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Pictures of the Future



Mr. Sebastian Webel
Mr. Sebastian Webel


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Pictures of the Future
The Magazine for Research and Innovation

Electric Mobility

The Number of Electric Vehicles Is Growing on Land, in the Water, and in the Air

Some 400,000 electrically powered automobiles are currently on the road worldwide, according to a study by the Centre for Solar Energy and Hydrogen Research Baden-Württemberg (ZSW). This means that the number doubled throughout 2013. The highest demand for such vehicles was in the U.S., Japan and China. Germany does not rank among the top countries, being in seventh place. Although the number of electric vehicles is still relatively small compared to automobiles with conventional combustion engines, it is expected to increase sharply in coming years. The German government, for example, wants to increase the number of electric vehicles on the country’s roads to one million by 2020. And in its “BLUE Map Scenario,” the International Energy Agency (IEA) estimates that almost 80 percent of automobiles sold in 2050 will be plug-in hybrids, electrics, or will be powered by fuel cells.

Norway and the Netherlands: Using Incentives to Boost Electric Vehicle Sales

The countries with the biggest market share for electric automobiles are currently Norway, at almost 2 percent, and the Netherlands, at 1.1. percent. Those are the latest results of the Electric Vehicles Index (EVI) drawn up by business consulting firm McKinsey. “Norway and the Netherlands are expressly using incentives to boost sales,”  says Christian Malorny, Director of McKinsey’s Berlin office and an expert on electric mobility. “The incentives range from direct subsidies for the sale price to other advantages such as the right to use dedicated bus lanes and free parking in inner cities.”

Business consulting firm Roland Berger measures the automotive countries‘ competitive position on the basis of three indicators: industry, technology, and the market. Japan improved its position in all three indicator indices to the greatest extent. According to Roland Berger, Japan leads the rankings in Industry mainly due to its extensive battery value chain. This is because Japanese automakers have reduced the price of electric vehicles on their domestic market, enabling customers to obtain good value for money.

Wide Range of Solutions

Two factors, in particular, are expected to give electric mobility a boost: On the one hand, fuel prices will continue to rise because the availability of oil is finite, while, on the other, the rapid increase in automobile traffic worldwide is a key driver of climate change. Because there is no simple way to achieve electric mobility, manufacturers are working on a variety of solutions.

The world market for Lithium-ion batteries is expected to expand to over $9 billion by 2015

Although the technologies for electric drives, energy storage systems, and network infrastructures are now all available in principle, there is still need for further research, improvements, and networking in many areas. The biggest challenge is to develop high-performance storage systems that are also affordable. Research is being conducted on a wide variety of materials. Lithium-ion battery systems are currently thought to have the greatest potential. The world market for these batteries is rapidly growing, and Roland Berger expects it to expand to over $9 billion by 2015. By then, more than four million vehicles using electrical hybrid or plug-in hybrid drives (xEV) are expected to be put on the road every year. Japan and Korea are leading the way in battery technology. Although China has many manufacturers, the country still lags behind technologically. However, China’s battery market is forecast to expand to 259 billion renminbi yuan (RMB; approximately $42 billion) by 2016, according to a study conducted by the market research firm Freedonia Group. China is already the world’s leading manufacturer of electric two-wheelers and is investing substantially in “New Energy Vehicles.” By 2015, the country’s suppliers are expected to control around eight percent of the global market, and the country might even become the world’s largest e-mobility market by 2020.

But while the automotive industry has been working on electric drives for many years now, the same could not be said of the aviation sector. However, that changed in 2014 when Airbus launched the fully electric E-Fan airplane in March.

An Electric Ship that Emits Zero Carbon Dioxide

The two-seat aircraft can stay in the air for 35 minutes, and its developers intend to increase the time it can be aloft to one hour. Series production is scheduled to begin in late 2017. The shipping industry is also interested in electric drives. For example, Siemens has worked with the Norwegian shipyard Fjellstrand to develop the technology for the world’s first electrically powered car ferry. The electric ship, which will enter service in 2015, emits no carbon dioxide, which is in part due to the electricity mix in Norway. The ferry, which is 80 meters long, is driven by two electric motors, each with an output of 450 kilowatts. Both motors are powered by lithium-ion batteries. The ship’s batteries are recharged at the docks between trips. This example shows that the charging infrastructure is a key precondition for the spread of electric mobility. No matter whether they travel by land, by sea, or by air, electric vehicles can effectively protect the climate only if their electricity is obtained from renewable sources

Gitta Rohling