The major challenges facing electromobility can be summed up in three words: range, infrastructure and price. How practical is the current generation of electric vehicles? And how much sense does it make to charge them using conventional electricity? An overview.
In 2013, Norway was gripped by "reekviddeangst", which means "range anxiety". The Language Council of Norway even gave the new term second place in its "Word of the Year" list. It seems the fear that electric cars are impractical due to limited range has spread to other countries. In any case, almost half of the new vehicles sold in Norway are at least hybrids, due in part to government subsidies.
Range: Charging More Often?
Range anxiety is still widespread in Germany, where electromobility is just getting off the ground. In the "Mobility Study 2020" conducted by the TÜV network, 50 percent of the car owners surveyed cited low range as an argument against buying an electric vehicle . Rightly so?
Regular studies conducted by the German Federal Ministry of Transport show that Germans travel an average 39 kilometers per day – to get to work, to go shopping, or for leisure activities. By way of comparison, the smart EQ fortwo has a range of up to 159 kilometers, and the EQC with its 80-kWh battery can manage up to 445 kilometer. So what is there to worry about? In an interview for this special,, Daimler's charging specialists put forward the argument that range anxiety mainly stems from prejudices, and that it is practically not a factor in the everyday use of active electric vehicles - also thanks to smart charging solutions.
The question that now remains is: What about long-distance journeys? Even an EQC needs to recharge when driving on vacation. Not a problem…?
Infrastructure: City, Country, Highway
One million public charging points are to be installed by 2030 as part of the "Infrastructure Masterplan" for Germany that the German government unveiled in November 2019 . For players in the power sector, the plans for expansion are above all associated with substantial investment costs that will not begin to pay off until a significant level of capacity utilization has been achieved. For highways, this gives rise to a "chicken or egg" problem. Operators are unwilling to invest due to low demand, while drivers of electric vehicles avoid taking long journeys due to the lack of charging points. That is why the German government is promising three billion euros of subsidies between now and 2023 in order to promote the development of the refueling and charging infrastructure for the usage phase of CO2-free vehicles.
The automotive industry is also very interested in drivers of electric vehicles finding sufficient, publicly accessible charging points. That is why BMW, Daimler, Ford and VW have established the IONITY joint venture. The company will set up 400 rapid charging points throughout the main European transit network by the end of 2020. These can charge increasingly powerful EV batteries up to 80 percent* in 15 to 20 minutes. This meets the requirements specified by the German Automobile Association (ADAC) for referring to electric vehicles as suitable for long journeys. For the purposes of this special, we tested how the EQC performs in terms of rapid charging (read more here).
Sustainability: The Mix of Power is What Counts
"The power used for electromobility has to be made cleaner. This is because an electric vehicle's footprint is determined to a large extent by the substantial greenhouse gas emissions associated with producing the battery and generating the power," as the ADAC stated in a comparison of alternative propulsion systems . That is why, on behalf of many influential players in the automotive industry, automotive experts argue the case for a sense of proportion when it comes to promoting electric propulsion, and a mix of environmentally friendly propulsion systems that take different driving situations into consideration.
The German Association of Energy and Water Industries is also calling for consistently implemented political backing for the expansion of wind and solar power. "The greatest problem at the moment is the sluggish expansion of renewable energy. The German government must act quickly and take its foot off the brakes," said the association's managing director Kerstin Andreae.
The Mercedes-Benz remanufacturing team is also applying a patented process in order to extend the utilization phase and promote sustainability. Non-functioning battery cells and tiny parts are removed and replaced.
Price: Switch with Added Value
So what about the price? Electric vehicles are currently much more expensive than their gasoline or diesel-fueled counterparts.
This disadvantage is to be offset in Germany by tax breaks and the purchase premium. To date, the purchase of an electric vehicle has been rewarded with a total grant of 6,000 euros. The German government's package of economic stimulus measures aimed at tackling the economic consequences of the coronavirus crisis has doubled this state subsidy. The purchase premium for electric-only vehicles will be up to 9,000 euros in the future, while for plug-in hybrids it will be up to 6,750 euros.
At the same time, the automotive industry is working to achieve economies of scale and reduce manufacturing costs. A tax break on the electricity used for charging would also relieve the burden on drivers. In an interview for this special, charging specialist Sharam Hami Nobari describes his personal vision of convenient electric motoring. This requires charging to be balanced using smart management so that the utilization of the power grid would always be optimized. Energy providers would then not need to operate as many power plants – a cost advantage that could result in charging electricity being provided for free, as a kind of waste product (readmore).
There is another benefit on the horizon for electric motorists: Their vehicles will not be affected by potential driving restrictions of the kind already seen in certain Chinese cities, where cars with combustion engines may not enter the city on one day out of the week .
*For rapid charging, automotive manufacturers typically state the time required to charge batteries up to 80 percent of their capacity because charging output is reduced as the battery fills up in order to protect the battery.