Despite the coronavirus pandemic and subsequent economic slowdown, the outlook for electric vehicles (EVs) remains very promising thanks to the rapid pace of innovation. Fast charging, connected cars and smart charging are just a few technologies that have already accelerated EV adoption across the world in recent years. However, it does leave us wondering: what’s the next series of big innovations that will drive demand for EVs in the future?
After careful analysis of several exciting innovations, we’ve identified 4 key technologies that we believe will have the biggest impact on accelerating EV adoption. Speaking to 9 leading influencers and experts, these are the technologies they think will reshape the EV market for years to come:
Bidirectional charging: facilitating the transition to more EVs & clean energy whilst redefining what an EV can do
Bidirectional charging (two-way charging) allows energy to flow both ways: from the grid into the car, and from the vehicle to the grid (V2G) or to your home (V2H). This offers a major breakthrough in charging technology compared to traditional one-way chargers that can ‘only’ power your car.
In the past, this technology was only used in specific pilot projects due to its high costs and excessively large size. Now, thanks to major improvements, bidirectional chargers are getting affordable, smaller, and more efficient, making them perfectly suitable for homeowners. In fact, Wallbox became the first company to introduce a bidirectional charger for homes earlier this year, with the product quickly becoming one of the most talked-about technologies at CES and other tech conferences. Here’s what makes this technology so impactful:
Facilitating the transition to more EVs & clean energy
75% of respondents state that what makes bidirectional charging truly impactful is its potential to facilitate our transition to a more sustainable future with more renewable energy & more EVs. As electric car expert Gill Nowell puts it: “Bidirectional charging will be a crucial part of the EV charging mix, [as it allows us] to manage demand on local electricity networks.”
More EVs mean more energy consumption and, eventually, increased pressure on our grids. Bidirectional charging helps to solve this issue by turning EV batteries into energy storage points that can be used to balance and settle energy needs. Thus, batteries can be leveraged to capture and store renewable energy when it is generated and then support the grid during periods of peak demand and low renewable energy supply. This helps us to maximize the usage of renewables, cut out dirty peaker plants and avoid costly grid upgrades to raise its energy capacity.
Bidirectional charging lets your EV do more than just drive
Two-way charging is also completely changing how we think about chargers. While they were previously just a means to and end, chargers are now a tool that empowers electric cars to do much more. Thanks to bidirectional charging, people can use EVs to:
- create an emergency energy supply during power outages
- save or even make money by selling excess energy to the grid and leveraging time-of-use energy rates
- become energy self-sufficient by connecting their renewable power source (i.e solar panels), home and EV
As Dan Caesar from the Fully Charged Show explains: “Bidirectional charging is the definition of joined-up thinking for an electric car and home.”
Thanks to all the advantages explained above, it comes as no surprise that 4 out of 9 EV influencers name bidirectional charging the most exciting technology that is coming to market this year. As James and Kate summarize: “[A two-way charger] gives versatility, financial control and grid balance capability”. In the end, it’s a win-win for the planet, the grid and the consumer.
Improved battery technology: the key to superior EV performance & affordability
Battery technology has improved significantly in the past decade, with lithium-ion battery prices falling by approximately 85% from 2010 to 2018. This has also helped to increase EV range by about 17% per year over the last ten years. As our previous article shows, this means that some high-end EVs today are already eclipsing the range of the average fuel car.
However, battery tech will need to continue to improve to equip more affordable EV models with superior range too. This will make electric cars more accessible and attractive to a bigger audience. As Ryan Corbett from EV Opinion explains: “Battery efficiency to cost ratio is key. This is the main barrier to mass adoption.”
Kenneth Bokor from EV Revolution Show agrees: “Battery technology will continue to improve with more energy density per space and less degradation over time. Combine with this faster charging like Ultra-Fast and beyond, and this will create a win for consumers especially with cost-parity happening sometime this decade.”
This is supported by our research, showing that the majority of EV influencers name improved battery performance as the technology that they are looking forward to the most. However, the battery technology of the future will probably be quite different to what we see today. In fact, this article shows that there are already a lot of different and very promising battery technologies under development right now.
In the short-term, huge improvements might be made by cutting down the usage of the expensive metal cobalt in lithium-ion battery production. Both General Motors and Tesla have recently announced the introduction of lithium-ion batteries based on this principle, proclaiming it will lead to EVs reaching cost parity with fuel cars.
In the long-term though, multiple different technologies offer the promise of even more improvements. For instance, according to John Goodenough, the co-inventor of the lithium-ion battery, solid-state batteries will be the next big thing. Seth Leitman from The Green Living Guy agrees: “Sooner or later solid-state batteries will become the future. I also believe it’ll be within the next 10 years which simply means there is no moving fluid or parts inside the pack. That means an EV goes over 900 plus miles: One charge.” However, the technology is still in its infancy, and, according to BMW it won’t be viable before 2027.
Carlos Sanchez Criado from Movilidad Eléctrica takes a different view and envisions a “type of battery based on graphene or another component that allows for a higher density”. Mercedes-Benz is already working on creating organic batteries using graphene, organic cell chemistry, and a water-based electrolyte, but it admits that the technology is probably 15-20 years away from being used in production.
In the end it doesn’t matter which battery type prevails – as long as it leads to higher capacity, increased range and lower price, the EV industry will get a massive boost.
Production tech: making EVs available to the masses
Improved battery tech will be a crucial step for increasing EV demand, but EV manufacturers will need to ensure production keeps up and continues making improvements too. In particular, EV manufacturing will need to become quicker, more efficient and suitable for rolling out more car models.
