What E-Mobility Is All About
If you look at the prevailing trends in industry nowadays, most of them have one common denominator: going green. The increasing awareness about saving the planet from various environmental threats has caused even the largest industries to take notice and take a stand so they can contribute to the initiative instead of making matters worse.
The automotive industry has certainly been getting a lot of flak in recent decades for being one of the primary contributors to environmental degradation, particularly in air pollution. We have been seeing efforts from the automobile manufacturers in trying to address this issue, and one of their moves is to produce more environment-friendly vehicles. Electric cars are seen to be one of the best solutions, and this spurred the introduction of electric mobility – or e-mobility – technologies.
In this article, we will explore 1) what e-mobility is, 2) challenges faced by e-mobility, 3) success factors of e-mobility, 4) the ev-smart grid interoperability agreement, and 5) the future of e-mobility.
WHAT IS E-MOBILITY?
Electric mobility, or Electro Mobility, or E-Mobility for short, is not a new concept. In fact, e-mobility technologies had started taking root in the automotive industry as early as 15 or so years ago. Simply put, e-mobility refers to the development of electric-powered or electronic drive trains, and moving away from the traditional vehicle design that makes use of fossil fuels and oils. It encompasses fully electric vehicles and hybrid electric vehicles. Even vehicles that make use of hydrogen fuel are included in the classification.
The main goal of e-mobility is to produce more environment-friendly and efficient vehicles that also happen to meet new regulatory requirements set by governments and other law-setting bodes.
History of E-mobility
The star of e-mobility is the electric car. Yes, it is not something that is seen only in the movies; electric cars do exist, and their popularity is increasing by the day.
That isn’t to say, however, that electric cars had an easy time getting to where they are at the moment. As early as the middle of the 19th century, automotive companies have been hard at work at designing an electric-powered car, which they referred to as the car of the future. There were more misses than hits through the years, and there was also a time that the idea of an electric car was set aside in favor of other, easier-to-produce, vehicles.
But it was not completely forgotten.
The 20th century was plagued with events that repeatedly brought the idea of electric cars to the forefront once again. Wars took place, and there were global problems on oil supply. The oil crises definitely spurred many auto manufacturers to look for more available, cheaper and better alternatives, and electricity was one of them.
The history of e-mobility started with the idea of electric cars. However, through the years, it has undergone several key changes, and the term now includes not only electric cars, but also other modes of transport that involve the utilization of electricity. Now, electro-mobility has come to refer to clean, efficient and environment-friendly electric vehicle transportation.
The E-Mobility Ecosystem
There are four segments present in the E-mobility ecosystem:
1. Electric vehicles
This mostly refers to the production of new E-mobility components, and the continuous marketing of the vehicles, along with maintenance and other value-added services. Thus, the provision of electric vehicles involves sub-segments such as sales and marketing, manufacturing, financing, maintenance and other services.
Electric vehicles have to draw on infrastructure to work, and the components under this segment include charging station, maintenance, value-added services, billing, power generation, power distribution and storage, and space providers.
One of the more prominent examples was the move undertaken by POD Point, a manufacturer of electric vehicle chargers. It was able to successfully close a deal with Nissan, where it offers a home charging station for every LEAF purchases. Another similar move was when it entered into a collaborative relationship with British Gas. British Gas provides the energy, and POD Point offers its installation as well as its maintenance services.
3. E-Mobility Providers
This spotlight focuses on the designers of E-mobility technologies and manufacturers of e-vehicles that make use of those technologies. This means that it’s not just the manufacturers of e-vehicles that fall under this category. It also refers to those who provide e-vehicles to car-sharing fleets as well as car-rental operations.
Forming strategic alliances and establishing a network are points that e-mobility providers should concern themselves with. Working with businesses related to cars, such as car-sharing and car rental, is definitely a good idea. Providers of e-mobility services also have to look into integrating its mobility offerings so as to make their offerings more appealing to customers.
In this segment, the active players are the goal-setting bodies, governments, and other organizations that set regulations and subsidies affecting E-mobility. As long as there are regulations and subsidies being raised, the economic appeal of e-mobility will remain high. In some countries, tax incentives and subsidies are given in order to attract the interest of buyers of electric cars and eventually increase their sales.
