EV issues certainly hold back many consumers from making the switch to fully electric personal transportation, but incremental progress is making the EV industry seem more relevant to the masses all the time. In this edition of the “Gas2 Week in Review,” we look at several EV problem/ solution scenarios, many of which give us great hope about the future of all-electric transportation.
First, there’s the humble pie that Panasonic had to eat this week after Tesla threw the battery maker under the proverbial bus as it acknowledged that its Model 3 production goals aren’t really all that feasible. The all-electric carmaker indicated that they may be as much as three months behind schedule. But Tesla isn’t the only EV issue out on the horizon: if the GOP has its way, EV tax credits may be a thing of the past. “Let the market rise and fall according to its merits!” the fossil fuel lobbyists cry out.
Yet it’s not all EV issues of doom and gloom in the news. There’s a lot of innovation and optimism, too. For example, Enervate, the lithium-ion battery technology company, announced that it may be able to soon offer EV fast charging in only 5 minutes. And Didi Chuxing, that enormous ride sharing company, revealed that a new partnership is in the works to build their own EV charging systems. Independence in EV charging becomes increasingly important as the number of all-electric vehicles in its fleet will likely increase exponentially over the next few years.
Here are those stories and more in this edition of the “Gas2 Week in Review.”
Panasonic promises that battery cell production at the Tesla Gigafactory will soon increase as a result of keener understandings of problem areas that have slowed production to date. Automation processes will allow “the number of vehicles to be produced will rise sharply,” Panasonic CEO Kazuhiro Tsuga said. Panasonic is the world’s largest automotive lithium-ion battery manufacturer. Panasonic has been blamed for Tesla’s limited quarterly production of its mass-market Model 3 sedan; the original goals of 1,500 vehicles fell quite short, with only 260 vehicles coming off the assembly line.
The Reno, Nevada factory is not the only site where Panasonic makes its famous batteries. Panasonic opened a new battery factory in Dalian, China earlier this year, where it will produce lithium ion battery cells for China’s “new energy vehicle” market. The “new energy vehicle” designation encourages all companies that build cars locally to make them at least 8% of their production in coming years. Battery cells are essential to that goal.
Manufacturing issues continue to plague Tesla, which announced to stockholders earlier this week that it has had to reduce production targets for its Model 3 electric cars by as much as three months. Tesla’s original goal had been to produce about 10,000 cars a week by the end of 2018, but this week’s shareholders’ letter acknowledged that such a capacity would only be achievable after a 5,000 per week run rate. The all-electric carmaker pointed to problems in production “bottlenecks” rather than supply chain or any of production processes.
Tesla has integrated several innovative new manufacturing methods into its production lines, and these innovative automations may soon exceed those of any other carmaker. Yet, “bringing this level of automation online is simply challenging in the early stages of the ramp.” Indeed, Peter Hochholdinger, who is Vice President of Vehicle Production for Tesla, claimed back in 2016 that “the cars we build are about seven years beyond everything I’ve seen before.”
The federal government and a number of states offer financial incentives, including tax credits, for lowering the up-front costs of plug-in electric vehicles. The federal Internal Revenue Service tax credit is for $2,500 to $7,500 per new EV purchased for use in the U.S. The size of the tax credit depends on the size of the vehicle and its battery capacity. Those tax credits are incentives to people who’d like to take the plunge and become an EV owner, especially those in the mid-range part of the market.
But a recent GOP proposal would end the $7,500 federal electric car tax credit program. The tax credit is capped at the first 200,000 electric vehicles that each manufacturer sells overall. No manufacturer has reached that threshold yet, but Tesla is expected to run out of tax credits for its customers some time next year. GM isn’t that far behind. The GOP move is part of a larger attempt to placate the U.S. upper class with tax structures that favor the wealthiest segment of society.
Removing the plug-in credit is a threat to the EV industry, which already employs more than 215,000 Americans. Forgotten in the GOP tax credit discussions is how a cultural shift to all-electric transportation can provide energy security by offering alternatives to dependence on the world oil market.
One of the EV issues haunting the industry right now is the charging conundrum: conventional graphite cells suffer significant degradation with extreme fast charging, but consumers want EVs to duplicate their traditional combustion engine refueling experiences as much as possible.
Enter Enevate Corporation, a lithium-ion (Li-ion) battery technology company, which now boasts it can revolutionize the industry with fast charging in only 5 minutes. The HD-Energy® Technology for Electric Vehicles uses silicon Li-ion battery technology in EV cells, which has been tested at 10C charging rate to 75% capacity. Enervate affirms that it has “uncompromised range and energy densities of over 750 Wh/L,” which the company has translates into long driving range that adds up to 240 miles (390 km)—or up to 50 miles (80 km) range with a 60-second charge. The company adds that it meets automotive requirements for energy density, range, and cost.
Such charging times would be better than any other Li-ion technology available today. With short charging times, smaller batteries could have the added effect of making EVs more affordable, alleviating one of the most significant EV issues right now in the marketplace. It is also important to note that the Irvine, California-based company has provided no information about the type of charging equipment that will be compatible for the 5 minute charging to occur, where such chargers will be found, who will build and operate them, or how much they will cost.
Coming soon to a neighborhood near you may very well be Didi Chuxing, which is the largest ride hailing company in the world. With more than 450 million users, 21 million drivers, 25 million daily customers, and a quarter of a million electric vehicles in its fleet, Didi Chuxing serves twice as many as all the other ride hailing services combined. The company’s co-founder and chief executive officer Cheng Wei says that the anticipated number of EVs in his company may rise to 1 million within 3 years. That goal has translated into new joint venture projects to build their own EV charging systems in what seems similar in concept and scope to Tesla’s Supercharger network.
The company’s focus on reducing urban congestion and air pollution, which resulted in eliminating 1.44 million tons of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere in 2016, can only improve once Didi Chuxing partners with the Global Energy Interconnection Development and Cooperation Organization on the EV charging system initiative. Global Energy Interconnection Development and Cooperation Organization adheres to a mission to estab2lish global energy interconnections and achieve green and low-carbon development.