“Invention isn’t necessarily the issue”, Caesar explains, “it’s an improvement of getting a car from concept to volume production as soon as possible that’s key to the market, and to the car companies themselves.” This issue can be evidenced by looking at Tesla. As reports show, it unveiled its new Semi trucks in 2017 by promising deliveries in 2019, only to announce last month that yet another delay will push first deliveries to 2021.
Reaching more efficient mass production will also help in reducing prices through leveraging economies of scale. As Bokor points out: “Improve on hastening the scale up of OEMs to increase EV production in order to support much more mass adoption by lowering pricing to achieve cost parity against ICEVs.”
Finally, making EVs more attractive to the masses will also require a wider range of electric car models to become available. This will allow different types of customers to find a car that suits their specific needs. Tesla already seems to have great success with this strategy with reports showing reservations for its newly introduced Cybertruck already totaling 650.000 since the end of November. This is also why Chris from Car Maniac states that, besides “significantly improved charging times and range”,he mostly hopes to see “a bigger availability of EV models” hit the market within the next ten years.
In short, scale economies, incremental improvements and major innovations in production tech will be essential for the car industry keeping pace with a rapidly growing demand for EVs.
Infrastructure tech: enabling convenient charging for everyone
More EVs on the road will also require a better, more extensive charging infrastructure. Charging infrastructure has come a long way in the past decade, with research showing the number of public charging stations in Europe grew from 2.397 in 2011 to 190.000 in 2020. Further improvements in charging infrastructure will make sure it’s ready for mass adoption.
The number of public stations will need to continue to increase. For instance, data shows that less than 1% of the 320 million passenger cars in Europe are electric. If this number goes up to 50%, this will mean over 150 million additional EVs. Even with home charging becoming the norm, the public charging infrastructure needs to be prepared to deal with this workload.
Additionally, although most EV owners prefer to charge their car at home, this is not possible for everyone, especially for those who frequently go on long-distance trips. Therefore, it will be crucial that EV infrastructure strategies account for this too. James and Kate agree that the one thing they wish would improve is “charging infrastructure. [The] Location [of] critical hubs for longer journeys and for the 30% of potential owners with no home charging capability.”.
On the other hand, the roll-out of superior technology will help boost EV adoption rates. Data shows that most public charging stations today are normal chargers (<=22kW) which require several hours to charge an average EV. While this speed is often sufficient for homeowners that charge overnight, it can be an issue for long-distance trips. Fortunately, fast and ultra-fast chargers are already available on the market. Once these are implemented on a bigger scale, charging on the road might become as convenient as at home.
Another way that technology can majorly improve the charging experience away from home is the harmonization of payment systems in charging stations. Our research reveals that this is a major pain point for people right now. Asked about the one thing he’d hope the EV industry would improve, Chris has no doubts: “Absolutely, it’s the unification of payment systems for charging stations”. Nowell agrees and also hopes for “one single payment system across all public / destination chargers.”
Finally, while increased demand for charging stations will create a lot of opportunities for business, the role of governments in improving regulations, charging incentives and infrastructure to prepare for mass EV adoption will be crucial. As Corbett shares: “I hope there will be a clear map set out by the government to aid the adoption and use of EVs along with a vision for AI that has legislation to support it.” He also expects to “see an improved infrastructure with a bias towards renewable energy vehicles.”
To sum up, superior infrastructure technology will be key to ensuring our streets are ready for the transition to more sustainable cars.
Innovative technology will make EVs take over the car market
7 out of 9 EV influencers are bullish about the future outlook of EVs, despite the current pandemic. This comes as no surprise as EVs are already proving to be much more resilient than ICE cars during the virus outbreak, thus growing their market share. A few countries, brands and car models have even recorded an increase in sales despite the pandemic. Finally, as we explained in our previous article, EVs are set to emerge stronger as society becomes more eco-conscious during this pandemic.
The only question that remains is not if but when EVs will finally take over the car industry. According to our survey, virtually all influencers interviewed predict EVs to dominate by 2030-2040. Sanchez Criado even states that: “All cars will be electric [in ten years]”.
Other experts are less bold when it comes to market share prediction, but they still picture a market where most new car sales will be fully electric cars. Caesar says: “Pure EVs are almost all that will be sold as new by 2030.” Corbett agrees: “In ten years I expect to see the vast majority of new car purchases being BEVs”.
James and Kate envision EVs to reach “a minimum of 60% market saturation.” by the end of this decade. They further add that EVs will be “able to cater for 99% of owners’ needs and […] 50% of commercial needs.” Alex Guberman from E for Electric shares a similar view, predicting that EVs will make up “50% of the market” by 2030. He also adds that electric cars will come: “[…] with level 4 [chargers and] self driving [capability]”.
Nowell points out that “mass adoption of EVs will likely occur when they reach price parity with petrol/diesel cars in around 2023. By 2030, given the right policy push, EVs will be common on UK roads.” Bokor adds: “Although we will not hit the tipping point for EVs outnumbering ICEV sales by the end of this decade, we will be well on our way to achieving that in the next decade.”
EVs are on their way to take over the automotive industry thanks to innovative technology. Improved battery tech will make EVs more affordable and attractive than gas cars, thus boosting demand. Production tech will make EVs available for the masses by ensuring supply can keep up with rising demand. Bidirectional charging will make our grid ready for more EVs and support clean energy transition. Finally, infrastructure tech will make sure EV charging will be convenient for everyone, regardless of whether you’re at home or on the road.