We Still Have a Ways to Go on the Road to EV Adoption

Kevin Parmenter, Director, Applications Engineering. TSC, America



Kevin Parmenter, Director, Applications Engineering. TSC, America

­The future of the electric vehicle market seems assured. AlixPartners projects EV sales to reach 33% globally by 2028 and 54% by 2035. To support this demand, automakers and suppliers are expected to invest at least $526 billion on EVs and batteries from 2022-2026, the firm said at its annual Global Automotive Outlook briefing. That’s more than double the five-year EV investment forecast of $234 billion from 2020-2024.

However, challenges to EV adoption remain. Last month I wrote a column about the energy storage of batteries and the electrical grid, which is closely tied to the success of the EV market. Recently, when a representative from my power utility came to my home to put in a smart meter, I asked her what the utility considered an EV to be from a load perspective. She equated it to be like an additional home load of 100–200-amp 240-volt service. I asked what happens everyone on my cul-de-sac purchased electric vehicles. She immediately surmised that the grid wouldn’t be able to support what would essentially be the doubling of houses.

So, what can be done if everyone switches over to EVs if the utility can’t double the electricity it provides to homes overnight? The most cost-effective idea is for utilities to store energy in the EVs and remove them as needed during peak hours. For this to work the EV will have to communicate with the “smart grid,” such that firefighters or doctors who are on call will be able to charge their EVs at any time. In another scenario, a user who works from home could schedule short trips as needed. In other words, the EV would communicate its availability for bidirectional energy processing as either a source or a load.

We also need to confront the “green-ness” aspect of the electrical grid needed to support the mass deployment of EVs. Long trips will require vehicle charging along the route. Replacing the energy delivery of over 100,000 or so gas stations in the US alone with EV charging stations is a tall order indeed. In addition, we’ll need to change utility energy sources of the grid from carbon-based coal, natural gas, oil, and so forth, to clean energy. Unless we change to solar, hydro – and overcome the negative perception of nuclear (France and the US Navy operate many nuclear generators problem-free) – we will only be transferring the pollution problem. Plus, there are the environmental issues of EV battery recycling and contamination.

Meanwhile, the raw materials for EVs are twice as expensive as those used in combustion-engine cars. Considering all these challenges, the EV transition will be disruptive and expensive. It’s predicted that it will cost automakers and suppliers a cumulative $70 billion by 2030, including bankruptcies and restructuring.

As I’ve been saying for years now, the widespread adoption of EVs is going to happen. But there is still a plethora of problems to solve before the dream is realized.