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EV Demand Drives Progress

EV Charger
25 February 2022

The growing versatility of EV fleets and the imminent introduction of airborne variants are pushing infrastructure and technology to new limits. The UK automotive industry has now published a new plan to ensure every driver in Britain can benefit from an electric vehicle charging network that is affordable, available and accessible to all.

The plan, designed to drive collaboration between government, industry and all other stakeholders, calls for mandated targets for infrastructure rollout, backed by an independent regulator to keep consumers at the heart of planning.


The Electric Network Today


Since 2011, government, local authorities and the charging infrastructure sector have successfully delivered 3,000 times the number of standard public charge points, and the UK’s provision of one rapid charger per 32 battery electric vehicles is the best in the Western world, behind only China, South Korea, and Japan.

However, as demand for electric vehicles has surged – accounting for more than one in six new cars in 2021 – standard public charging infrastructure has struggled to keep pace.

Plug-in cars on the road almost tripled between 2019 and 2021, but standard charge-points increased by just 69.8 per cent in the same period.

Although most current plug-in car users charge at home, public chargers remain critical to consumer confidence and are still relied upon by many commercial fleets, as well as the third of British households that do not have designated off-street parking.


Nationwide Accessibility


Furthermore, drivers face a growing regional divide in charge-point availability. At the end of 2020, the ratio of electric cars to standard public chargers was 1:37 in the north of England, compared with 1:26 in the south – and in 2021, the ratio deteriorated significantly in the North to 1:52, compared with 1:30 in the south.

To give all drivers the confidence they will be able to charge as easily as they refuel, wherever they live or work, the sector is proposing a nationally coordinated and locally delivered infrastructure plan that puts the needs of consumers first, while also giving charge point operators and local authorities certainty to install the right number of the right chargers in the right places ahead of need, across every part of the UK.

The industry is also calling for the creation of a new regulatory body, “Ofcharge” (the Office of Charging), to monitor the market, including charging price levels and affordability and to enforce regulated minimum standards.

We took a look at Dundee's progress as one of the best examples of an EV-friendly city right now, because their City Council features one of the most electric-powered fleets in the UK, and has encouraged businesses and individuals to switch to EV.

If investments can be met with a standardised approach and renewable power development, the tried and tested approach to the growth of this industry will see the transformation of transport on the ground – what about off the ground?


Taking to the Skies


“With multiple companies working to bring EA to market, the charging network needs to be in place long before the exponential growth of EA air service begins.”


– Christian Albertson
Senior Research Analyst,Guidehouse Insights


A new report from Guidehouse Insights examines the global market for airport and vertiport infrastructures required for electric vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL) aircraft and electric aircraft (EA). The report also analyses market issues, including business cases, opportunities, and implementation challenges, associated with airport infrastructure.

Airlines want to reduce their largest operating expense, fuel, and still provide safe and efficient flights that reduce CO2 emissions. EA is expected to enter service in the aviation market in approximately 2024, with thousands of these aircraft in service by 2035.

However, the proper charging infrastructure is needed to accommodate this growing demand. According to a new report from Guidehouse Insights, charging facilities revenue for the electric aircraft market will exceed $5.6 billion by 2035.

“With multiple companies working to bring EA to market, the charging network needs to be in place long before the exponential growth of EA air service begins,” said Christian Albertson, senior research analyst with Guidehouse Insights. “Charger developers need to determine how best to install equipment at airports and vertiports and integrate power demands with grid capacities.”

According to the report, the progression of EA into new aircraft segments and applications is, however, expected to be a significant hurdle. Other challenges include the standardisation of charging technology, charging facility locations and spatial engineering, scaling electrical capacity at airports, and installation costs.


What About the Batteries?


The more electric vehicles of any kind, and the more usage, the more spent batteries in need of replacement. Renewable electricity sourcing is the way to use the batteries in a net-zero way, but what about making them, or when their effective cycles are depleted?

Experts warned us last year that the processing is not yet up to the task to avoid considerable environmental impact from this part of an EV’s life if growth continues without significant battery recycling development alongside.

"We are aiming at being able to address 25 per cent of the recycling market. We want to maintain this level of coverage, and of course, this would cover by far the needs of Renault," says Jean-Philippe Hermine, Renault's VP for strategic environmental planning. "It's a very open project - it's not to recycle only Renault batteries but all batteries, and also including production waste from the battery manufacturing plants."

There are currently very few working, economically and sustainably viable technologies for recycling most of the materials in lithium-ion batteries, especially outside of the Asian continent. However, this leaves a gap in the market for the clearly necessary options to emerge.

Several companies are developing systems that will use this combination, but the researchers at Chalmers University of Technology, Sweden, discovered that these companies use widely differing temperatures and times in their processes and that there was a great need for a comparative study, to determine the optimal thermal treatment and hydrometallurgical process for recycling lithium-ion batteries.


Bringing Efficiency to the Process Through AB Testing


“To reduce the costs, we need to cut the steps in the recycling process.”


– Martina Petranikova
Associate Professor, Department of Chemistry and Chemical Engineering, Chalmers


“To meet the huge need for battery recycling that is coming, the processes currently in use must be made as effective and efficient as possible, so this study offers invaluable knowledge for the manufacturers and operators of this technology.

“The methods we present can also be used to optimise the recycling of all kinds of lithium-ion batteries,” explains Martina Petranikova, Associate Professor at the Department of Chemistry and Chemical Engineering at Chalmers, who has also worked with Northvolt, one of Europe’s largest battery manufacturers, helping to develop and implement their recycling processes.

If the recycling of electric car batteries is to reach the volumes required for the future, the costs must be radically reduced. Improving the processes is, therefore, a crucial challenge.

“To reduce the costs, we need to cut the steps in the recycling process. We are working on several projects with that aim right now, and close collaborations and good communication between researchers and the developers of the technology will be extremely important for us to succeed with the challenges we face,” says Martina Petranikova.

An example of this is visible in connection to a new trend, solid-state batteries, that has spread among the producers of EV batteries. These batteries contain significantly more different metals, which makes recycling much harder.

“As researchers we see a vital need to agree on a global standard for a maximum number of metals in these batteries,” says Martina Petranikova.

Picture: an EV charger at a station. Image credit: Unsplash.

Article written by Bailey Sparkes | Published 25 February 2022


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