Surely Retail and Electric Vehicle Charging Companies Should Work Together?

EV Market Growing
EV Market Growing

They ignored it, they ridiculed it, but now the electric car market is here to stay and has become a serious competitor to traditional gasoline/diesel powered vehicles. The improvements in electric car technology over the last decade have been absolutely phenomenal and while still more is required, we are surely approaching the crossover point.

The crossover point for the electric car industry is literally the moment when car owners have as much confidence in electric vehicles and their charging facilities, as they do today in traditionally powered vehicles. So, what is left to do?

Charging networks

As you might expect we have seen a number of different EV charging protocols, although agreements are slowly being reached with regards to a standard protocol for the future. The challenge now is to ensure there’s more than enough car charging stations across countries around the world, with the U.S. leading the way. Great progress has already been made but the next step is for retailing companies and car charging networks to work more closely together.

Shop while you charge

It is very simple, placing electric car charging stations in and around retail outlets will encourage users to shop while they wait. This benefits all parties - and perhaps more so the retail sector; maybe a reason why electric car charging networks have been a little reluctant to work too closely with their retail counterparts?

As we touched on above, there have been some amazing developments in the electric car charging market with charging times falling each month. Tesla, with its array of superchargers, is most certainly leading the way but don’t underestimate the competition and the stand-alone network charging companies. The ability to charge your vehicle at home and top up as you go along your journey, with minimal waiting times, is the Holy Grail.

EV perks

While it is still a relatively underdeveloped market we are starting to see an array of electric vehicle perks emerging from the retail sector. This accounts for everything from reductions on your shopping bill, to a reduction on meals as you wait for your vehicle to be charged. We have also seen the more prominent electric car companies fighting to sponsor such perks and give themselves as much publicity and exposure as possible. Will EV perks help to speed up the roll-out of charging station networks?

Once the general public sees a benefit to using a particular electric car charging station, i.e. a perk, you can bet your bottom dollar that others will follow. Once retailers have the eye of the electric vehicle community it is inevitable that more and more perks will be rolled out, creating electric car charging hot spots. There may be initial teething problems if certain charging stations prove popular but this is easily rectified by introducing more charging points.

Conclusion

Interaction between electric car charging networks and the retail sector, not only in the U.S. but around the world, will add value to car charging stations and help catch the eye of the general public. Why this interaction has not been closer and more in-depth to date is a mystery because there is quite literally something in it for everybody.

Bosch Looking to Introduce New Electric Car Batteries

Bosch looking to introduce new electric car batteries
Bosch looking to introduce new electric car batteries

While many of the big names such as Tesla grab the headlines in the electric vehicle market, behind the scenes there is intense activity in the area of lithium ion batteries. These are the food for the modern day electric vehicle and while costs have come down over the last few years, it seems there is more to follow in the short term. Bosch has been using the Frankfurt Motor Show as a platform to promote its new solid-state lithium ion batteries in which the company has tremendous faith.

So, what can we expect from Bosch in the short to medium term and could this be "yet another" turning point for the electric car industry?

Double journey capacity

While Bosch has been investing heavily in the area of lithium ion batteries, it has also been on the acquisition trail bringing alternative technology into the company. The group believes that this significant investment and the acquisition of start-up company Seeo, will lead to a major breakthrough. The announcement at the recent Frankfurt Motor Show suggested that the company expects to have its new battery technology ready for the commercial market within five years.

This solid-state lithium ion battery concept will immediately double the energy capacity and therefore double the journey capacity of each vehicle. However, the other bonus to this technology (assuming it comes to fruition) is the fact it is even cheaper than current technology. So we have a potential doubling of journey capacity and a reduction in costs. Is this the Holy Grail for the electric car battery industry?

More investment in battery technology

Over the last few weeks it has become apparent that significant funds are being targeted towards new battery technology, some of which is based around lithium ion batteries while others look at totally different technology. This is the second such battery which promises double the journey capacity of conventional battery technology and strengthens the idea that we could be on the verge of a major change for the industry.

