Battery powered vehicles: An automotive revolution in the making or ‘fool cells’?

sunamp-bpv-carThe biggest changes in automotive history for 100 years are now starting – and they will cause huge new businesses to appear but some giants currently making cars and their parts will spectacularly go bankrupt. 

For cars, the mechanical world of cogs, axles, pistons and brakes is becoming one of power electronics, complex electric machine systems, batteries and their successors.

Integration is the name of the game with components-in-a-box becoming smart wheels and smart inside and outside bodywork and seating. 

The dashboard and instruments will be made as one piece of formed composite with one company even planning highest-efficiency solar being the surface of this integrated dashboard to drive internal electrics. That featherweight solar layer was previously only affordable on satellites but its cost is promised to drop by one thousand.

Cities will ban private cars but encourage cars as autonomous taxis and rental vehicles. Already 65% of cars in China are bought by businesses. The Japanese want the car to be part of the hydrogen economy and a source of power when the next earthquakes and tsunamis hit. 

The emerging countries want car-like vehicles – mainly as taxis-  that are one tenth of the cost and never refuel because the ample sunshine and wind will be grabbed and stored by the vehicle, according to the latest IDTechEx report, Electronic Car Technology and Forecasts 2017-2027.

Smart wheel systems could mean more space, less weight and better steering and performance in slippery conditions. Key enabling technologies rapidly move to batteries, power electronics and often multiple traction motors. 

Then comes very different energy storage, power electronics (now including many new forms energy harvesting including regeneration), signal electronics and reversing electric machines – often several per car and sometimes with the motor electronics costing more than the motor.

The report finds a huge market emerging for the cheapest, easiest way of converting existing production of cars to keep them legal as new global warming laws bite. This is the 48V mild hybrid: it will also peak in the next fifteen years but, before that, it will transmogrify into a hugely popular form of electric vehicle by becoming capable of several pure electric modes with engine off. The Mercedes broad move to 48V MH in 2017 is only part of this story.
 
The analysis reveals when energy independent vehicles (EIVs) become significant, not least as cars. It exposes the world of LIDAR, RADAR, cameras, software and so on for autonomy with their relative importance changing rapidly. The price trends are dramatic.

Is there a hare and tortoise story here with Tesla terrifying the industry by becoming the Apple of automotive but acquiring major quality and financial challenges? Volkswagen and Daimler have become ambivalent about fuel cell cars.

Some say they are the end game, Hyundai says they are an important option, and yet others call them ‘fool cells’. Time will tell.

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