Although the Electric Vehicle (EV) industry has come a long way in terms of advancements and adoption in the past few years, uncertainty remains over the future of EVs. The industry is caught in a “chicken or egg” conundrum, where people are hesitant to dump their traditional fuel-powered vehicles for an electric vehicle until sufficient charging infrastructure is available already. At the same time, investors are hesitant to commit capital until there’s a buoyant market to use them. So the big question is — “What will come first: Electric Vehicles or Charging Stations?
‘Range Anxiety’ remains a deterrent for the public
When it comes to switching to electric vehicles, the fear of ‘not being able to charge up’ before they reach their destination or a charging point remains a major deterrent for the public. To boost the use of electric vehicles, the government and companies need to build a network of strategically placed charging stations across the country to enable commuters to easily charge their vehicles during long journeys. Also, considering the fact that a good number of people don’t have access to home charging, massive upgrades would be required in the charging infrastructure to enable working and lower-middle class people to operate an EV affordably.
Reluctance of the investors to invest in charging stations
Another problem that stands in the way of the all-electric vehicle dream is that the investors don’t want to invest in electric charging stations when there are hardly any electric vehicles on the road. A possible solution to this problem could be to make private charging options, like simple sockets at home or semi-public charging options largely available. As a step towards that, the cost of electric vehicles can be reduced as well. This is required to compete on a cost basis with the conventional vehicles.
Other Challenges that Lie Ahead
- Rise in electricity demand: Thousands of electric vehicles plugging into grids at the same time could see the electricity demand to jump by more than the capacity of the power stations. However, a smart system consisting of smart grids and smart meters would be able to make ‘smart’ decision about how to ‘even out’ the demand to mitigate the surge.
- Emissions from coal-powered power plants: Critics insinuate that while electricity powered vehicles cause lesser emissions than their petrol or diesel counterparts, they won’t be much helpful in reducing the emissions as we will still be very much dependent on coal to power EVs. According to the proponents of electric vehicles, this is farcical as the world is slowly moving towards cleaner energy, where most of the electricity is generated from other sources than coal, mainly from renewable energy.
- Slow charging: Charging an electric vehicle can be painfully slow. Electric vehicles still often need an entire night to recharge at home, and, at a commercial fast-charging station, it can take from 30 minutes to nearly 1.5 hours for them to recharge. But, the good news is that EV companies are already working on the betterment of existing EVs for the improvement of charging time and planning on installing high-capacity chargers along various highway corridors.
Countries and companies ‘driving’ change
While the Electric Vehicle makers across the world face ‘chicken or egg’ crises, many countries and companies across the globe have already started working on policies and targets for going electric. In a bid to reduce vehicular emissions, France and the UK have announced plans for an outright ban on the sale of Internal Combustion Engine (ICE) vehicles by 2040. Volvo has announced plans to end the use of ICE in their cars by 2019. In China, the government aims to set up 4.8 million charging stations by the year 2020, to meet the charging needs of 5 million Electric Vehicles. India also intends to make all new vehicles electric by 2030.
Looking at the present day challenges of the electric vehicle industry, we still have a long way to go and lots of barriers to overcome before we achieve our ‘all-electric vehicle’ dream. In addition to offering subsidies and adoption of smart systems for charging, there is a need for policies that can increase electric vehicle demand. Apart from that, cooperation and collaboration by individuals, energy companies, businesses and government is required to make the ‘all-electric vehicle dream’ a reality. Having said that, their adoption is subject to continual research. We are sure traditional internal combustion-powered engines will dominate the market for now and the years to come.
– by Ajay Narayan