As we have mentioned in the past, much of the recent research and development investment seems to have focused around the vehicles and their engines. In many ways battery technology was pushed to the sidelines although this has certainly changed of late!

Journey capacity issues

Journey capacity and journey anxiety are issues which are spoken of time and time again by those who "know about" the electric car industry. However research has shown that only those who have yet to actually drive an electric vehicle have such concerns. It seems that once behind the wheel those who have switched to electric vehicles have no such worries.

The last week has seen some dramatic announcements in the area of battery technology, with two companies promising the introduction of new technology in the short to medium term which will immediately double journey capacity. While we have seen such announcements over the years - many of which have failed to come to fruition, there does seem to be more of a realistic approach to battery technology today.

If even one of these two particular technologies was delivered to the marketplace in the short to medium term, would this really be the game changer we have all been hoping for?

New Battery Technology Extends EV Journey Capacity

New battery technology extends EV journey capacity
New battery technology extends EV journey capacity

The average electric car journey capacity could top 200 miles on one charge if a new hydrogen cell proves to be commercially viable. The technology has been created by UK firm Cella Energy using technology which was unceremoniously dumped by the US government only a few years ago. Cella Energy believes it has a system which can create hydrogen cells to replace electric car batteries and extend journey capacity to in excess of 200 miles on one charge.

While we have seen a number of similar promises in recent times, it does seem as though there is a practical angle to the technology developed by Cella Energy.

Small steps

As if to further rubberstamp this new technology, Cella Energy has already secured a contract with the Israeli defence forces to power drones. The technology is now proven in this particular area and it is simply a case of developing the concept and creating hydrogen cells which can replace traditional electric car batteries.

The system is based around a solid-state gas generator which is able to provide clean hydrogen that is literally fed into a pure fuel cell. The cells are then used as replacements for traditional electric vehicle batteries and the fact they extend journey capacity and are lighter in weight has not gone unnoticed by heavyweights in the industry. There are all kinds of practical uses for this groundbreaking technology, although many are surprised that the US authorities dismissed the technology and wrote off a £1.2 billion investment back in 2008.

Creating a hydrogen fuel cell

For obvious reasons the company is not at liberty to reveal the details of its groundbreaking technology but in effect the energy is created when a hydrogen pellet is heated up to 120°. The electrical system behind this technology creates a continuous flow of hydrogen which is directed into individual fuel cells. These fuel cells can then be picked up and used to replace existing electric car batteries with a weight saving of around 66% compared to lithium batteries.

The UK government has been very proactive with this particular technology and Cella Energy offering both financial and practical assistance. The company is relatively small with only 20 employees, although the laboratory at the NASA Space Centre in Florida is a reminder of the technology’s original roots.

Is this really a game changer?

While the average motorist will not travel more than 80 miles per day, there does seem to be some reluctance to switch to electric vehicles unable to support one charge journey capacity over 200 miles. If the company is able to deliver a tailored EV power product incorporating its new technology this could have a major impact upon the industry going forward.

There is reluctance in some quarters to get “carried away” with this new technology but it is already proven in different fields and the fact that the Israeli military has signed a contract would seem to further rubberstamp the technology. Whisper this, but could we be on the verge of a major shift in journey capacity for affordable electric vehicles?

Marketing Experts Target EV Charging Stations

Marketing experts target EV charging stations
Marketing experts target EV charging stations

While many electric vehicle owners will find it irritating and annoying to be hit with adverts when charging their vehicles, is this a sign of the times? The fact that many larger companies are willing and prepared to pay for advertising space on "free" charging devices seems to indicate that the marketing industry believes the sector is here to stay. So, will advertising be a help or a hindrance to the industry going forward?

Keep costs down

Until the electric vehicle industry cracks the "mass market" it is vital that the cost of services and products is kept as low as possible. There will come a point when costs will have to rise, services will be chargeable and the whole dynamic will be very different than what we see today but in the meantime, is advertising on "free" charging stations really a hindrance?

