Table of Contents
Electric Vehicle Battery Technology
With the continued development and improvement of electric vehicle battery technology, it’s easy to imagine the future of transportation: a world where everything from personal cars and SUVs to the trucking industry runs on batteries. Carbon emissions will be reduced dramatically. But that’s just the start. Old batteries from electric vehicles (EVs), when reused, promise to change the world in even more profound ways by bringing small, off-grid power to remote regions of the world where healthcare, educational and economic development hinges on access to affordable, renewable energy.
While the groundwork for this future is already being laid, battery manufacturers still face substantial challenges, from reducing the high cost of electric vehicle batteries so they’re competitive with internal combustion engine vehicles, to building batteries with reuse and recycling in mind so that when they’re no longer viable for electric vehicles, they’re valuable for other worthy purposes.
So what does it take to make a battery-powered future a reality? The answer depends not only on getting buy-in from consumers, policymakers, and utilities but also on forging the right partnerships and making the right investments.
Leading The Charge
There’s a palpable feeling of excitement around the potential of electric vehicles, particularly with regard to environmental impact. More businesses are making sustainability a priority, and studies are showing that eco-conscious practices can translate to increased sales. The EV space is no different. In 2018, global electric car sales exceeded the 2 million mark (2.1 million), after crossing the 1 million mark in 2017, rising 65%. But in 2019, sales increased only 9% to 2.3 million, impacted by an overall decline in global automobile sales. Nonetheless, a tenfold increase in the demand for EVs is expected by 2030. Nearly every region of the world has renewed its EV incentives, and every major OEM is on track to electrify its vehicle fleet. The world is doubling down on electric.
Still, the electric vehicle industry has a price comparison problem. While the cost of EV batteries are projected to decline in the years leading up to 2030, battery expense remains one of the major barriers to overall price parity with gasoline-powered vehicles, accounting for more than a third of the cost of an electric vehicle.
One potential solution is employing highly accurate and safe battery management systems (BMS), which helps automakers and parts manufacturers bridge the gap between today’s high-cost batteries and tomorrow’s more affordable ones.
“There are several major issues from a consumer perspective,” says Patrick Morgan. “Larger batteries enable longer ranges.
The problem is that they add cost and weight. We’re solving that problem by making extremely efficient and accurate electronics for battery management systems that enable getting the most usable energy out of any given battery pack.”
That efficiency is even more critical for industries like trucking, which are beginning to invest heavily in electrification. According to a McKinsey study, up to 20% of medium-duty trucks could be EVs by 2030—if batteries can keep up with demand. “EVs may require additional downtime for charging that can adversely impact business performance, because the vehicles are placed in a non-revenue status longer than gas-powered vehicles,” says Susan Shaheen, co-director of the Transportation Sustainability Research Center at the University of California, Berkeley.
A Vehicle For Change: Battery Second Life
The broader adoption of EVs will have a substantial environmental impact. According to Analog Devices, in 2019, vehicles equipped with the company’s BMS technology saved approximately 75 million tons of carbon dioxide per year—a carbon reduction capability equivalent to 80 million acres of mature forest—by virtue of operating without the need for an internal-combustion engine while leveraging ultra-precise battery performance measurement.
But there’s more to the electric vehicle battery technology story: battery second life. Batteries worn down from EV use are not worn out, if the battery cells were well managed over their life. Breaking down EV batteries for reuse in energy storage solutions can be a key factor in delivering electricity to off grid communities. Consider that 940 million people (13% of the world’s population) don’t have access to electricity, and a further 3 billion people (40% of the world’s population) don’t have access to clean cooking fuel, and you begin to envision the need for micro and off-grid power solutions.1
The life-changing domino effects that access to affordable electricity will bring are many. Eliminating the need for unsafe cooking fuels improves indoor air quality, and therefore health. Electricity can power lighting to allow children to study after dark. Equipment to supply clean water and sanitize wastewater can be powered. And digital communications via internet access can be enabled. In these ways, battery second life has the potential to spark economic development gains once thought unattainable.