Technological Developments In Automobile Industry: Electric Vehicles

As early as the year as 1900, automobiles were powered by electricity, gasoline and steam power. Electric vehciles were not sufficiently powerful at the time and just like steam powered cars were not successful. Only gasoline powered vehicles were developed further and thanks to quick advances in technology became a global success. The change framework conditions of the 21st century such as limited crude oil reserves, tighter emissions standard as well as an increased environmental awareness consumers forced the automobile manufacturers to reconsider their approach hastened the development of new drive technologies, alternatve fuels and the technologies of electric engines. The hybrid technology is frequently described as an independent technology. But since it involves an electric engine, it is considered to be among the EVs.

Technology of Electric Vehicle. With regard to Electric Vehicles, a distinction is made between different types of “Hybrid Electric Vehicles” (in the following: HEV), “Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicle” (in the following: PHEV) or pure EVs. A HEV is a vehicle that employs both a combustion engine and an electronic motor. Several variation of electronic motor exists, including “micro hybrid,” “mild hybrid” and “Full hybrid”. The micro hybrid provides sufficient energy to start the engine, while the mild hybrid alreqady makes a contribution towards improving performance and efficiency. Driving without the use a combustion wngine is possible in general with a full hybrid135. The batteries of the EVs are charged via mechanical energy from the unused power of the combustions or via the electronic motor as generator. A PHEV is a full hybrid with a combustion engine that is used to increase the range. The combustion engine takes over as soon as the battery is empty or it charges the battery which then continues to power the engine.

The pure EV relies exclusively on an electric engine and therefore must be charged with an electric power. Some experts consider HEV and PHEV as interim solution towards a pure EV. They assume that pure EVs will be successful over the medium to long term. Of high relevance of the strategic development of the electronic vehicle or the following topics: Battery technology, innovative materials needed to manufacture the vehicles and necessary infrastructure. All of these areas are considered briefly in the following. BATTERY In addition to the electric engine, the battery is one of the main component of EV. The major aim of an efficient battery is a high range. Up to date, the range is determined – because of the storage requirement – by the size of the battery and therefore has ma mjor effect on the price of the passenger car. Different types of batteries exist for the use in EVs. Figure 33 provides an overview of differnet batteries – nickel metal hybrid, lead acid and lithium – and shows advantages and disadvantages. At the moment, Lithium-ion batteries are considered to be most suitable for EVs. This is due on the one hand to the high potential for optimization and development and on the other hand to a superior combination of safety, energy efficiency and power density.


The battery also affect the materials used in manufacturing the automobiles. In order to provide the required performance, currently available batteries are relatively heavy. A lithium-ion battery must weigh 540kg in order to have a range of 500 km. In comparison, the diesel fuel needed to travel the same distance only weigh 33 kg. the automobile manufacturers are looking for ways to counter the performance deterioration implied by the heavy weights. The use of lighter materials in the production of vehicles is a possible solution these materials must still pass the safety requirements and thus possess certain strength. Carbon fibre for example are 30% lighter than aluminium and even 50% lighter than steel.


To make EVs suitable for daily use, a corresponding infrastructure with charging station and switching station is required. In china, one of the potentially largest sales markets for EVs, integration of the required charging infrastructure into existing gas station is seen as the simplest and most efficient approach. However, this entails the need for fast charging or switching of batteries. 146 Whether such a switching station can operate successfully in daily business still remains to be the same. The company Better Place is the forerunner in this field and is in the process of installing a network for switching station – starting initially in Israel and Denmark in 2011 and expanding to Australia by the end of 2011. The automobile manufacturer Renault – Nissan is delivering 100,000 EVs as test vehicles. In addition to this public charging or switching stations, it is alos necessary that the batteries can be charged at home with the help of specific installation. In addition to the charging station, a corresponding power grid must also be available. An additional questions in this contest will relate to the way the charging of battery can be billed. Adequate billing models are currently under development. It appears possible to either charge to the home utility bill, the electric bill or separately. The automotive industry, utility companies and independent integrators are asked to join forces and develop appropriate solutions.

