The shift to electric vehicles will take time

electric vehicles
One of the electric vehicles on display at the Frankfurt Motor Show last week was Audi’s Aicon autonomous EV. Reuters photo.

New anti-pollution limits major force in move to electric vehicles

The buzzword at this year’s Frankfurt Motor Show was “electrification” as automakers pledged to bring electrified versions of their cars to the market.

But are electric cars really on track to push gasoline and diesel-powered vehicles to the scrap heap?

Companies including Volkswagen, Daimler, Volvo, Jaguar Land Rover and Honda all announced their ambitious plans to build electric vehicles.

Follow Teo on LinkedIn and Facebook.

But the automakers are not saying they are getting rid of internal combustion engine vehicles completely; they are promising to make electrified versions of them available.

“Electrified” can refer to fully electric battery powered vehicles, and it can also describe hybrids.  Hybrids come in many forms, including different types of plug-in hybrids, a strong or full hybrid or a mild hybrid.

A plug-in hybrid has a large battery capacity which allows the vehicle to run entirely on electric power at least part of the time.  It will have a gasoline engine as well.

The Toyota Prius is a strong or full hybrid. It uses a relatively powerful electric motor alongside a conventional engine, but doesn’t require a plug in for it to recharge.

A mild hybrid is a conventional car which is equipped with a small electric motor that allows the engine to shut down temporarily when the vehicle is stopped at traffic lights.  It also can be used to improve acceleration and power auxiliary systems.

To fulfill their lofty commitments, automakers could offer a range of mild hybrids which are cheaper to produce than full hybrids but do offer performance and fuel consumption benefits.

With European governments enacting stronger anti-pollution legislation, new limits will be in place for carbon dioxide emissions from 2021.  The new limits are much stricter than current ones and are based on the average level of pollution produced by a manufacturer’s entire fleet.

By adding zero-emissions models to their lineups, manufacturers will find it easier to meet the government targets.  The same can be said for adding hybrids to an automaker’s fleet.

As the electrification of cars continues, there is are major concerns about infrastructure.  If millions of gasoline and diesel cars are replaced by electric vehicles, there is a huge investment in charging infrastructure required.

The supply of batteries for EVs is also a concern.  Battery makers are struggling to secure supplies of cobalt and lithium, key components of large battery packs.

In an interview with the BBC, VW Group’s Chief Executive Officer Matthias Mueller said “we do have to get the right infrastructure in place… we have to create the battery capacity.”

“We’re talking about enormous capacity here, and it has yet to be created,” he added

Hybrid cars appear to be an effective stop-gap.  BMW Chief Executive Harald Krueger told the BBC that gasoline and diesel cars “are not dead yet”.

“You will see a transition time, with investments in combustion engines – petrol engines, diesel engines, very efficient engines,” he says.

“But long term, we will see sustainable mobility with e-mobility.”

energy east