The reality is that we are hit with advertising everywhere we look and everywhere we go. Some of the advertising and marketing are subtle, so of it is blatant but we are influenced by what we see in front of this even if it is only subliminally. So it makes sense for the electric vehicle industry to maximise marketing income as a means of subsidising the "real cost" of charging stations.

Working together

If we look back 20 years ago the electric vehicle industry was literally friendless with many manufacturers shunning the sector. There was little or no appetite from the general public, governments paid lip service and even the most successful electric vehicle of its time was very quickly withdrawn attracting much controversy. If we fast forward to today the situation is very different; governments have put their hands in their pockets, consumers have found an appetite and new technology makes the modern-day electric vehicle indistinguishable from that of 20 years ago.

The introduction of the marketing sector may be seen by many as a negative development but the reality is that marketing experts do not "giveaway" their dollars. If they believe there is sufficient return on investment to sponsor "free" charging units then there must be something in this. The only downside is that this is yet another financial subsidy for the industry although this is likely to be around forever and a day if the sector is successful.

What next?

There have always been two main issues regarding the electric vehicle market, journey capacity and a recharging network which could support future growth. Developments in the battery sector have significantly reduced journey anxiety and "sponsored" charging stations will certainly increase the number of stations available and see a much quicker rollout. So all in all it seems that pieces of the larger long-term jigsaw which is the electric vehicle industry are starting to fall into place.

It would be wrong to suggest all of the hard work has been done as much more investment and development is required, but perhaps the latest movements will ensure the industry at least has a fair crack of the whip in attacking the mass-market?

Nissan and GM Announce Battery Recycling System

Nissan and GM announce battery recycling system
Nissan and GM announce battery recycling system

When the Nissan Leaf went on sale back in 2010 who would have guessed how popular it would have become with the name now synonymous with the electric vehicle industry. The initial battery life of the first batch of Nissan Leaf vehicles is around five years and many will be coming up for renewal over the next 12 months. Disposal of used electric vehicle batteries has always been an issue within the green technology sector although Nissan and GM seem to have found a solution.

Reusable batteries

The modern-day electric vehicle battery will be discharged and recharged many times in a day and eventually it will give up the ghost. Consumers automatically assume that once an electric vehicle battery has passed its sell by date it is worthless and needs to be disposed of. However, this is a misconception because new technology now means that electric vehicle batteries, no longer able to propel the vehicles themselves, can be used for less power sapping applications.

This is something which many companies have been working on for some time now and thankfully Nissan (and now GM) have been able to exploit this for the good of all concerned. In simple terms spent electric vehicle batteries can now be used as energy storage devices to assist with an array of services.

One more piece of the jigsaw

The disposal of electric vehicle batteries has been an issue clouding the industry for many years now. Even though there have been some dramatic improvements in battery technology, in recent times it is still a problem which is brought up time and time again by environmentally friendly groups.

If we take a look back at the development of the electric vehicle industry, including all parts and services, there have been some dramatic improvements over the last decade. We have seen great improvements in vehicle body weight and safety, an ever extending journey capacity, significant developments in battery technology, not to mention a reduction in overall cost. The electric vehicle industry has been building up to this moment for many years now and is literally within touching distance of the mass market.

What can we expect in the future?

As we touched on above, dramatic improvements in battery technology now mean that electric vehicles can go further than ever before between charges. The issue of journey anxiety is reducing dramatically, with some experts suggesting vehicles in the short to medium term could eventually touch 1000 miles between battery charges. This would obviously be a monumental moment for the electric vehicle industry and while it may be some way off it is not inconceivable within the next decade.

We can only hope that governments around the world maintain their financial incentives to would-be electric vehicle drivers of the future. There will come a point when the financial incentives run out and the industry needs to stand on its own two feet but we are probably some way off that point at the moment. However, there is no doubt that governments of the day will eventually recoup their initial investment and more from an industry which is now a serious competitor to traditional powered vehicles.