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Pangea SI Expert Q&A: EV Deep Dive

March 17, 2021
Lachie Ives

By 2025, global EV market share of all new cars sold could well exceed 10% – a striking indicator of how the electric-vehicle value chain is expected to grow.

We spoke to some of our leading EV experts to get their analysis and opinions on some of the most pressing questions within the field. Get a better understanding of their expertise and perspectives in this article.

EV Focus: Three Questions, Nine Expert Answers

Q: What is the outlook for this market this decade and what is the likelihood of it competing with diesel?

Hydrogen and Lithium Ion Expert: I think the transition to EVs will take longer and cost more than many people think, for simple practical reasons associated with the willingness and ability of vehicle OEMs to transition their business models from what they’ve been used to for the past 100 yrs. But EVs already offer a lower total cost of ownership than diesel or gasoline cars, for people who drive them a lot, in many markets.

As batteries get cheaper, and more OEMs enter the market, the EV will become cheaper and the transition will happen faster and faster. But with a mean life in the North American market of 13 yrs, even if we hit 100% new EV sales today, we’d be looking at 3 decades for the ICE car to drift into the sunset- and even then, there will be applications where engines will remain necessary – rural and remote transport for instance. Those applications will need biofuels or so-called e-fuels derived from hydrogen- and will be quite expensive per mile driven as a result.

Leading Lithium and Energy Expert: As growth in electric vehicles powers on globally, Norway leads the world for EVs per capita to such an extent that EVs overtook ICE-powered vehicles, particularly diesel. In Europe as a whole, hybrid and electric cars outsold diesel cars in 2020 based on European new car registrations. Thus, there is already a huge movement away from diesel in favour of petrol and electric-powered cars.

The outlook can only improve for the fledgeling EV market, making the UK’s challenging 2030 target for cessation of petrol and diesel car manufacturing and sales eminently achievable. One can only wonder why petrol and diesel commercial vehicles are conspicuous by their absence within all European governments plans towards a net zero carbon future.

Energy Transition Specialist: The current energy/cost equivalent is £6/kg to produce & dispense green hydrogen compared with petrol or diesel. The current cost of producing and dispensing green hydrogen is £10/kg. The next generation hydrogen hub in Aberdeen will use cheap renewables energy and has an achievable target of £6/kg to produce green hydrogen, dispense at either 350bar or 700 bar to suit vehicle type, at a temperature of -40degC to facilitate fast refuelling.

Based on current work that I am aware of, by 2030 I am vey confident that required energy to produce green hydrogen will be reduced by a factor of 10.

Q: What actions need to be taken to help EVs become competitive in terms of cost and efficiency?

Hydrogen and Lithium Ion Expert: EVs already out-compete both ICE and FCEV cars in terms of efficiency, by wide margins in both cases, and that makes them cheaper to operate. As to EV adoption: Number one: carbon taxes. Number 2: toxic emission bans in major urban areas. We have let the combustion engineers tell us what level of dirty air is as clean as they can practically make it, for long enough.

There is an option available now which is truly zero in local toxic tailpipe emissions. Stationary emitters can have their emissions controlled and continuously monitored- the best we can do with engines is inferential feed-forward controls, which can be defeated by software or fail through poor maintenance.

Leading Lithium and Energy Expert: First, we need to dispel the myth that EVs are not efficient in energy to power delivery terms. EVs are between 85-90% efficient compared to 17-21% in traditional ICE (internal combustion engine) powered cars. There is also a myth that EVs are not green because they don’t use green power, but they can of course be 100% power carbon neutral if using solar power at home or work. In comparison ICE vehicles will never be emission free at the tailpipe. Additionally, there is a huge amount of carbon generated during the high energy refining process of fossil fuels, a point rarely mentioned.

It is forecast by Bloomberg NEF analysis (Jan 2021) that as Lithium-ion battery prices fall, parity will be achieved by 2023, whilst other pundits suggest 2024-2025. We can already observe parity in the entry level sectors and even the top-end EV, the entry level Porsche Taycan now costs less than its 911 ICE counterpart. Efficiency is improving year on year and I forecast that by 2025, EV range as an indication of efficiency, will be overtaken by kilometres per kWh, as an overall measure of efficiency, much the same as kilometres per litre or miles per gallon is used now for ICE vehicles.

Energy Transition Specialist: Scale! Demand is being driven in Aberdeen. Demand is being driven in the industrial sphere. Ultimately demand drives production at scale which necessarily drives down cost. Fuel cell efficiency will improve with development but it is already superior to their BEV equivalents in terms of range and time to refuel.

Q: What are some key safety considerations that need to be addressed before the widespread adoption of fuel cells?

Hydrogen and Lithium Ion Expert: Hydrogen is widely and safely used in industry right now, to the tune of 120 megatonnes per year. However, it is quite another thing to imagine H2 being safely handled in a commercial context, either as a 700 bar high pressure gas or a 24 kelvin ultracryogenic liquid.

Much work will be needed in the development of codes and standards. And if you think you’ll ever be making 700 bar hydrogen at home using your solar panels, to fuel your fuelcell car, just forget about it. No fire marshal nor any boilers/pressure vessels regulatory authority anywhere in the world will let you get away with it.

Leading Lithium and Energy Expert: The very thought of driving a vehicle while literally sitting above a pressurised container of hydrogen, is in itself a scary proposition for some people. The main safety concerns are the transportation to holding station, the delivery pump system and end user vehicle safety. Although these considerations are much the same for any flammable fuels such as bottled hospital and commercial gasses, diesel, kerosene and petrol. There are already strict regulations in place for all highly flammable gasses and these will rightly become more stringent over the coming years.

The primary issue with stored hydrogen is that in ambient temperature, in an enclosed setting, leaked or seeping hydrogen can create enormous gaseous pressure, capable of ripping apart storage vessels with inadequate or no safety valves. In a hydrogen fuel cell powered vehicle, two key hazards are high flammability of the hydrogen and electrocution if not handled safely. Motorists also need assurance in the event of accidents or collisions. I believe that the high purchase price of a FCEV (Fuel Cell Electric Vehicle) and each of these potential safety issues will need to be fully addressed before widespread adoption can be realised.

Energy Transition Specialist: From my experience of hydrogen refuelling in Aberdeen and the vehicles that are operated in the city, safety is paramount and has been adequately addressed. The TECA conference facility incorporates the largest solid oxide fuel cell installation in the UK and safety, learnt from our vehicle operation, has been fully incorporated into the facility.

HSE Buxton are doing a lot of work on the safety front and developing a consistent rule-set. DNV-GL, soon to be renamed DNV, have also carried out much work in the safety sphere. Organisations such as the Scottish hydrogen fuel cell association (SHFCA) is steered very effectively by Prof Nigel Holmes and ensures that safety is promoted to all members.

 

Pangea Strategic Intelligence has several leading Experts who can guide clients through the nuances of Electric Vehicles and the EV market.

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