Strength and Weaknessrange

The range of electronic vehicles depends primarily on the size of the vehicles, whether conditions and driving style. 165 In order to neutralize customer fears about range, research is needed about battery performance, charging infrastructure and charging times. These worries are confirmed by esperiments with small fleets of Smart EV and Mitsubishi I MiEVs. In this field experiments 93% of the drivers of Smart EVs were not willig to drive an electronic vehicle if there battery was charged less than 50%. 166 One possibility to reduce this fear of insufficient range is the introduction of Angel car, which was developed by the Swiss company Nation-E AG. It is a mobile charging station which can be integrated, tow trucks. With this system, the battery can be charged with less than 15 minutes for a range of upto 30km. thus the next charging station can be reached.


At the moment, there is a lack of a developed comprehensive network of charging or shanging stations. More an more companies are joining forces with automobile manufacturers, since they have realised the potential of the EVs. The batteries of the EVs can continue to be used as temporary storage when energy production exceeds usage. This is especially the case when renewable energies such as wind and solar are used. When demands exceeds production, the stored energy from the batteries can be fed back. Accordimg to estimates, 2. 5 million EVs are sufficient to offset the electrically power fluctuations in Germany. 168The project “Green eMotion” which is supported by the European Commission has the aim to move forward the compatibility of charging systems in Europe and thus to assure electromobility across borders. The aim of he four-year project is the preparation of the European mass market for electronic vehicles. Developed are concepts to standardize connections and billing across borders. The cooperation is financed and conducted by 42 partners that come from energy providers, cities and municipalities, the automotive sector, research institutes and universities as well as other institutions.

Charging Times

Charging the batteries with a 230 volt connection can take up to eight hours, depending on the size of the battery and the level of discharge. 170 To reduce charging times, the battery management system can be optimized further so that more electric power can be processed. For this purpose, Leo Motors Inc. , a Korean company has developed a powerful battery management system. When the fast charging mode is activated, a 30kW battery can be recharged in 15 minutes rather than in two hours. This development is currently tested for its suitability by manufacturers of batteries and EVs. COSTA cost comparison by the German automobile club ADAC between the Peugeot 107 (with combustion engine) and the Peugeot iON (EV) revealed that the purchase costs account for 96. 3% of total cost in the case of the EV.

In contrast, the share of purchase costs in total costs is only 73. 7% for the gasoline vehicle. The purchase price of EVs can still be twice that of a conventional passenger car. In Germany for example the Chevrolet Volt costs €41,950174 while the model Chevrolet Cruze (basic equipment) has a price of €14,990. 175At the moment, about 30% to 50%176 of the costs of an EV are caused by the battery. One kilo-watt-hour of power cost about €800 in the year 2011. Assuming a midsized passenger car that requires 20kWh power, a battery price of about €16,000 can be calculated. Current forecasts indicate that the prices could decline to about €250 to €300 by the year 2020. This would still imply a high share of the battery in the total price of an EV. The currently substantially higher purchase price of electronic vehicles thus continues to be the biggest obstacle for their suitability in a mass market.

Battery Life

The durability of a battery depends on a number of factors such as the climate, the frequency of charging and the amount of energy involved in the charging process. The Fraunhofer Institute for Systems and Innovation Research considers the expansion of the battery service life from seven to ten calendar years as essential for a successful market penetration. Research on improving materials and combinations of materials and on battery systems or charging management systems has the aim of expanding the service life and of slowing down the reduction of available capacity. Since up to 98% of the lithium in the batteries can be reused, for example, the attractiveness is significantly increased.


In conventional passenger cars the vehicle body accounts for 40% and the chassis for 25% of the total weight. 183 Thus innovations in these areas provide the biggest potential for savings. These potentials are also available for the EVs and should be utilized via lightweight construction technologies. New technologies are used in this process that are lighter, but at the same time maintain the same resisting power, so that the safety of the passengers is still assured. Examples for such materials are carbon fibers, aluminium and magnesium technologies.

Emission-Free Driving

Against the backdrop of an increased environmental awareness of the customers, “emission-free driving” is particularly important. An EV does not produce any CO2 generated by the EV is tied to the production of the electric power used.

15 Jun 2020
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