Subsidies need not be in monetary form alone. In Oslo, Norway, and in some parts of the US legislation was made, setting specific road lanes as reserved for the use of electric vehicles. By taking this route, commuters are able to cut down their travel time by one hour. There are also free parking spaces specifically designated for electric vehicles. These are forms of other incentives that will attract potential vehicle owners to opt for electric vehicles instead.
Benefits Provided by E-Mobility
From an environmental standpoint, e-mobility is an excellent plan in answering the global clamor for de-carbonization. Hydrocarbons have been causing damage to the environment for the longest time, and one way to reduce their discharge is to look for carbon-less alternatives, and electricity is definitely one of the cleaner alternatives.
The United States, the European Union and majority of the rest of the world are in agreement about e-mobility potentially contributing greatly to economic growth.
- E-mobility will help reduce the amount of energy required and utilized by the transportation sector.
- E-mobility challenges car makers and manufacturers to think outside the box. As the threat of competitors’ coming out with more efficient electric vehicles increase, they are also likely to put in more effort and resources into making vehicles that are better – more energy-efficient, lighter, and offer higher performance.
- E-mobility will create employment opportunities. The automotive industry will be more confident in the development of electric vehicles, and they will need talent and manpower to do it.
- Globalized standards and e-mobility technology will minimize barriers to trade, allowing for harmonious working relationships among manufacturers and among nations.
The other noted benefits of e-mobility are broken down as follows:
- Increase of Vehicle Efficiency and Reduction of Operational Costs: Oil or fuel consumption of regular vehicles is, more often than not, quite excessive, and it does not help that they do not come cheap, either. The volatile oil market sees drastic increases in oil prices, which is a major problem in almost all oil-consuming countries all over the world.
- Compliance with Carbon Emission: National governments all over the world agree that emissions of carbon in form of soot and oxides are a huge part of the global pollution problem. You would find almost every country setting its own carbon emission regulations in order to minimize, if not eliminate, the destructive carbon emissions, and some of the initiatives mentioned in the legislations involve the use of more environment-friendly vehicles.
- Reduction of Energy Needs: The design of recent e-mobility technologies are closely linked to the creation of smart power grids which are expected to be the source of the energy that will power the electric vehicles. Since the electric vehicle is more efficient, that means the smart power grid will also be more efficient. This means that the electric vehicle will not need a lot of energy in order for it to run, and so the grid will not have to “work too hard” in order to provide that energy.
CHALLENGES FACED BY E-MOBILITY
While e-mobility is gaining a lot of ground, it is not without its challenges. According to analysts, the main challenges that e-mobility is facing today include:
High sticker prices
Let’s face it: electric cars and other vehicles do not come cheap. The high price tags are enough to turn off customers and make them look the other way: the cheaper non-electric vehicles. The high sticker prices are often attributed to the high research and development costs that automotive manufacturers incur in developing their e-mobility technologies and implementing them in the production of e-vehicles.
Variations in battery performance
Different electric vehicles are designed with different performance, due to variations in the battery design. Some electric batteries perform better than others, and this has to be considered as well.
Higher investment cost
E-mobility requires high investment and massive collaboration. It is not a one-man show; a single car manufacturing company cannot go at it alone, since they also have to invest on infrastructure, collaborate with other entities and even governments to make things happen.
It takes a lot of time and effort to instruct the customer, or the market as a whole, about the concept of electric vehicles. From the point of view of some auto manufacturers, the resources they will have to spend in order to introduce the concept of e-mobility to the customers and educate them about it is too high, compared to the expected profits.
SUCCESS FACTORS OF E-MOBILITY
There is no arguing that the road to full e-mobility on a global scale is still a very long one. But it is not completely impossible. In order for the campaign to succeed, collaborations and alliances will play a vital role. After all, e-mobility cannot succeed as a standalone value proposition. All four segments of the E-mobility ecosystem, which was discussed earlier, must interact and be closely involved with each other.
- Alliances with businesses within the same industry for purposes of sharing infrastructure: These days, you will see alliances developed between infrastructure providers and electricity producers, primarily because of the reality that it takes a huge amount of investment to develop an E-mobility business and make it a success. In the near future, we might just see e-vehicle manufacturers also establishing partnership with these two, and that will definitely lead to better results on the E-mobility front.
