Electric vehicles are becoming increasingly popular. This question and answer page seeks to address some of the more common queries about these new vehicle types.
1. Are electrically chargeable vehicles the future of road transport? Will they eventually replace conventional combustion engine vehicles?
The term ‘electrically chargeable vehicle’ covers a wide range of technologies. From the perspective of the industry, there are several basic types of electrically chargeable vehicles (see definitions in Q18) Electrically chargeable vehicles have a place on Europe’s roads, and their use is growing. Presently the industry predicts that in 2025 electrically chargeable vehicles will make up 2%-8% of the market, depending on how quickly the various technological, infrastructure and socio-economic challenges can be addressed. Even as the electrically chargeable vehicle develops, the industry expects that for the foreseeable future the combustion engine will remain the dominant and most popular propulsion method, buttressed by alternative and hybrid drivetrains. Over time this may change as consumers become used to the vehicles and as infrastructure develops. However, it is difficult to predict precisely what future developments may lead to. And therefore relevant legislation in the EU institutions should continue to be ‘technologically neutral’.
2. The European Commission advocates a ban on conventional vehicles from city centres by 2050; is that realistic?
An EU-level sustainable urban transport policy needs to meet the needs of all cities and this is challenging because Europe´s urban areas differ greatly. Traffic is a basic requirement of cities in which economic activities are carried out. Any measures that are implemented need to have clear and measurable objectives and have to follow the principles of better regulation and cost-effectiveness. It is very important that authorities that decide to implement access restrictions have a vision for mobility and have a strategy that is not static but subject to regular monitoring and periodic reviews. Restrictions should have a clear objective and be removed as soon as the objective is reached. Unfortunately local authorities in the EU have approached access restrictions with an array of mainly un-harmonised measures, which are increasingly creating difficulties for both local and international businesses. The transport behavior of citizens depends on their transport needs and this depends on how the land and cities are organised. Focusing solely on electrically chargeable vehicles in city centers does not solve the real urban problem – congestion.
3. Can electrically chargeable powertrains be used for heavy-duty vehicles?
Electric motors generate significant levels of torque, particularly at low revs, which makes them potentially very suitable for heavy duty applications. For specific urban applications, where range is less of concern, purely battery electric powered vehicles may have a role in the heavy duty vehicle segment. In long-haul freight or long distance passenger applications, electrically chargeable vehicles of a hybrid type would combine the advantages of the electric motor with the advantage of easily extendable range.
4. The electric motor/powertrain is a relatively old invention; why is the electrically chargeable vehicle only being introduced to markets now?
Indeed, the first electric vehicle was developed as early as the 19th century, contemporaneously with the combustion engine powered vehicles. Electric car technology was limited and the equipment expensive, with drawbacks (such as the relatively restrictive range) which could not be overcome at the time. However, technological advance and changing consumer perceptions are gradually raising the popularity of this particular powertrain. As users become more environmentally conscientious, and as the price of traditional combustion engine fuels continues to rise, their orientation is towards rational transport alternatives. Electrically chargeable vehicles (depending on the powertrain and infrastructure) will often have a well-to-wheel emissions advantage over standard combustion vehicles, which appeals to environmentally friendly users. Further, with new technology it is now possible to partially overcome the range limitations which previously made the electrically chargeable vehicles undesirable. As a result of continuous investment by the industry over decades, and through recent breakthroughs in battery technology, electrically chargeable vehicles are now suitable to enter the market in larger numbers than in the past.
5. What will be the market share of electrically chargeable vehicles in 2020/25?
Most stakeholders assume a realistic market share for new electrically chargeable vehicles to be in the range of 2 to 8% by 2020 to 2025, based on today’s market. This depends on how quickly some of the immediate challenges can be addressed by industry and upon a number of external factors (e.g. infrastructure and support by utility providers and governments).
6. Will/are e-vehicles being produced in Europe?
Yes, e-vehicles, covering a wide range of different technologies, are produced in Europe. Also a broad range of powertrain technologies and components (e.g. batteries) are produced in Europe as well.
