A study trip to the US in October 2011, conducted as part of the Elforsk cooperation in Sweden, covered visits to Washington DC, Detroit and California. Research representatives, firms, lobbying organisations, testing companies, vehicle manufacturers and municipalities were visited.
Ongoing efforts in the US, in terms of electrification of the transport fleet, were discussed both briefly and more in depth with various EV representatives, as well as problems and opportunities concerning the electric car launch in the US. The automotive industry's views were complemented by those of research institutions (DOE / EPRI) and charging equipment companies regarding what is happening at the moment and should be happening in the future.
An important conclusion from the discussions is that the overall driving forces for EVs in the US is not the environment, but rather oil dependence (imports of foreign oil) and the cost of driving. With almost one car per person (250 million vehicles in the US), the consumer perspective is essential. Transport is the second largest single cost for the average American. Employment in the automotive segment is also an equally important factor and large government resources are used to both preserve, but also develop the US industries, so they can be competitive in the future.
The government has contributed more than USD 1.5 billion to battery manufacturers, something which has already created 1400 new jobs. In terms of advanced components for electric vehicles, the support is nearly USD 500 million. In 2015, it is estimated that the need for battery production capacity will amount to about 10 million kWh, corresponding to about 1 million vehicles.
Lobbying agency and producer organisation EDTA has in its "Action Plan for the Electric Drive Area" made a clear plan for EV development with five main elements:
- Reduce market barriers and accelerate the introduction of electric vehicles
- Educate consumers, municipalities and other stakeholders
- Ensure that the US has a leadership in Electric Drive Manufacturing
- Standardize rules for vehicles and infrastructure
- Accelerate required technological breakthroughs
With nearly 12,000 electric vehicles sold this year (Nissan Leaf, Chevrolet Volt, Tesla etc.), electric cars will now appear increasingly in the urban landscape. Hybrids have already entered the market with more than 1 million Priuses on the roads. With the charging infrastructure that will soon include up to 15,000 new charging points, electric utilities and other stakeholders are taking an enormous step forward. Demonstration programmes on electric vehicles in the US currently comprise 8 states and 18 cities with more than 10,000 electric vehicles and charging points, which will be carefully evaluated.
Participant from Vattenfall at this business trip was Johan Tollin, head of Vattenfall E-mobility R&D Programme.
“From the utility perspective, the cooperation between DOE, Vehicle OEMs and utilities is very interesting. The development of tools for smart charging (off-peak charging) is under way for the benefit of vehicle owners, distribution companies and the electricity production system” says Johan Tollin. A travel report (in Swedish) written by the Elforsk travelling team is available on request for those who would like to have more information about the E-mobility market development in the US.