Storming the automotive industry with its sustainable and eco-friendly technology, Electric Vehicles (EV) has presented itself as a great alternative to combat the rising oil prices at the best times.
With World Electric Vehicle Day recently celebrated, IDTechEx has presented a retrospective look at the past decade of innovation and disruption.
It is fair to say that this has surpassed analyst expectations. IDTechEx has been writing about electric vehicles for two decades, and back in our 2011 report we ‘bullishly’ predicted 1.5 million battery-electric car sales by 2021, an underestimate by over half.
Perhaps more importantly, electric vehicle markets are proving they are robust: they can grow despite a global pandemic shutting down factories and are not so much unstoppable as inevitable.
The Drivers Behind Electric Cars
For the last ten years, electric car markets have been growing rapidly. 2019 is perhaps the exception, with sales dampened by a policy transition in China and lackluster governmental support in the US (ironically, Tesla and GM sold too many EVs and lost federal tax credit eligibility).
But in 2021, the momentum behind electric vehicle markets is greater than ever, and strong growth is present in all three top auto markets: China, the US, and Europe.
In the US, Biden has committed $174 billion into supporting electric vehicle uptake (from charging infrastructure to topping up the federal tax credit) and is proposing a new target for 50% electrification by 2030.
And in China, purchase subsidy schemes around for over half a decade are being extended to help break in the new energy vehicle double credit schemes moving forward.
Overall, the net effect is electric vehicle policy from around the world is pushing electric vehicles into the mainstream this decade, creating tremendous opportunities for those operating in the electric vehicle supply chain.
Tesla’s target is characteristically bullish – 20 million by 2030 with a two-thirds global market share. But, as IDTechEx has said before, the company achieves remarkable things on the way to missing its targets.
Here Comes Hydrogen?
At the other end of the EV, spectrum is large, long-haul heavy-duty trucks (HDT). Truck OEMs are under growing pressure to reduce emissions, as one of the largest on-road contributors to them.
Whilst we continue to wait on the highly anticipated Tesla Semi (whose launch has now been further delayed until 2022), the work of OEMs such as Daimler, Volvo, and Scania continues to move on at pace.
Unlike cars, serious concerns have been raised about the feasibility of deploying battery-electric trucks, especially in long-haul applications, as the energy density of current lithium-ion batteries becomes a limiting factor.
But fuel cells are not a silver bullet for heavy-duty transport: significant hurdles need to be overcome for them to become viable. Aside from the typical technical and economic challenges that accompany any new automotive technology, critical to the success of fuel cell vehicles will be the rollout of hydrogen refueling infrastructure and the production of cheap ‘green’ hydrogen – low carbon hydrogen made from renewable electricity and water.
This is not currently happening – a vast majority of the world’s hydrogen is derived from fossil fuels (so-called “grey hydrogen”) and has a carbon footprint which, considering the intended goal is to reduce emissions from the transport sector, means grey hydrogen makes little sense as a transport fuel.
Nonetheless, Hyundai is leading the way in fuel cell truck deployment, with 46 of its XCIENT fuel cell trucks operating in Switzerland as part of plans to introduce 1,600 FC trucks by 2025. Hyundai has also announced future FC-truck deployments in the US and China. Toyota, Hino Motors, Daimler, Volvo, and Kenworth along with start-ups Nikola and HYZON are also investing heavily in this space.
Making Waves With Electric Boats and Ships
A hydrofoil is an ‘underwater wing’ which generates lift when a vessel moves. At speed, the vessel is raised out of the water, which greatly reduces friction. The innovation has more than halved the battery size required to travel 50 nautical miles for electric vessels of a similar size – 45kWh, instead of 120kWh.
The release of the new model – the C8 – made improvements to the design to help improve mass production, amongst other things. The company matched its three-year order book from the previous C7 model in one month.
Others also have momentum. Torqeedo, the market-leading supplier of electric outboard and inboard drives for leisure boats and small fishing boats, has surpassed 100,000 electric boats drive sales in a milestone that marks steady progress for the industry.
What is remarkable about the achievements in this sector is that it has largely been met with little to no financial incentives or regulation on outboard or inland vessel emissions, which are both key drivers for other electric vehicle segments, as we have seen.
Back to the Future: Electric Air Taxi
October 21, 2015, came and went, yet nearly six years later we have yet to see flying skateboards or cars as experienced by Marty McFly in the 1980s. Will we ever see electric air taxis or cars in our cities?
The short answer is yes. In the right applications, electric aircraft can offer cheaper, safer, quieter, and more environmentally friendly air travel, at speeds that offer customers a vastly improved journey time.
There is a lot of activity here, and some exciting progress. The IDTechEx report “Air Taxis: Electric Vertical Take-Off and Landing Aircraft 2021-2041” finds that the closest to market is the Joby Aviation S4 Air Taxi.
Joby has over 10-years of experience in eVTOL design and 1000+ test flights in a full-scale production prototype, beginning FAA certification in 2018.
While this market is coming, IDTechEx believes it will be at least a decade before we see any widespread deployment of air taxis. One of the major barriers is regulation, rather than technology.
From IDTechEx’s sample of the most promising eVTOL companies, timelines are highly dependent on the final flight certification process and regulation around flight operations in each geographical market.
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