While it may not be obvious to the average driver, the number of electric vehicles (EVs) on the roads is increasing rapidly, and correspondingly, the number of available charging stations is also growing. Worldwide, about two million electric cars were on the road in 2016, and another one million or so were sold in 2017, with China and the U.S. leading as the largest electric car markets, according to the International Energy Agency (IEA; www.iea.org). Forecasts predict astounding growth in the number of EVs by 2030.
One of the main technological enablers to the growth in EVs is the progress that has been made in batteries, both in improved performance and cost reduction. The chemical process industries (CPI) are playing a vital role in this area. For example, just last month, Cabot Corp. (www.cabotcorp.com) was selected by the U.S. Dept. of Energy to be a technology partner for the development of low-cobalt cathodes for lithium-ion batteries as part of an $80-million investment in advanced vehicle technologies research. The booming demand for lithium-ion batteries is driving innovation in mining, processing, battery chemistries and more (see “Lithium Battery Demand Drives Process Evolution,” CE April 2018). A quick search through the pages of Chemical Engineering and on our website reveals a broad spectrum of battery-related activities in the CPI.
Another driver for the growth in EVs is policy support from governments around the world in a global effort to improve our environment. In the U.S., a number of state initiatives are paving the way. In September, for example, New York’s Governor Cuomo announced that the state will use $127.7 million that was received from the 2016 Volkswagen settlement to “dramatically increase the number of electric vehicles and other ‘clean’ vehicles in the state.” And the New York Power Authority (NYPA; www.nypa.gov) has committed up to $250 million through 2025 to address key infrastructure and market gaps to accelerate the adoption of EVs. NYPA has also issued a Request for Information (RFI) to identify public and private partnerships to help in this effort.
In addition to government support, automobile manufacturers and electricity suppliers are joining forces in support of EVs. Last month, a nonprofit organization called Veloz (www.veloz.org) was formed in California with the aim of accelerating the shift to EVs. Veloz is an alliance among representatives from key car manufacturers, providers of charging stations for EVs, electricity providers and others.
Roadways of the future
In addition to advances in batteries and other vehicle components, work on innovative charging technologies is progressing. Last month, Momentum Dynamics Corp. (www.momentumdynamics.com) announced that it will deliver wireless charging stations for electric transit buses in Massachusetts. The systems can be installed in the roadway to provide on-route charging.
With all of these advances, I expect our roadways and vehicles will look very different in a relatively short time. And innovative engineers are helping to pave the way for these changes.
Dorothy Lozowski, Editorial Director
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