The road to mass market, what will drive EV adoption?

The road to mass market, what will drive EV adoption? 

Jun 16, 2019

Our overview of the key factors that will drive EV adoption over the coming decade; with lower vehicle and battery costs crucial to adoption, and risks along the entire supply chain, to discuss get in touch on info@rhomotion.com or +44 (0) 

 

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How increasing energy density will push EV Adoption

How increasing energy density will push EV Adoption

1st April, 2019

This article was originally written by Rho Motion for the Fast Markets Battery Materials blog ahead of the Battery Raw Materials event in Shangai, April 2019.

News of the electric vehicle (EV) revolution is everywhere, with government targets being set to reduce the number of new internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles on the road over the coming decades, and pledged investment in electrification by major automakers amounting to US$300Bn to date.

As it stands, however, only 2% of new vehicles sold in 2018 were Battery Electric Vehicles (BEV) or Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicles (PHEV). This amounts to just over 2 million units, with China accounting for half the market, see first chart.

 

What are the obstacles to mass EV adoption that need to be addressed?

The two main obstacles to mass adoption of EVs to date have been concerns over vehicle range and cost. The primary solution to both is increasing effective energy density in the vehicle battery. EV batteries are composed of individual battery cells, housed in a battery module, which are combined and managed in a battery pack, and all of these components play a role in achieving this aim.  

In the second chart we show weighted average battery pack sizes and vehicle ranges for BEVs. Due to the proliferation of smaller EVs in China average pack sizes globally are lower than those in Europe and the US. As can be seen, there is a clear relationship between pack size expressed in kWh and KM range, with a ratio of 5-7 Km per kWh depending on the battery chemistry and pack management.


Increasing energy density is crucial to extending vehicle range, and by extension the growth of the EV market. Auto and battery manufacturers cannot simply add more battery cell and modules to the battery pack, due to constraints on space, weight and cost, it is vital to get more from these components.

The second, and more important, issue is vehicle cost. At present the purchase price for BEVs is typically around a third more than an equivalent ICE vehicle, and the battery is significant part of that additional cost. It is our view that in the consumer driven passenger car segment, purchase costs are a more important factor than total cost of ownership – which accounts for running costs -, and will be the main determinant of the technology’s success over time.   

How do we move to a world with 30% EV sales penetration by 2030, as proposed by many government targets, and to 70% by 2040 as forecast by Rho Motion?

We assert that increasing the energy density of EVs batteries is the key to overcoming both the range and cost issues, and that this will come from improvements in both the battery cell, and from vehicle design and battery pack management.

Looking at battery cells first. Outside of North America, major OEMs and battery makers have in large part settled on the use of the Lithium-Nickel-Cobalt-Manganese (NCM) cathode formulation, owing to its high energy density relative to its cost. The current iteration of that formulation, NCM 622, has facilitated the development of larger pack sizes and has reduced battery costs significantly over its predecessors. The next generation, NCM 811, will see both further gains in energy density and lower costs, due to its increasing nickel content with its high specific energy, and the thrifting of relatively expensive cobalt, see third chart. NCM 811 is likely to be available for commercial adoption from 2022 given the current rate of progress in R&D, and this will be a major boost for the market.

There are also anode technology developments that are helping to increase energy density in the cell. At present these focus on the inclusion of silicon, which helps boost the energy density in the anode. At present anodes in commercial EV batteries are composed of a blend of synthetic and natural graphite, and increasingly feature an average of 4-6% of silicon additives. There are a number of firms at R&D stage working on a silicon dominant anode, which could boost energy density in the cell by 20%. This is an early stage technology however, and commercialisation is still several years away. Similarly, R&D work is ongoing for solid state batteries, which offer a theoretical improvement in energy density of 70% over current lithium-ion technology, and faster charging times. Again this is an early stage technology with commercialisation from 2030 onwards a realistic timeline. 

There are equally important developments underway in the vehicle which will improve battery performance and lower costs. Firstly, the increasing sophistication of battery pack management systems (BMS). The BMS governs the way in which the vehicle interacts with the cells and modules in the battery pack, including thermal management and charge and discharge rates, and can have a large impact on final vehicle performance.

 

The second is the development of pure EV platforms by automakers. To date there have been very few vehicles specifically designed for a fully electric powertrain, however major automakers are now making solid plans for the rollout of dedicated EV platforms. A key announcement by VW is indicative of this, it is developing its Modular Electric Drive Construction Kit (MEB), from which it is planning to develop 50 EV models on the same platform. This will offer greater homogeneity of battery pack and component configurations, and major cost savings a result. The first of these vehicles will be rolling off the production line from 2020.

