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What are the barriers to widespread adoption of battery electric vehicles? What are the challenges impeding growth in EV adoption rates? In this Industry Insights article, four major barriers to electric vehicle adoption are explored:
The need to address the global climate crisis has rallied a growing number of governments around the world to adopt aggressive measures to encourage manufacturers and consumers to embrace electric vehicle (EV) technology. However, the pace of EV adoption varies significantly across different markets and geographies. Barriers to EV adoption hinder the overall pace of electrification. What is slowing down EV adoption rates? The barriers to electric vehicle adoption include lack of charging infrastructure, concerns around EV performance, EV availability, and affordability of EVs.
According to McKinsey & Company, charging issues are the top barrier for electric vehicle adoption in the United States. This is led by slow charging speeds, charger inaccessibility, cost of chargers, and charging variance by vehicles. EV charging infrastructure, often referred to as electric vehicle supply equipment (EVSE), is a set of power electronics that safely supply regulated power from the grid or a renewable source of energy to vehicle’s batteries.
Lack of access to charging infrastructure has been among the top barriers to EV adoption for those interested in making the switch to electric vehicles. However, according to Deloitte’s 2022 Global Automotive Consumer Study, most potential EV purchasers expect to charge their EVs at home. In fact, only 11% of potential EV purchasers in the United States will be using public chargers, despite the overall concern regarding the availability of a viable charging network.
But how does electric vehicle charging work? Electric vehicle batteries can only be charged with DC power, yet the electricity supplied through the electric outlets in homes are AC power. Thus, electric vehicles have an onboard AC-to-DC converter that allows them to be plugged into a standard household AC electrical outlet. There are also low-power public charging stations that will provide AC power, known as “AC charging stations.” These charging solutions are also referred to as Level 1 and 2 charging or slow AC charging and moderate AC charging respectively. Level 1 charging utilizes the standard electric outlet in a domestic area that typically has a power rating of 1kW and does not require additional equipment to connect the vehicle to the power source. Level 2 charging supplies higher power ratings, typically around 5kW and requires specialized apparatus often sold as an optional extra with vehicles or supplied by specialist third-party vendors.
To facilitate higher power charging, which requires much larger AC-to-DC converters, the converter is built into the charging station instead of the vehicle, and the station supplies already-converted DC power directly to the vehicle, bypassing the vehicle's onboard converter. These types of chargers are referred to as level 3 charging or DC fast charging. Level 3 chargers have a typical power rating of 80kW and with about 40 minutes of charge can provide 100 miles of range as opposed to level 1 chargers that would take longer than 20 hours to deliver the same amount of range.
Fuel-based vehicles take less than 10 minutes to fill up the tank and provide a median range of 412 miles. There are many more electric outlets than there are gas stations, but unless there are major reductions to the time it takes to charge electric vehicles, and the initial cost associated with charging infrastructure and equipment, charging will continue to hinder the widespread adoption of electric vehicles.
What technology could help overcome charging infrastructure as one of the main barriers to electric vehicle adoption? Exro Technologies’ smart Coil Driver™, Gold award winner for the 2022 Edison Best New Product Awards™ in manufacturing, logistics and transportation, has unveiled a new application that has the potential to dramatically reduce the cost and complexity associated with deploying electric vehicle infrastructure at scale. The Coil Driver™ Charger, a feature of the Exro’s smart Coil Driver™, removes the need for an onboard charger, replaces the external AC-to-DC converter, allows bi-directional communication with the grid, and enables universal AC fast charging.
“Unlocking the ability for the Coil Driver™ to simplify and streamline fast charger deployments for charge point operators and automakers has the potential to be a game changer,” said Exro CEO Sue Ozdemir. “We hope that this will provide a path to standardization and enable EV charging infrastructure to scale at the pace needed to reach EV goals.”
Why is EV performance one of the barriers to electric vehicle adoption? Electric vehicles and conventional fuel-based vehicles differ in design but share a common function of transporting people and cargo from one point to another. Electric vehicles have a battery instead of a gasoline tank, and an electric motor instead of an internal combustion engine (ICE). Pure electric vehicles have attracted the attention of automobile manufacturers and governments, as they offer an incomparable advantage over conventional fuel-based vehicles in terms of energy conservation and emissions. However, new zero-emission variations of vehicles still need to effectively meet the dynamic system requirements for their respective applications. An EV powertrain must be able to get the wheels into motion, accelerate and slow down, and reach certain speeds for transportation on varying terrains and weather conditions. Dynamic system parameters like the motor power characteristics and battery capacity determine the performance of the vehicle. Thus, for EV performance to be overcome as one of the barriers to electric vehicle adoption, many technical challenges must be addressed.
