Will electric vehicles dominate?

Experts from Ford, Renault and Intelligent Energy discussed problems on the road ahead for electric vehicles if they are to become a dominant power train at the SMMT International Automotive Summit.

Speaking at the summit, which took place on June 12 in London’s Canary Wharf, the speakers made it clear that if electric vehicles (EVs) are to become a dominant power train, a change in customer perceptions of EVs and battery development has to take place.

Henry Winnard, CEO at Intelligent Energy, said that if sales of EVs are to increase, customers need to feel like they are not taking part in an “experiment”.

In response to this Andrew Everett, head of transport at the Technology Strategy Board, told The Manufacturer: “There may be a perception that drivers are going into the unknown when purchasing an EV.

“Any car sold would have gone through several years of development and prototyping and is not an experimental car. There are questions about range and battery life but the view that they are part of an experiment is a perception rather than a reality.”

With regards to the development of batteries, Thierry Koskas, Global Head of Electrical Vehicles at Renault, indicated that there will be slow but steady progress.

Mr Koskas said turning to lithium ion technology was a big breakthrough but an EV will not reach 400miles on a battery within the next 10 years.

According to Mr Everett there are three aspects of EV batteries that need to be developed more –cost, packaging and the sustainability of power over time.

It is also important to consider the future developments of internal combustion engines. The head of transport noted that emissions can still be lowered by the development of light weight materials and engine efficiency.

Barb Samardzich, vice president Product Development at Ford of Europe, said at the summit: “The internal combustion engine will remain dominant in years to come and if EVs are to become the dominant power train by 2040 there will need to be major infrastructure developments in cities. Where will you charge your car?”

Andrew Everett responded to this view: “By 2040 I don’t think pure electric vehicles will be the biggest volume in the market, but both internal combustion engines and electric vehicles will both have an important place to play.

“They will all be improved, based on emissions, quality and cost and an even combination of a combustion engine market and electrification is more likely to be dominant.”

Mr Winnard felt that there will be a broader range of options available in the future: “People are beginning to no longer view a car as a definite utility. Rather than a ‘silver-bullet’ option there will be a portfolio of choices available to the customer, which will include shared ownership.”