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January 17, 2024

4 min read

A turning point for EVs

Every year, the warnings from scientists about climate change become increasingly dire, with the IPCC’s latest report outlining imminent catastrophe unless immediate action is taken. Given that road transport accounts for about a fifth of all carbon emissions, and about 99% of the world's population breathes polluted air, electric vehicles (EVs) are considered one of the ways the world can make easy gains towards this end.

To gauge where the industry stands at present, whether there are any weaknesses, and how the supply chain is shaping up, Arbolus sought the opinions of our experts through Canopy.

Transformational or overhyped?

Nick Casas, the vice president of sales at Enchanted Rock, and Chandrasekar Subramanian, who specialises in automotives and sustainable transport, both believe that EVs deserve to be lauded as ‘transformational’.

For Casas, it’s more about opening up consumers to the idea of using new technologies, and taking them away from relying on standard internal combustion engines or gas vehicles. It also provides a bridge to considering autonomous vehicles (given that the two categories often overlap) – which many are still wary of after numerous, high-profile mishaps reported on in the media. 

Subramanian, on the other hand, focuses on their green credentials. He points out that EVs are not only cleaner in terms of zero tailpipe emissions, as long as they are powered with renewable energy, but they are also more efficient. EVs convert almost 80% of electricity into power, whereas, for internal combustion engine (ICE) cars, this figure stands at 12-30%, making them a phenomenal waste of fuel.

Room for improvement

Despite EVs overall green credentials, that doesn’t mean every step of its creation is entirely sustainable or without fault. There are issues with environmental degradation and human rights violations in lithium mines – which is the mineral essential for the batteries. 

Added to this is the fact that EVs are much, much heavier than conventional cars, with the battery making up about 60% of the car’s weight, according to Subramanian. This, he says, “leads to increased tear and wear and road damage”, as well as increasing the pollutants coming from the brake pads. This should be urgently spurring greater R&D investments to tackle these issues. Or, as Subramanian puts it, “we have to make wise choices in choosing materials and battery chemistries to overcome these difficulties.”

Casas sees weaknesses within the procurement and manufacturing processes. “There's delays in the EV world from the battery to the other side of that, which is the infrastructure to support the vehicles being in mass deployment.” He says that five years ago, vehicles were in short supply, whereas the chargers were easier to find – and, now, while both are easier to come by, there are issues with the load capacity and energy prices.

Expanding and regulating

When we think of EVs, we generally picture individuals owning these cars privately. But, given their focus on sustainability, it almost makes more sense for these to be widely adopted for public transit too.

This is becoming a reality in the United States, Casas says, thanks to federal funding – and particularly when it comes to school buses and federal transport. “Now, when it came to private, there was a lot of funding out there, but it wasn't to the extent of what the federal government did specifically for government entities,” he remarks.

And this isn’t the only case. There’s various other examples cropping up worldwide too. La Rolita, a bus service in Bogotá, Colombia, started operating earlier this year and was funded by the mayor’s office. Then there’s Transport for London, which already has several electric buses in operation and is planning for its whole fleet to be emission free by 2034.

And much of this is supported by regulation that encourages and supports EV makers – just take the EU. It’s providing €20 billion to drive EV sales in its race in order to hit its target of having 30 million of these cars on the road by 2030. 

 

The future is looking a lot brighter for EVs. Even though there’s still plenty of obstacles to overcome, from alleviating manufacturing bottlenecks to formulating better batteries, these are either now ready to be tackled or outweighed by other positive factors. 

EVs are becoming more affordable, charging infrastructure is increasingly widespread, and governments worldwide are implementing supportive regulations. Added to that, we’re also seeing strong consumer sentiment. Soon, we could be looking back at ICE cars as relics of the past.

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