Thanks to Tesla’s meteoric rise in public consciousness, many of us have become enamored with the surging electric vehicle industry. But where is this endeavor really taking us? With much of the industry’s energy being spent on tackling the primary criticism, electric vehicle battery limitations, it’s worth exploring some possible ramifications surrounding this effort.
There have been several “battery breakthroughs” announced recently, which no doubt is a consequence of the amount of money being thrown at the problem. Such investment has to demonstrate results, no matter how premature they may be. The innovations I’ve read, such as the use of graphene and peroxides, indicate that there are still major hurdles yet to overcome and will not be on the market anytime soon, if ever. Some prognosticators have written that there are only so many combinations of readily available materials and all have been tried. Henry Ford himself said “if someone tells you they have invented a better battery, don’t believe them.” To be fair though, the power industry stands to be the major beneficiary and continued investment in battery improvement is warranted. Such efforts should at least yield incremental improvement as time progresses, which will certainly also help the EV cause.
However, not much is being said about efforts (and the amount of resources being spent on them) to decrease power consumption of EV systems or other battery saving initiatives. I’ve mentioned before that new endeavors typically spawn new innovations to support them. Think of the new materials that came from our push into space exploration or the safety innovations developed for racing that made their way into passenger cars. Developing low power technologies to heat and cool EVs would help greatly in extending their practical driving range. Improving drive motor power consumption could well be another opportunity to extend the range of EVs. As an example of such battery saving efforts, though not electrical, Continental announced a tire innovation that helps EVs conserve energy.
Combine these efforts with continued battery innovations, even if incremental, EV range could conceivably be doubled or more in a relatively short period of time. No doubt that any such discoveries would also benefit other industries as well. One can only hope that such research is being undertaken and that we’ll hear more about them as time goes on. For sure, the gasoline-powered car industry benefitted greatly from similar initiatives over the last century. Imagine what the automotive ecosystem would look like today if the world had invested all those vast sums of resources on EVs instead.