7. Do you have figures on e-vehicle production and e-vehicle registrations (per brand) in Europe and/or worldwide?
European figures for new registrations of e-vehicles exist for the last few years. Full year 2010: 1064 cars in total. In 2011, 9,132 pure electric cars were registered in the EU. In 2012, 27,400 electrically chargeable vehicles were registered.
8. Will the trend towards e-mobility spur economic growth and employment in Europe?
EU vehicle manufacturers are world-wide technology leaders in fuel efficiency and safety. Electrically chargeable vehicles provide the opportunity for further EU leadership in engineering and also can encourage the competitiveness of the sector (e.g. further research and innovation), with a potential positive impact on employment in the EU also in other related sectors. A structural change is likely to occur in the medium-term, and which will have a significant impact on the relative utilisation of capital and labour. The exact format of the paradigm shift is, as yet, unknowable. Any change is likely to have an impact on economic growth, particularly if there is a shift away from production in Europe. Supportive policies from governments for battery production and battery technology research can help to keep this part of the value chain in Europe.
Energy use/CO2 emissions
9. Are electrically chargeable vehicles the most efficient vehicles in terms of CO2 emissions?
From a tank-to-wheel perspective, electric vehicles are considerably more efficient means of propulsion. However, CO2 savings will only be maximised if the well-to-wheel impact is clearly addressed at all stages of the fuel and energy chain – low carbon energy production such as renewable energy production is key to achieving the full CO2 savings potential. Electrification of the mobility and transport system can only be a part of a long lasting solution. There is no silver bullet. Electrically chargeable vehicles may promise many benefits for towns and cities, such as very low to zero tailpipe emissions and reduced noise. However, the source of the electricity used to charge electrically chargeable vehicles is crucial. While they may be clean at the point of use, their CO2 emissions may be created at the point of energy generation. In order to determine the calculation method for well-to-tank efficiency, there are several potential studies and methods. There is no single and agreed approach. The calculations are mostly based on the energy-mix, which can be averaged on EU level, but of course in reality differ according to the real energy-mixtures of each EU country and energy provider. In practice, this means that even the same vehicle will have a different CO2 footprint depending on the country, energy mix, ambient environmental factors and so on. For this reasons it is difficult to harmonise the calculation method. Any framework needs to clearly identify and address the stakeholders’ responsibility and sphere of influence (vehicle manufacturers do not have any influence on the well-to-tank chain – i.e. electricity generation and distribution or from oil extraction to petrol/diesel distribution at fuel station). Automobile manufacturers can only reasonably be responsible for an efficient tank-to-wheel energy conversion.
10. How do I calculate the CO2 emissions of electrically chargeable vehicles?
The CO2 vehicle performance is tested and calculated according to internationally agreed methodology (UNECE Regulation No.101) and the electric driving part is treated as zero CO2 emitting. This is valid for the tank-to-wheel part of the consumption.
11. How much will energy consumption rise when e-mobility becomes more wide spread?
Only once a large volume of electrically chargeable vehicles has reached the market, it is likely that some extra supply of electric energy will be needed. However, even broad introduction of electrically chargeable vehicles would not meet the limits of generating capacity. Assuming the future energy consumption of an electrically chargeable passenger car to be in the order of 100-120 Wh/km and assuming an average 10,000 km traveled per year, it follows that 1 million vehicles will require about 1 TWh of energy which is only a minor fraction of the annual electricity output of the EU (2006: 3,400 TWh, source Eurostat). Smart charging can limit peak demand issues. With increasing number of electrically chargeable vehicles in coming future, there will be increased need for smart charging and a need for the balancing of demand and supply from the perspective of the energy generation and grid capacity. The final goal should be electrically chargeable vehicles powered by renewable energy.
