A significant investment in research is essential to make electric vehicles a viable alternative, Eduardo Solís, Executive President of AMIA told attendees at Mexico Automotive Summit 2018 in Mexico City on Wednesday. While analysts suggest that electric cars are the definite future for the sector, Solís explained that nothing is set in stone as there is still significant room for improvement before these technologies can truly become a mobility solution.
“There is no way to know if by 2025 around 10 percent of the total global vehicle fleet will be electric. There are no indications that internal combustion engine vehicles will disappear in the future,” said Solís. The transition, he added, is not as straightforward as it seems. “We are not waiting for the industry to adopt electric vehicles, we are waiting for a technology breakthrough so electric vehicles can become the new normal.”
Solís analyzed the sale of electric vehicles across the globe to point out that “there is a strong association between the acquisition of these electric vehicles and public policies promoting their sale.” He pointed to Norway as a successful example of the penetration of these vehicles, where sales have been strongly linked to the development of policies for the acquisition of electric cars. Outside of that country, annual electric vehicle sales represent between 0.5-1.5 percent of all types of vehicles, with Mexico being close to 0.5 percent.
Electric cars have low penetration in countries that do not heavily promote them because current battery technologies cannot compete with internal combustion motors. “Electric vehicles require a battery replacement every 10 years at a cost of US$10,000, which means they cannot compete on resale value with internal combustion cars,” said Solís. For the sale of electric vehicles to grow, batteries must be less expensive, faster to charge, smaller and have more capacity, he explained.
The only way to achieve this advancement in battery technology is through a great investment in R&D that allows the current technology to make the leap. He added that research, albeit from an unexpected source, has been essential for most modern technologies that have increased road and passenger safety. “The main findings that have permeated the automotive sector come from the aerospace industry. The reason is the extremely large military investment made in the latter sector.” Some examples include the automation and software already incorporated into cars to prevent collisions by allowing vehicles to communicate with one another.
For the incorporation of electric vehicles as a mobility solution, a large technological jump that greatly improves battery life, capacity and cost is necessary. Luckily, Solís said, many research centers across the globe are actively looking for materials to make batteries better and cheaper.