Taken together, battery cell and battery pack management improvements, as well as the mass roll-out of dedicated EV platforms mean that we should see parity in cost and range in EVs relative to ICE vehicles by the mid-2020’s, with significant increases in adoption rates as a result. Then there will be further issues to consider, including the development of charging infrastructure, and the impact of all these EVs on the grid.

To receive similar articles on a regular basis sign up to our free EV Spotlight newsletter at https://rhomotion.com/get-started, or for more information please get in touch:

Email: info@rhomotion.com
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Presentation to the Association of Mining Analysts, London, 14th March 2019

Presentation to the Association of Mining Analysts’ Battery Masterclass, London, 14th March 2019

Mar 15, 2019

It was great to speak at the AMA Battery Masterclass in London, the session was attended by over 200 people, with excellent speakers from Talga Resources, Terraframe, Benchmark Mineral Intelligence and SRK Consultants, as well as Adam Panayi of Rho Motion. You can download our presentation here.

If you have any questions or comments please get in touch on info@rhomotion.com or +44 (0) 

 

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Anodes and the future of energy density

Anodes and the future of energy density

Mar 13, 2019

We recently had the pleasure of presenting to a working group at the German Association of the Automotive Industry, VDA, in Berlin. The topic under discussion was Trends in downstream anode and battery markets, and the impact of these on cell formulation, energy density and future battery technology.

This edition of our EV Spotlight provides a summary of the main points from the discussion, if you would like to discuss any of the issues in depth please get in touch. Additionally, if you would like to receive a free copy of our new EV Energy Density Monthly Assessment simply email info@rhomotion.com and we will send one out to you.

We consider there to be the three main issues in anode technology that are likely to affect battery cell cost and energy density. These are the role of natural versus synthetic graphite, for which we are grateful for the input of Simon Moores at Benchmark Mineral Intelligence, the role of silicon and the development of solid state technology.

The key development for anodes in the short term is the level and rate of substitution of synthetic graphite for natural graphite. To date the level of substitution has been relatively slow compared to expectations. Most anodes now contain a blend of synthetic and natural material, at a ratio of roughly 65%-35%, but we assert that the rate of substitution is likely to grow as the quality of processed natural flake graphite increases and the market expands.  

Natural flake graphite is relatively cheaper and less energy intensive to produce than synthetic material, and, with a few exceptions, this energy is largely derived from coal. This poses both economic and corporate social responsibility costs, especially for a green technology such as EVs.  There is also limited new synthetic capacity being added, while there will be a marked increase in availability of natural flake graphite owing to a number of greenfield and brownfield capacity investment projects.

In the medium term, the role of silicon is a key issue for anode technology. R&D is ongoing for a silicon dominant anode which would theoretically provide a 20% increase in energy density over a conventional graphite anode. At present blending already takes place, and it is not uncommon for anodes to be composed of around 4-6% silicon, with swelling of the material the main stumbling block to the inclusion of more silicon. There are a number of companies in R&D stage with the silicon dominant anode, with commercialisation posited for 2023, which at this stage still seems relatively optimistic.    

The long term outlook for anodes takes in solid state, probably the highest profile issue in the space. Solid state technology introduces a lithium metal anode and a solid – likely polymer – electrolyte. Theoretically this could lead to a 70% increase in energy density combined with higher voltage and faster charging. The technology is early stage however, and lithium metal is a limiting factor in terms of its cost, availability and its reactivity. The reality is that when solid state arrives it will have to compete against a mature Li-ion battery technology, with a developed supply chain and significantly lower costs and higher energy density than we see today.  

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Energy density and the challenges of electrification for heavy duty vehicles

Energy density and the challenges of electrification for heavy duty vehicles

Feb 13, 2019

The topic of electrification for truck and buses comes up more and more frequently when we talk with people interested in the EV supply chain; while the prospects for battery powered passenger cars and light duty vehicles are by now fairly clear, we see a more nuanced story for larger vehicle classes. In this spotlight we examine the key issues and practical applications for electrification within the heavy and medium duty space.

We have recently teamed up with heavy duty and non-road powertrain experts KGP to launch our new EV Energy Density Monthly Assessment. This publication tracks the development of battery pack sizes across vehicle classes and for the industry as a whole and this spotlight draws on this research. If you would like to learn more about the assessment register your interest here and we will be in touch to discuss.