12. Does battery production cause CO2 emissions?
The levels of CO2 emissions during Li-Ion battery production depend on the exact type and size of the Li-Ion battery as well as the specific supply chain structure. Thus there is a considerable range in data found in literature and based on automotive industry investigations. Furthermore, as for all new technology it can be expected that the specific emissions will decrease with economies of scale. In any case, CO2 emissions from battery production are not the decisive factor for the overall life cycle CO2 emissions of electrically chargeable vehicles (compared to other vehicles). the well-to-tank impact is much more important (see above).
13. Are there sufficient reserves of lithium to ensure stable battery production?
The lithium used in batteries is initially extracted from salt lakes and transformed in special chemicals for their use in batteries. Batteries for use in electrically chargeable vehicles rely on lithium-ion battery technology for the time being. Lithium’s increasing use means that some estimates expect demand to rise heavily over the next few years, particularly if electric cars become popular. The availability and supply of Lithium seems to be sufficient according to studies conducted by European Commission. Besides lithium, certain crucial technologies peripherally related to electrically chargeable vehicles require the use of rare earths. These are critical raw materials that are, in some cases, not sufficiently available in Europe. In the foreseeable future, sustainable access to these materials could become difficult, because their supply is concentrated in only a few countries – with obvious security of supply implications. The automotive industry is therefore investing in and working on possible substitutes, on resource efficiency and in recycling techniques. It is important that EU Commission ensure the sustainable, free trade of these materials.
14. How much more expensive are electrically chargeable vehicles?
As the technology is still developing, it is still expensive. This is normal with any period of technological change, and the price will come down to certain extent as demand picks up and as the systems mature. Presently a small electric car can cost double or even triple the price of a comparable conventional-engine car (can be checked on manufacturers´ respective web-sites). Not including purchasing expenses, the in-service cost of electric cars is, in principle and on a €/km basis, considerably cheaper than the comparable conventional engine vehicle. This is calculated by comparing current prices of electricity and petrol or diesel. It should be stressed that in many EU countries the petrol and diesel price is largely dependent on taxation not currently applied to electricity. However, it is extremely difficult to provide detailed calculations as to future costs, including total cost of ownership. Current calculations of the total costs of ownership depend on the numerous factors that will vary as electrically chargeable vehicles evolve, as electricity prices vary, and as road charging adapts to the widespread deployment of fuel-duty evading electric cars.
15. Why are they more expensive?
Presently the system cost of a Li-Ion battery is about € 600 – 800/kWh. The expected typical driving range requirements, based on current driving patterns, for electrically chargeable vehicles will be up to 150 km. This will require electric energy consumption up to 20kWh (small/compact car). It follows that the battery costs for an electrically chargeable vehicle can depending on the battery size add € 6,000 – 16,000 to the cost per vehicle. There are additional costs compared to a traditional internal combustion engined vehicle. These include components for power electronics, cooling, wiring, etc. that are not necessary or fitted to non-electrically chargeable vehicles
16) How soon will the costs come down?
The speed of cost reduction will depend on the effects of rising economies of scale and changes in the whole supply chain (also including infrastructure) as well as further technological development. It has to be taken into account that a battery system includes, besides the battery cells, components for interconnections and packaging as well as electrical and thermal management equipment. All these additional components have a significant influence on the overall volume, weight and cost of a battery system. Despite the progress that has been made in the energy content relative to volume and weight of the modern battery, specific energy density remains about hundred times lower than that of fuels for combustion engines. This fact is one of the main challenges for electric mobility, as it influences both costs and usability. To overcome, in the long term, the performance hurdles of Li-ion technologies, it is necessary to continue investing in R&D for further improvement of the overall comfort and performance of electrically chargeable vehicles.
17) What can governments do to support market introduction?