In an electric motor, the mechanical power is defined as the speed multiplied by the torque. The speed of a motor is defined as the rate at which the motor rotates and is measured in revolutions per minute (RPM). The torque output of a motor is the amount of rotational force that the motor develops and is measured in Newton-meters (Nm). The speed and torque output of a motor are inversely related and are limited by the total power output of the motor. The inverse relationship between speed and torque presents a challenge that is difficult to solve cost effectively and or leads to tradeoffs that result in subpar performance. This challenge, in turn, contributes to EV performance being one of the main barriers to electric vehicle adoption.
Perhaps the most critical factor to consider when looking at EVs is the battery capacity and its estimated range. Battery capacities of current EVs range from a mere 17.6 kWh in the Smart EQ ForTwo with a range of just 58 miles, up to 100 kWh in the Tesla Model S that offers a maximum range of 351 miles. While battery capacity and electric motor output ultimately define electric vehicle performance, much of the work can now be done through intelligent power electronics and software. In most cases, the same battery pack and motor can be tweaked and controlled to offer greater performance metrics, better efficiency, and lower system operating cost.
How can these technical challenges be addressed so that EV performance is overcome as one of the barriers to EV adoption? Exro Technologies is leading the way on this front with its patented Coil Driver™ technology that dynamically enables multiple power settings in a single motor. The smart Coil Driver™ replaces the standard inverter between the battery pack and the electric motor. This new EV inverter effectively creates an intelligent electronic gearbox inside the motor and allows the drive to seamlessly and under demand switch between two modes, one optimized for torque and one optimized for speed. The ability to change power configurations allows efficiency optimization for each operating mode, resulting in smarter energy consumption and superior performance. Exro’s Coil Driver™ is a powerful technological prospect for improving electric vehicle performance and overcoming barriers to EV adoption.
The limited availability of electric vehicles is among the major barriers to EV adoption. The recent surge in gas prices may have led some consumers to consider electric vehicle options, but they may have been surprised by the limited number of electric vehicles available. Mainstream legacy automakers, early EV pioneers and emerging startups are rapidly expanding the lineup of electric vehicles available ranging from micro-mobility to heavy-duty industrial vehicles, yet availability of models continues to hinder the wide adoption of e-mobility. While this is perhaps the most obvious of the barriers to electric vehicle adoption, it is definitely a significant obstacle affecting EV adoption rates.
Today, there are only 29 fully electric consumer vehicle models available in North America. To put this into perspective, according to caranddriver.com, there are more than 400 different models available in fuel-based alternatives. This contrast in availability of vehicles points unmistakably to one of the significant barriers to electric vehicle adoption at present time. While there’s no doubt that EVs have an important role to play in reshaping the future in pursuit of sustainability and zero-emissions, there need to be many more models introduced to meet the required demand in the market to overcome availability as one of the barriers to electric vehicle adoption.
A surge in new variations of models is inevitable and is catalyzed by government regulations, policies, and ICE bans. A gasoline vehicle phaseout is sometimes called an ICE ban or an internal combustion engine ban. Many countries are planning for a diesel ban in addition to a gasoline ban for new car sales. For example, the Zero-Emission Vehicles Act of 2020 was introduced in the United States Senate in October 2020. This bill would require that 50% of all new passenger vehicles sold in 2025 in the US to be EVs. The requirement would ramp up 5% each year, to 100% of new vehicle sales by 2035. Thus, it is evident that expanding the availability of electric vehicles would be required to reach the proposed goals of governments and address availability as one of the major barriers to electric vehicle adoption.
Another considerable challenge among the barriers to EV adoption is the affordability of electric vehicles. The need to address the climate crisis is a valid justification for wanting to purchase an EV, but is it cheaper than the fuel-based alternative? The average purchase price for electric vehicles currently available in the United States, after considering tax credits, is $75,398. The industry average price for a vehicle in the United States, which also includes EVs, was $42,380 in 2021. According to the 2022 Global Automotive Consumer Study by Deloitte, 75% of consumers considering an EV purchase intend to spend less than $50,000, yet fewer than half of the options currently available meet this mark. It is evident that purchase price is one of the major barriers to EV adoption.