 The push towards electrification of heavy duty vehicles is essentially driven by three factors. The first is the long-standing trend in the commercial vehicle and haulage industry towards greater efficiency and lower total cost of ownership. Commercial vehicles are operated as business assets that are expected to generate a return, with fuel a major cost input.

The second factor is the pressure from legislators for emissions control, both in terms of carbon-reduction and fuel efficiency, but more importantly to improve ambient air quality standards particularly in urban areas. The third arises from the corporate social responsibility concerns of major fleets and operators, with a desire to act, and be seen to act, in an environmentally ethical manner.

As such there is a sizeable opportunity for an economically viable solution for the electrification of commercial vehicles, but also major obstacles to overcome. The key challenge, as ever, is range. Heavier vehicles require greater power, and exponentially so if they are pulling significant payloads. As such the kWh requirement per Km for heavy duty trucks and buses is around 1.1-1.3 kWh/Km depending on the type of vehicle, and for medium duty 1.0 kWh/Km or less. Compared to 0.2 kWh/km and less for passenger cars and light duty vehicles.

For heavy duty this equates to a battery size of around 800-1,000kWh to deliver 800 km (500 miles) of range. Even at battery prices approaching USD100 per kWh this represents a huge cost for the vehicle. Equally important are weight and space considerations, at current energy densities the battery weight to achieve this range would be in the region of 5,000-6,000 kg, equivalent to a payload loss of 5-10% depending on the truck compared to diesel. In addition charging times would be in the order of several hours using current fast charging technology.

The fact remains that the incumbent technology, the diesel engine, provides significantly greater energy density than lithium-ion at present. For example, a 1,000 litre diesel fuel tank weighing 800 kg would deliver the same energy as a current 20,000 kg lithium-ion battery.  Further, the major successes for electrification in larger vehicle classes seen to date, urban buses operating on a closed route with batteries of around 300 kWh, have largely been driven by subsidies and non-economic factors.

Despite this there is still a strong case for electrification for medium and heavy duty commercial vehicles. Trucks with ranges of 150-300 km, with batteries in the order of 100-200 kWh, are likely to play an increasing role in urban areas where air quality concerns are higher, and therefore emissions restrictions are most stringent. This will primarily be for ‘last mile’ delivery, and for vocational vehicles that operate on a local route and return to a depot for re-charging on a regular basis. In the meantime work continues to increase energy density and range for heavier vehicles, with 500 kWh a seemingly realistic target over the coming 3-5 years.

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VW assessing its position along the whole Electric Vehicle supply chain

VW assessing its position along the whole EV supply chain

Jan 30, 2019

  • VW has been making statements in the past week highlighting its intention to strengthen its position in the EV supply chain. These announcements have come from its newly formed components division, which consolidated its various disparate procurement and development functions from the start of this year.
  • This new team aims to save the company €2bn by 2025 in cost efficiencies, which it has pledged to invest in e-mobility. It will also have responsibility for ensuring supply for the company’s EV batteries, as well as recycling and/or re-purposing batteries at the end of their useful automotive life.
  • The three key announcements made by the company give a indication of the scope of its ambition regarding electrification, as they cover charging, cell manufacture and even investments in mining of raw materials.
  • Moving upstream one announcement at a time, VW has said that it will begin production of ‘powerbanks’ capable of charging four vehicles simultaneously, with a pilot project being launched in Wolfsburg this year, and mass roll-out planned for 2020. There are even plans for second-life use of automotive batteries within these charging stations.
  • VW has also indicated that it is weighing up a move into cell production for its EV batteries, having stated that it is in intensive talks on the subject. This follows the news of the Toyota-Panasonic tie-up last week – if you missed our take see here. We expect that this is the likely direction of travel for automotive majors, and sooner rather than later, given the potential costs of not securing supply, and their current position of strength in a market that requires investment.
  • What is perhaps even more interesting is that the company has said that is also considering investing in key raw materials for its batteries, including through taking shareholding positions in mining companies. Given the resources at VW’s disposal, and the relatively small investments necessary to secure off-takes with many of the mining companies in the battery raw materials space, this could have a significant impact on the markets for those minerals.

For full analysis of the EV and battery markets see our Rho Motion Electric Vehicle Monthly publication, get started below to register your interest.

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