National governments need to provide appropriate and predictable technology-neutral market incentives and subsidies, particularly during the introduction phase of this new technology. New technologies generally come in low volume and at significant cost premiums first, which needs to be off-set by a positive policy framework. Around a dozen national governments of EU Member states have introduced incentives for the purchase of electric vehicles. The measures mainly consist of tax reductions and exemptions, as well as bonus payments for the buyers of electric vehicles. National authorities are increasingly taking CO2 and other emissions into account in car taxation. Fiscal measures are an important tool in shaping consumer demand towards fuel efficient cars, notably when it comes to infant technologies. The environmental results of such tax incentives may, however, be negatively influenced by the widely varying systems in each country. The industry strongly urges EU governments to harmonise electric car incentive and taxation schemes. The industry is in favour of a CO2 taxation scheme, which is technology neutral, and taxes cars based on their well-to-pump emissions footprint. Governments should also ensure stable regulatory framework and support of education, research, development and innovation.
18. The driving range of electrically chargeable vehicles is still limited. What is being done to change this, and how long will that take? Generally speaking, electric driving limitations depend on the battery capacity, battery recharging time and recharging infrastructure availability, and not on the vehicle as such. This is likely to remain the case, though with technological and infrastructure development it can be assumed that the effective range of such vehicles will improve over time. A range of solutions have been developed to get around the range limitations of battery only electrically chargeable vehicles. These powertrain design solutions generally fall into the following configurations:
- Battery electric vehicles (BEV) - Electrically chargeable vehicles with no other energy source than the battery -
- Electrically chargeable vehicles using different energy sources (with no fixed lines or borderlines among technologies due to the development and overlapping):
- Electric vehicles with mobility assistant using energy from the battery and limited amount of energy from the combustion engine for emergency purposes under given technical limits.
- Extended-range electric vehicles (EREV) which use a battery as the main energy source, but use a combustion engine driven range-extender running on hydrocarbons, after the batteries are depleted.
- Plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEV) which use battery as the main energy source for daily trips, but can also run in common hybrid mode using the combustion engine running on hydrocarbons if necessary.
These definitions serve to make it easier to understand the various powertrain types that fall under the definition of ‘electrically chargeable vehicle’. It is clear that the range limitations vary among these solutions. This also illustrates the efforts of the industry to present solutions to avoid range limitations and consumers have huge range of options within brands and types of vehicles that are on the market.
19. How long does full charging take?
This depends on the size of the batteries, the type of battery, the type of charging system, the plug, the ambient temperature, vehicle technology, the age and the number of previous charging cycles the batteries have already performed and the initial charge state. Depending on these variables it can range from not more than thirty minutes to nearly twenty hours. A range of different systems are being developed, some of which include capacitance plates, next anode/cathode arrangements, new chemical reactions and so on. These are being undertaken publically, privately and even by certain car industry players. The duration and successes of these research efforts will vary. Whether or not charging times will come to a practicable level down is hard to say, and is, as far as the industry is concerned, a holy grail that would make electric cars truly viable replacements for conventionally-powered vehicles.
20. Is the charging of electricity more expensive than the fueling of petrol or diesel?
Estimates vary, but excluding insurance, tax and other sundry ‘non-fuel’ costs, electric vehicles are still cheaper per kilometer for comparable vehicles.
21. Charging stations are still rare: what can be done if charging is needed, but no charging station exists nearby?
Solving the issue of the lack of charging stations requires a multi-stakeholder approach. The car industry has recently agreed a standard charging plug on the vehicle inlet side and has made recommendations for the infrastructure side, which will make it easier to roll out the necessary infrastructure. Energy providers need to start planning and constructing green production sites, and legislators need to determine what mix of powertrains they wish to see on Europe’s roads. Demand for the vehicles will rise at a rate that will make it gradually more economically attractive and rational for the relevant infrastructure to be provided.
22. How can I travel across Europe with my electrically chargeable car; do the plugs from charging stations differ from country to country?
In September 2011, the automotive industry recommended the use of the Type 2/Type 2 Combo as the common plug in public infrastructure across Europe. On the vehicle side, all vehicles will have the same plug starting with new vehicle types as of 2017. The agreement represents a proactive approach from industry’s side. This must be followed by relevant standardisation bodies and regulators. Industry cannot act alone, because many of the impacts of wider electrically chargeable vehicle use affects sectors beyond the scope of the automotive industry (infrastructure, energy production industries etc). Presently there are limitations in the cross-border use of electrically chargeable vehicles due to specific national requirements and lack of standards on EU level, but these will change as greater harmonisation is implemented.
