Intellectual Thoughts by Sanjay Panda: March 2015

Electric vehicles ( EVs), Tesla & Lithium

( Pic: Tesla's web site)

Throughout modern times we have witnessed  many  advancements in technology. One  major advancement  in environmentally friendly technology is the Electric Vehicle (EV). Electric vehicles have brought about many advantages and impacts including: decreased emissions, minimal   fossil fuel usage and increased safety.
So what exactly a electric vehicle ( EV) is ???. EVs differ from fossil fuel-powered vehicles in that the electricity they consume can be generated from a wide range of sources, including fossil fuels, nuclear power, and renewable sources such as tidal power, solar power, and wind power or any combination of those and stored mainly in  Lithium Batteries.

The modern electric vehicle (EV)  is broadly divided into  two categories Hybrid ( and or  Plug in)  Electric Vehicles (HEVs & PHEV) and   Pure Electric Vehicles (PEVs).  HEV & PHEVs combine internal combustion engines with limited-range electric battery packs. After the battery runs out, the internal combustion engine takes over, giving the driver unlimited range as long as there is a fuel station nearby. PEVs, on the other hand, run only on battery power   &  for these battery  our  Lithium   products  are the crucial ingredients.

The PEVs are  ‘pure’ electric vehicles. Since there is no internal combustion engine (and hence, no emissions), the environmental benefits are immense. PEVs are expected to grow at a whopping 37% CAGR over the next few years and account for  3% of all global vehicles sales by 2020.  More enthusiastic estimates, predicts electric cars to completely replace  Petrol/Diesel vehicles by 2030.

Several factors are driving the growth of  EVs are:
  • Decreasing battery costs, which are expected to drop by 70% by 2015 & 90% by 2018.
  • Decreasing  Battery charging time.
  • Better cars with a range in excess of 500 KMs (Tesla Model S).
  • Innovations, such as Tesla’s electric Supercharger network.
  • Prices of solar panels, widely deployed in Tesla’s Supercharger network, which have dropped by 60% from 2011.
  • Improved safety of PEVs over   fossil fuel  vehicles. Tesla’s Model S, for instance, was recently awarded the highest ever safety rating by NHTSA, Euro NCAP.
  • Strong public perception due to environmental benefits of zero-emission PEVs.
Altogether, the tremendous growth of electric vehicles has shaken up the automobile industry and sent most manufacturers scrambling to compete with existing industry leader, Tesla.

Tesla’s Impact 

The EV industry can be broadly divided into two periods: before and after Tesla.
The EV  industry’s ambition – to create a  fully electric vehicles that could outperform cars with internal combustion engines (ICE) – was deemed too far-fetched to be worthy of serious consideration. With limited resources, incompetent technology and lack of public interest, the industry produced vehicles that were too eccentric, too incapable or too cost-prohibitive for mass-consumption.
All this changed after Tesla. Tesla’s first stab at an EV resulted in the Tesla Roadster – the fastest ever production electric car with a top speed of 125 mph and a range of 244 miles. That it could go from 0 to 60 in 3.7 seconds and looked like a  sportscar was testimony to Tesla’s engineering capabilities. More importantly, it signalled to the broader audience that EVs had arrived on the big stage. Tesla phased out the Roadster  to focus on the more consumer-friendly Model S sedan. At a base price tag of $64,000, the Model S is significantly more affordable than the Roadster. With the company expected to launch a long-awaited SUV (Model X), followed by a low-cost consumer model, expect the automobile industry to be transformed radically in the next few years.
Tesla’s success has triggered a panic catch-up reaction among automobile majors. GM, Nissan, Ford, VW, etc are now getting into  both  PEVs and H (P)EVs at different price tags instead of  earlier offerings of limited numbers of  HEVs  only approach. With research dollars pouring into EV R&D,  we expect  further significant  technological breakthroughs in the next few years for these  Lithium  batteries.  Further wider adoption of electric cars will also reduce battery prices   significantly as economies of scale kicks in. 

Who will reign supreme in the EV market is a matter of speculation for now. Tesla’s low-cost model could be a phenomenal hit or a complete dud, or  Tesla’s competitor might go kaput on launch or VW’s Audi A3 e-Tron could hit the jackpot with its simple design and Audi brand name.  The only thing concrete for now is  whoever wins the EV race,   Its  the   Lithium producers  getting increased  attention  due to  winds of change that have gripped the entire global  automobile industry.