Vehicles running on fossil fuels and their increased pollution levels coupled with stringent government norms have added to the woes of automotive companies. This is where e-mobility is a perfect fit. Electro-mobility or more commonly, e-mobility is a term used for the development of electric powertrain technologies that has been designed to shift the conventional vehicle design away from the practice of using fossil fuels and carbon gas emissions. It is predicted that by 2022, electric vehicles (EVs) will cost the same as internal combustion vehicles and by 2040, 35% of all new vehicle sales will be EVs. This battery-powered solution would lower India’s reliance on heavy oil imports and thus, put less financial stress on its economy.
Driving factors for e-vehicles
The Central government has recently formed the National Mission on Transformative Mobility and Battery Storage to finalise the framework for a Phased Manufacturing Program that is aimed at indigenous production of electric vehicles and its components. A week before the announcement, the Indian government launched the FAME II scheme to boost the adoption of clean energy vehicles and focus on increasing the number of electric vehicles in public transportation. Additionally, it also encourages local manufacturing of high-quality EV products.
In terms of efficiency as well, EVs are much ahead. They have less noise because of the elimination of the engine. It is more light weight and this can lead to a better speed as the fuel tank, engine and many more components are removed. They have an inbuilt AI system so as to make the journey more comfortable with autopilot. EVs also need a lesser amount of maintenance as they circumvent several components like spark plugs, drive belts, the oil pump, and water pump, among others, that would have needed replacing.
However, the e-mobility systems are composite and add new key elements, including batteries, power electronics and electric motors, which bring new design and development challenges. Here are some of the trends that can be associated with it.
Moderation in cost of battery
Without building a thorough battery ecosystem, India cannot transverse towards full electric mobility. The battery is that vital subsystem that makes EV use possible and dictates the cost of the final product. With almost all electric vehicles still relying on lithium-ion batteries, the battery costs are still on the higher side. Low cost batteries including lithium cobalt oxide (LiCoO2)/graphite, nickel cobalt aluminium oxide (NCA)/ graphite, and nickel manganese cobalt (NMC)/graphite have shorter cycles and they also have poor high-temperature behaviour and are not at par on safety aspects either. The battery management system needs to address these weaknesses. For e-vehicles to compete with other fuel-based ones, energy efficiency alone will not do. There is an immediate requirement of some subsidies and cost moderations and this is sure to be a trend. Nonetheless, estimates suggest that prices of the lithiumion battery decreased by almost 80% between 2010 and 2018. We can expect some more moderation in costs.
EV utilising the existing “Grid Assets”
It is imperative for utilities to invest in energy storage at present as its growth can directly impact the future of the electric grid and of e-mobility. With the adoption of EVs expected to grow exponentially within the next few years, they are causing constraints on the electrical grid. The greater impact of EVs is going to be on the networks and the peak demand they draw when charging. The prevailing grid assets could be utilised by EVs using innovative solutions like smart charging, vehicle-to-grid (V2G) applications and the positioning of stationary energy storage on the local network. In order to maintain system reliability, an increasing amount of electricity and grid flexibility is required. Also, controlled charging of electric vehicles can deliver many benefits like, the optimisation of existing grid assets and extending their useful life. This will help avoid new investment in grid infrastructure. It can supply auxiliary services like, frequency regulation and power factor correction.
Autonomous and shared mobility
Across the globe, the shared mobility industry is rising swiftly. As EVs proliferate, ride sharing continues to develop. Shared mobility offers many advantages like, easy, on-demand availability, flexibility to choose the type of vehicle and the freedom from parking woes, among others. It also cuts down costs related to car ownership. Autonomous vehicles (AV) will also enter the urban fleets and in future, these cars will save lives by talking to each other and to the infrastructure around them in a connected car market that will be led by drive assistance and safety technologies. Automotive connectivity comprises of four relevant functional groups — in-car content and services that refer to navigation and entertainment, vehicle relationship management including remote diagnostics, insurance that is telematics-based insurance solutions and driving assistance including semi-autonomous driving features. Traditional vehicle manufacturers are working to develop and initiate technologies that augment driver behaviour and OEMs across the world are adding incremental autonomous functions as driving technology and infrastructure improve over time. Autonomous driving is certainly taking off in a big way.
ICEs or EVs?
The volume of EVs in India have not been too astounding for the ICE production to worry about. EVs will definitely become more affordable in the future as the cost of batteries are set to decline. Smart-charging services will reduce charging costs and provide new revenue streams for fleet operators, who will be able to provide ancillary services to energy markets. With many public sector transport entities throwing their hat in the EV ring and private service providers and manufacturers too diving in, it is expected to accelerate. Conversely, traditional IC companies are also investing in future technology and ensuring that they get a head start. There is also work on making the ICE more efficient. For the time being though, there is a need to focus on both ICEs as well as EVs by OEMs since it is not going to be a monopoly still.
The Quickest Road to EV: Simulation
The automotive market has seen some huge trends in e-mobility. Light weighting is a key aspect, where batteries are not only heavy but also occupy a large space, and where dynamics and travel range per charge depend on the number of batteries and the total weight of the vehicle. The ICE, which was masking the noise of several systems in the vehicle, is not there anymore and sound and vibration engineers need to find smart ways to control the sound and vibration characteristics of vehicles in a scenario where sound and vibration are important selling points for new and upcoming EVs. Thermal effects on electric motors are also key aspects where engineers need to pay special attention. To meet these increased demands for HEV/EV applications, competition is intense to develop improved and cost-effective electric powertrains. In such development efforts, there are business risks in going to market with inadequate and suboptimal designs. Automotive engineers must rethink their approach to powertrain design as the challenge here is to conduct an enormous volume of research and development on an entirely new generation of powertrain in a short timeframe. In meeting these demands, leading automotive companies with HEV/EV initiatives are focusing on development efforts driven by simulation rather than outdated methods of trial-and-error prototype testing. Effective implementation of advanced numerical simulation will aid in the next generation of improved electric powertrains. Numerous software solutions are available for the diverse types of analysis in simulation.
Before actual prototyping, multiphysics simulation software will allow engineers to understand how a design will perform under various loading conditions. Not only can physical, real-life scenarios be modelled with accurate simulation, but the effects of and interactions between fluids, mechanics, thermal physics, electrochemistry and electromagnetic forces can also be simulated and the design adjusted based on those models. Therefore, designs can be generated faster and systems can be enhanced to avoid surprises and problems that might occur in the later stages of product development. Simulation tools for HEV/EV development span a wide range and include mechanical, fluid dynamics, thermal, electrical and electromagnetic issues. These tools can be used in tackling the challenges of developing individual powertrain components — electric battery packs, electric traction motors/generators and power electronics — as well as the tremendous complexities when these subsystems are integrated into the complete vehicle powertrain.
The future will be filled with clean and efficient electric and hybrid vehicles and EVs would play a key role in offsetting climate change from other snowballing aspects. The Centre’s recent announcement gives the necessary policy push towards moving in the right direction.