- Integration with other mobility technologies: Car makers are always looking for and working towards that great leap in terms of vehicle manufacture, and electric vehicles are also on the forefront of their research and development efforts. The creation of platforms and modules is a continuous process for them, and efforts are mostly focused on the creation of platforms that support the integration of electric vehicles and conventional drive systems, as well as fuel cells and other range extenders.
- Partnership with various mobility-related businesses and organizations: Car makers are certainly extending their reach, connecting and partnering with vehicle service providers, not necessarily just manufacturers of vehicles and vehicle accessories.
THE EV-SMART GRID INTEROPERABILITY AGREEMENT
The interest in e-mobility is certainly not something that popped up overnight, or over a decade. It has always been gaining a lot of interest, although it has risen significantly in recent years. The inception of EV-Smart Grid Interoperability Centers in the United States and Europe is one proof of how e-Mobility has become of global concern.
These Centers are the results of an agreement between the United States Department of Energy’s very own Argonne national Laboratory and the Joint Research Center (JRC) of the European Commission to harmonize E-mobility. The EV-Smart Grid Interoperability agreement is essentially a cooperation between industry and government when it comes to the development and standardization of electric vehicles (EV), the applicable technologies and protocols. It also aims to bring in line the test procedures performed on the vehicles and their batteries to ensure compatibility with products manufactured and provided by global companies.
This cooperation takes into account the limitations or challenges that e-mobility faces (as discussed earlier) and addressed them fully through various initiatives. For starters, the two organizations made special efforts to invest on enhancing the existing supply chain, especially with respect to batteries, power electronics and electric drives. Most notable, however, is how they zeroed in on infrastructures that are “EV-ready”. For example, they stress on the importance of having more than adequate residential infrastructure. Aside from making public charging available, another goal is to make use of smart connectivity in scenarios that involve utility business systems.
This agreement also revolves on the concept of interoperability, which supports the idea of universal charging, meaning charging can be performed at any time – and anywhere – by any electric vehicle and any supply equipment related to electric vehicles. The result will be standardized devices on a global scale – without compatibility issues, and without users having to jump through hoops or meet any complex requirements.
Between the Europe’s JRC and US’ Argonne National Laboratory, the global e-mobility industry will have harmonized standards and test procedures and technologies that are mutually compatible.
Both agencies are making headway with their respective efforts towards interoperability. JRC has been hard at work in the build-up of new EV laboratories and conducted immunity/emission tests, smart grid simulations and full exhaust gas analyses.
For its part, the Argonne National Laboratory has helped in the development and “fine-tuning” of EV standards and codes. It has also developed a compact metrology system, designed to measure and consequently communicate charge energy. Another one of Argonne’s accomplishments in line with this partnership is the development of test requirements, protocols and tests specifically for wireless charging systems.
The EV-Smart Grid Interoperability agreement is not the only active e-mobility initiative being pursued currently. Within the European Union, action is taken towards the electrification of the transport system, as seen in the European Energy Union, a plan on ensuring that Europe has a “secure, affordable and climate-friendly energy”. In a bid to decarbonize the transport sector and break Europe’s dependency on oil, it has included in the plan several steps to shift to e-mobility. It is going to gradually transform the whole transport system, starting from the development of e-mobility infrastructure, such as charging stations and refueling stations. The target date for the implementation of legislation on this de-carbonization plan is in 2017.
THE FUTURE OF E-MOBILITY
According to analyses by experts, E-mobility is expected to undergo a massive boom in the coming years, growing into a US$ 390 billion market in 2020 globally.
Harmonization efforts, which were demonstrated by the collaboration between Argonne and the JRC, are sure to gain more ground in the coming years, with more and more countries and economies getting in on the action. In fact, there are current discussions about involving China in the interoperability initiative. If the discussions push through positively, harmonization of standards will not only happen in the US and Europe but also China.
Indeed, the road to full e-mobility is still quite long, and it requires a lot of patience from all parties involved. However, with full dedication and commitment by all parties, there is no doubt that we will all enjoy the benefits of e-mobility in the future.