Electric vehicle prices are largely determined by the cost of the powertrain, which constitutes 51% of total cost on average as compared to 18% of total cost for internal combustion engine powertrains. The good news is that the electric powertrain prices are heavily impacted by battery costs, which have been steadily falling and technology breakthroughs can further reduce their costs on the system. As production increased globally in recent years, the cost of EV battery cells has decreased. Battery cells currently cost $128 per kilowatt-hour on average, and by next year could cost around $110 per kilowatt-hour. Recent research, however, indicates that the reduction won't persist much longer. Because of the rising demand for essential raw materials like lithium, according to E Source, battery cell costs would increase by 22 percent from 2023 through 2026, reaching a peak of $138 per kilowatt. However, the analysis also indicates that the price increase will only last a short time and that battery prices will continue to fall, possibly as low as $90 per kilowatt-hour by 2031. If this trend indeed continues over the course of the decade, affordability could be significantly overcome as one of the barriers to electric vehicle adoption.
But the most important consideration for EV affordability is not the purchase price. Instead, consumers should evaluate the total cost of ownership, which also includes the cost to refuel or recharge, maintenance, and repair. A 2018 study by the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute found that drivers in the United States pay 2.3 times more to refuel gas vehicles than they would have for recharging an electric vehicle. An important point to also consider is that oil prices are often impacted by macro political and economic forces and fluctuate globally. Electricity, on the other hand, is very often locally produced, subsidized, and becoming less costly with new renewable energy sources. The ability of consumers to adequately evaluate the total cost of ownership could also be a significant contributor to overcoming affordability as one of the barriers to EV adoption.
Electric vehicles are also well known for having a low cost of maintenance and repair. That is because electric vehicles do not have as many moving components as gas-powered vehicles. The most common costs associated with vehicle maintenance include oil changes, engine faults, and brake replacements. The electric alternative is more reliable, can be better optimized and controlled using intelligent electronics and software, does not require an oil change and even helps with bringing the vehicle to a stop through regenerative breaking which helps reduce wear on the brake pads. Again, the awareness and capacity of consumers to evaluate the total cost of ownership, taking into account the significantly reduced maintenance expenses of EVs, could justify the EV price tag, help overcome affordability as one of the barriers to EV adoption, and ultimately contribute to much higher EV adoption rates.
What are technologies that can improve EV affordability and help eliminate some of the barriers to electric vehicle adoption? Exro’s smart motor controller, the Coil Driver™, is an example of intelligent power electronics technology that helps optimize the electric vehicle system and reduce total system cost. Equipped with advanced power electronics, the Coil Driver™ can drive any AC motor with increased performance in a wide range of applications thus empowering vehicle manufacturers with the flexibility to reduce system cost by removing additional motors, removing mechanical gearboxes, and other components such as the on-board charger to reduce system complexity and improve costs.
Exro is a clean technology company tackling the most challenging problems in electrification and thus, Exro’s offerings do not stop when the vehicle does. Exro’s Battery Control System™ also helps consumers further reduce total cost of ownership for EVs. The battery cells in an electric vehicle reach end of life within 8-12 years, depending on battery conditions. These batteries can be optimized and repurposed into a second life with Exro's Energy Storage System (ESS) that is equipped with our patented Battery Control System™ (BCS). As more electric vehicles reach the end of first life, there is a growing number of batteries that can be utilized for second life energy storage. The Battery Control System™ can lead the rapidly growing energy storage markets by extending battery life, increasing reliability, and reducing total costs by giving consumers the option to monetize their batteries at the end of their life and ultimately reduce the total cost of EV ownership.
Charging infrastructure, electric vehicle performance, availability and affordability are evidently four major barriers to electric vehicle adoption. And while these barriers to EV adoption hinder the overall pace of electrification, Exro’s technologies have the potential to play a significant role in helping overcome many of these challenges. Exro is pioneering intelligent control solutions that address the most challenging barriers to EV adoption and pave the road for a smarter and more sustainable world.