Clearwater International’s automotive senior advisers Dr Rolf Leonhard and Prof Hubertus Tuczek share their views on the EV revolution.
Although the automotive market is aware of significant changes due to the electrification of the industry, the speed and final direction of development cannot be predicted. That’s the view of Dr Rolf Leonhard who says that because of these uncertainties both OEMs and suppliers are pushing a dual strategy of investing in both pure EVs and hybrid solutions.
He says one of the biggest issues facing both OEMs and governments is the electricity supply – for instance in Germany meeting future primary energy demand from private and industrial electricity consumers as well as traffic implies at least a four-fold increase in renewable energy supplies compared to today.
“One also mustn’t forget that renewable energy power must remain available for current electricity consumers too, a market that is also increasing as the global population increases and the primary energy requirements switch to renewable energy.”
He adds that another key challenge remains customer acceptance of EVs and concerns around low travel ranges and higher costs of vehicles.
Meanwhile companies that specialise in the production of parts for combustion engines, such as in the precision machining sector, also face huge challenges as they are forced to change their future product portfolio and switch to EV-oriented supplies such as batteries, stacks and electric motors.
“There will also be a huge impact on jobs given that the propulsion system of EVs requires more than 80% less precision machining and lower value-added than conventional vehicles,” he adds.
Dr Leonhard says one solution could be the creation of a synthetic electrochemical fuel market which would provide a smart and alternative method to complete electrifi cation. “With synthetic electrochemical fuel, combustion engines could become CO2 neutral and one scenario is that OEMs could invest in the scientific research behind electrochemical fuel to support their production so that combustion engines could be further used.”
Meanwhile he believes that plans by the French and British governments to ban the sale of new diesel and petrol cars by 2040 are unrealistic, both in terms of the charging infrastructure required and the production technologies needed. “The charging structure, especially in big towns and cities, remains very complex. Today there is no viable business solution for charging stations.”
Prof Hubertus Tuczek echoes the view that concerns over driving ranges and charging issues remain key challenges, and questions whether EV technology is the ideal solution to reducing CO2 transport emissions.
“Low travel ranges remain a big problem which cannot be solved even with new battery concepts. Quick charging could also become a problem during the rush hour when many road users will want to access stations simultaneously. The infrastructure around EVs needs to expand massively.”
He adds that another issue remains the weight of EVs. “The energy of approximately one litre of diesel is equal to a 15kg battery. This means that EVs have much more weight than conventional cars and the total weight of their batteries can be as high as 600kg which means worse driving dynamics.”
Prof Tuczek also has fears over lost jobs. “The end of combustion technology means a complete turnaround for the sector with companies switching to alternative technologies and new competences required. Yes, electro mobility is on its way, but we would be well advised to keep in mind alternative driving concepts and value their potential as interim technologies. In this context, the combustion engine will remain relevant for the next few years and there is still a lot of potential for its emission purification.”