
The industry certainly seems to believe in the proliferation of electric vehicles: Vojay Chandler, investment strategist at Morgan Stanley, says EV’s share of global auto sales is likely to grow from about 7 percent today to nearly 90 percent by 2050.
There are plenty of reasons for this. Climate change and its consequences are forcing people to consider their environmental impact. Governments across the globe are developing policies to significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions and increasing energy efficiency wherever possible. Fuel prices are at the mercy of political instability, particularly in Europe, and governments are hesitant to introduce e-fuels.
As Nasir Salari, marketing expert at Bath Spa University, points out, despite the sluggish growth rate of electric cars, the latest report by the International Energy Agency in 2020 illustrates promising figures in major markets. The global electric car stock hit the 10 million mark, a 43 percent increase over 2019. And while China has the largest fleet with 4.5 million, Europe had the largest annual increase to reach 3.2 million. In the United Kingdom, 67,100 passenger electric cars were registered in 2020. This is promising, Salari says, but the adoption curve is still at the early stage.
Salari conducted research in the U.K. looking at the factors contributing to the “sluggish growth rate.” He interviewed 336 individuals in the U.K. to assess their willingness to buy an EV. Like most analysts, he predicts a boom in the coming years, particularly with the U.K. government reaffirming its commitment to ban new petrol and diesel cars in 2030. With pressures like these, new cars will be electric, but people currently seem reluctant to dive into the electric future.
“There are various reasons for this,” Salari tells KUST Review. “This has always been the case for new revolutionary products: the first color TV, smartphone, cameras, for example.
There have always been early adopters and then majority adopters and the people open to embracing technology in general will also be more willing to adopt an electric car. The TRI is a good indicator of this.”
Developed in 2000, the TRI (Technology Readiness Index) is a widely used scale in understanding technology adoption behavior and a powerful tool to predict the adoption of incremental and revolutionary technologies.
“Our data shows no difference between men and women in their willingness to purchase an EV or pay a higher price for the product,” Salari says. “However, the overall TRI is higher amongst men than women, and this difference is statistically significant. This shows that overall, men are more willing to embrace new technology and possess new and unique items in general. There was also no significance between age groups for their willingness to purchase, but I was surprised to see a significant difference in how much environmentalism played a part: The 50-plus age group expressed higher levels of green values than the 20-29 group.”
Bringing down charging times
One of the issues with electric vehicles is the charging time. But a team at Khalifa University is working on cutting that time down. Read more›››
On-board EV charging is generally done through two stages, says Vinod Khadkikar, who leads the project funded by Abu Dhabi’s ASPIRE. In the first stage, AC voltage is converted into DC voltage. But this DC voltage is generally higher than the EV battery voltage, so an additional DC-DC converter is needed to charge the battery. Most current commercial on-board chargers use a full-power processing converter at the DC-DC stage, which requires higher voltage and current rating of switches and diodes. This restricts the charging speed. The size, cost and efficiency of any EV charger also largely depends on the device rating and number of power processing stages.
The KU team proposes partial power processing-based topographies at the DC-DC stage that use a fraction of the power.
“Therefore, the DC-DC converter size is reduced and the charger efficiency is high (97-99 percent with hard switching). The semiconductor device rating is reduced significantly, which helps to achieve higher power density (smaller footprint/compact size). This lets the user use the same footprint size to design the charger for higher power,” Khadkikar says.‹‹‹ Read less
Interestingly, Salari found that most consumers were more concerned by the economic impact of their purchase, rather than the environmentalism aspect: They cared more about their investment than how green they were being.
“Electric vehicles are advertised as environmentally friendly and they are! And people know this, but this isn’t necessarily encouraging people to purchase them,” Salari says. “Environmentalism does not have an impact on purchasing an electric car; its functionality is more important.”
Like Salari, experts believe that demand for electric vehicles will increase as they become more affordable. Morgan Stanley predicts that continued performance improvements and reductions in the cost of batteries (which account for about 35 percent of an EV’s total cost) could lower the average EV price to $18,000 by 2025.
Salari says it also depends on consumer incentives: “People aren’t running out to buy electric vehicles because they’re good for the environment. They’re hesitating because they’re expensive but they’re in favor because their running costs are much cheaper. Regular drivers are more open to adopting EVs because of fuel costs, so it all depends on how you market your product. Enviro isn’t doing it: Shift your marketing to the economic benefits.
Prices will be lower in the future — that’s how innovation works. The first time a product launches, it’s not a cheap product, but as it becomes a mainstream offering, it will become more affordable. The market is still in its infancy. To grow it, we need more early adopters and government incentives are one way to drive adoption.
– Nasir Salari, Marketing Expert at Bath Spa University
Tax credits and improved infrastructure are the way forward then. The U.K. is certainly investing in its electric vehicle readiness: Lampposts across London are being fitted with sensors and EV charging points to reduce emissions and cut congestion, and parking is even free in the capital for EV drivers. New-build houses come with electric vehicle charging stations as standard and many are fitted with solar panels to power this.
As charging infrastructure gets more support, subsidies and incentives become more robust, and governments enforce more petrol-banning policies, electric car sales will continue to rise.
“It’s happening,” Salari tells KUST Review. “It may not be where we expected it to be by now, but it’s happening.”