Electric Car: Mission with Good Prospects
Author: Joachim Geiger
An electric car is essentially just another car on four wheels. Yet it’s likely to replace the internal combustion engine in the long run. To what technologies do electric cars owe their success? And does the electric car truly have ecological potential? We take a look under the e-car hood in a short series. Follow us!
- Good to know: What is an electric car anyway? The Electromobility Act (EmoG) recognizes three types of electrically powered vehicles. The pure Battery Electric Vehicle (BEV) has a drive that processes battery-provided energy exclusively by means of an electric motor. The battery is charged from the power grid via a socket or charging station. In accordance with the law, another electric player is the Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicle (PHEV). Technically, it’s defined as a system that has at least two different types of energy converters, one of which is an electric drive machine. In practice, a conventional combustion engine and an electric motor work as a team to provide propulsion. As with the BEV, charging takes place via the power grid. The third member of the group is the fuel cell vehicle. Here, the legislator defines a drive system whose energy converters consist exclusively of fuel cells and an electric drive machine.
- Good to know: Electromobility is picking up speed. In its market report on new passenger car registrations for 2020, the German Federal Motor Transport Authority (KBA) reports a share of 13.5 percent for vehicles with electric drive systems. At 29.9 percent, small cars are by far the strongest segment in terms of new registrations. They’re followed by SUVs (19.9 percent) and the compact class (19.6 percent). The number of pure electric vehicles (BEVs) increased over the course of the year from 136,617 units (at the beginning of 2020) to 309,083 units (as of January 1, 2021); for plug-in hybrids, numbers grew from 102,175 to 279,861. The balance for passenger cars with fuel cell-hydrogen drive is rather slim – here, the KBA records an increase from 507 to 808. This brings the various types of e-cars to a total of 589,752 units, which corresponds to a share of 1.2 percent of the total vehicle fleet in Germany.
- Good to know: People who drive an electric car don’t want to go back. According to a user study by Düsseldorf-based research institute Innofact, environmental protection and sustainability are the main reasons for purchasing an all-electric vehicle. After the initial experience with the drive, however, another factor is added: driving pleasure. If they were to buy another car within the next 24 months, 85 percent of e-car drivers would again opt for a purely electrically powered car, while six percent would choose a plug-in hybrid. Five percent plan to buy a hydrogen-powered electric car, and only three percent can imagine returning to a combustion engine.
- Good to know: More renewable energies in the current electricity mix. According to the Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems ISE, the share of renewable energies in net electricity generation in Germany was 50.5 percent in 2020. The share of fossil fuels, hard coal, lignite, and gas, was 36.2 percent.
- Good to know: Electric car has a climate advantage over combustion vehicle. In a study on the climate footprint of electric cars presented in 2019, think tank Agora Verkehrswende came to the conclusion that drive energy is the most important factor influencing the climate footprint. The electric car has a climate advantage over the entire life cycle compared to the combustion vehicle, which will increase further if the expansion of renewable energies is accelerated. The think tank also expects that advances in battery development such as higher energy density, improved cell chemistry, and lower CO2 electricity during production will at least cut the battery’s ecological backpack in half.
- Good to know: Tesla and Daimler are range champions. The benchmark in terms of range has so far been set by US manufacturer Tesla. Most of the Californian carmaker’s models exceed the magic mark of 500 kilometers and all Model S variants even go well over 600 kilometers. With the Mercedes EQS luxury sedan, Daimler has now launched a technology carrier with an electric range of up to 770 kilometers according to WLTP.
- Good to know: The charging infrastructure is growing. The German Federal Network Agency currently lists around 36,000 standard charging points and 6,000 fast charging points. The German government has now introduced a fast charging law for nationwide fast charging infrastructure of pure battery electric vehicles, which stipulates the construction of 1,000 fast charging hubs by 2023. This should make fast charging at over 150 kilowatts possible.