23. Are the plugs compatible with all car brands?
As proposed by industry, all plugs across Europe should be harmonised to a standard proposed for vehicles newly type approved starting 2017. At the moment, there are a variety of options for the charging vehicles. The objective of manufacturers is to streamline the charging to largest extent possible.
24. How do I know where to find a charging station and if that charging station is compatible with my car?
The information on currently installed charging spots is largely dependent on the provider that is chosen by the consumer. Advanced solutions (for example linking that information related to charging with navigation systems) are under construction jointly by manufacturers, infrastructure providers and suppliers. There is ultimate goal that such system is introduced in Europe that covers most of charging spots and their availability. In 2012, manufacturers agreed a joint charging standard that will hopefully be universal by 2017.
Safety related & EV charging standards
25. What is the advantage of the now recommended application over existing solutions in the market?
EU-wide harmonised solutions are required and that is why European manufacturers have agreed on a set of recommendations as to how the system for charging should look in Europe. The recommendations should ensure compatibility between solutions, both for basic and fast charging and both for AC and DC charging. That is why the manufacturers agreed to solutions that can be combined and that are applicable for all of the options. These should be adopted by all manufacturers as from 2017 for all new vehicle types.
26. Will the standard application use existing tools or will there be a fully new product introduced?
There are already charging spots on the market and the ACEA recommendation is to continue investment in deployment of Type 2/Type 2 Combo connectors throughout Europe. The industry standard will reach consumers across Europe and the world – serving to easily integrate their vehicles with the available infrastructure.
27. What do you answer to comments that the industry recommendations are ‘too little too late’?
In Europe, ACEA gave clear indications on future development and about the direction that industry would like to see future development in. However, standards are not set solely by the private sector. There are institutional procedures to be followed and the standards should be agreed with and confirmed by legislators and standardisation authorities. Further, national governments also define their own national requirements. Therefore industry can only give advice on how the system could and should evolve.
28. Why is standardisation of charging so important?
In order to help build a market for e-mobility, it is essential that customers can depend on an easy-to-use and uniform system for charging, applicable across international borders, covering everything from socket to plug, cable, connector, vehicle inlet and issues like data transfer and safety. It is important to avoid the situation that we still have with, for example, mobile phones, where a multitude of different chargers, plugs and sockets are in use.
29. What are the chances of these recommendations being adopted by the relevant bodies? The European Commission has declared reaching an agreement on standardisation as a priority and the fact that major actors (the car manufacturers) have now presented a joint set of recommendations is an important development. The ACEA members have also worked closely with the Japanese, Korean and American manufacturers, facilitating a global solution. This enables the European standardisation body CEN/CENELEC to find a consensus at the international level as well, with bodies such as IEC/ISO.
30. How about other parties, such as the electricity providers?
The agreement also provides predictability to the parties that they need in order to invest in charging infrastructure. A common standard is very much of mutual interest.
31. What is the likely timeframe? When do you expect standardisation to be finalised?
This depends on the speed at which the standardisation bodies are able to finalise their work. Completing a standardisation process is often complex and time consuming. The ACEA members have now contributed what they can, and encourage a quick follow-up.
32. Why will the uniform solution only be available from 2017?
Manufacturers will start introducing the system as soon as the standardisation bodies have agreed. But a full implementation in all new vehicle types can only be achieved with some delay: the vehicle industry will have to make the changes within the framework of its manufacturing and production cycles; and the infrastructure providers will need some time as well before full market coverage can be achieved. For a number of years, we will still see different solutions on the vehicle inlet side; however, this is not hindering uniformity on the infrastructure side. In addition, even on the vehicle inlet side different solutions will be only a temporary situation. From 2017, the solution should become standard for all new vehicle types in Europe.
33. How many electric vehicles are sold in Europe?
There are no official statistics for electrically chargeable vehicles sold in Europe (valid for EU27).