News item | 2012-05-16 | 11:20 AM

Here it is: the future of e-mobility

The future of electric vehicles seems to depend on batteries. But political incentives are also necessary for e-mobility to take off. And so are local governments’ environmental targets. And the price of crude oil. And public opinion. And so on. The challenges are certainly there – but Vattenfall has made its commitment.

The future of electric vehicles seems to depend on batteries.In this series of articles on e-mobility we have seen how e-mobility at Vattenfall can only be described as a story of unlikely partners, a vision and a dedicated few. So, what’s next?

“We’ll implement the technology we’ve developed so far. Vattenfall’s part will be supplying charging solutions for hybrid and electric cars, buses and transportation vehicles,” says Johan Tollin, Head of Vattenfall Group e-mobility Technology.

That’s the dedication. So what about the challenges? Swedish business newspaper Dagens Industri’s motor expert Håkan Matson says there is some way to go.

“At the moment, electric cars are too expensive and simply not good enough – and the reason is that the batteries are too expensive and not good enough,” he says.

To ensure a future for electric cars, Matson believes companies like Vattenfall should lead the advancement of batteries. Because he‘s certain that the electrification of cars is coming– both in the shape of hybrids and plug-in hybrids and both in combination with ethanol.

“The car industry can build cars. But today, nobody makes good batteries,” he says. “The market share for electrical cars will be modest, even in 2020, but it will slowly increase.”

Susanna Hurtig, Business Developer and Project Manager for charging solutions at Vattenfall e-mobility, agrees – but to a certain degree. The efforts of Vattenfall e-mobility are undoubtedly long-term, but they are aimed at growing volumes in order to lower costs.

”The battery is a substantial part of the total cost of the car and they make the cars expensive today. But what comes first? The costs are expected to fall when we achieve bigger volumes. And to be a driving force in e-mobility we have started with the development of plug-in hybrid technology together with Volvo Cars. This model has advantages over a battery-electric vehicle, or BEV, such as a smaller battery and ‘full’ driving range. The plug-in hybrid is likely to be the forerunner to the extensive use of BEVs."

Regarding politics, Tollin believes the right combination of political incentives and ambitious sustainability targets of local governments is vital.

”We need incentives that increase the value for the owner, such as parking benefits and permission to use bus lanes. Furthermore, the demand in Europe and the U.S. for alternative fuels in order to be less dependent on oil could have a great, positive impact on the success of electrical cars. Then of course we need global standardisation, Tollin says.”

Matson says there is also the matter of how the electricity used in cars is produced.

"What if the total CO2 emissions of cars charged with electricity from coal plants are higher than that of many energy-efficient diesel cars?" Matson says.

Hurtig explains that with Vattenfall’s charging solutions in Sweden the consumer can choose how the energy is produced. For example, Vattenfall has a specific offer for electrical cars in which the customer can choose to use energy produced at Vattenfall’s wind farm Lillgrund. Vattenfall also has its “Starter Package”, with optimised solutions for the home, for car pools, for housing organisations or for offices.

So Hurtig and Tollin are both convinced that the future of e-mobility is bright.

“In a few years we will see automated charging by inductive, wireless energy transfer. We’ll see increased volumes which reduces costs, increased performance and better infrastructure,” Tollin says. “For example, major production sites for new battery cells and battery packages are being established and there also niche markets where pure electrical cars are already highly interesting, such as distribution vehicles in inner cities. We are on the right track and the way to privately owned electrical cars lead via plug-in hybrids. The breakthrough will come.”

This is the fifth part of our series of articles on e-mobility, explaining what it is and why we at Vattenfall believe it is important.