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Wednesday, 14 April 2021

Carmakers struggle to charge up EV future

We have too many things to charge, and that's causing a bottleneck for electric vehicle makers: Battery-powered electric vehicles are expected to reach milestones in the next couple of years that will fuel their mainstream adoption. Yes, research shows that EVs will inevitably get cheaper, better and more diverse, but battery issues and a spotty charging infrastructure still pose a major challenge to mass-market EV adoption (watch, runtime: 19:50).

The technology isn’t yet at a tipping point: Major electric automakers are getting closer to the USD 36k price tag and the expected driving range of 291 miles that would ensure the mass proliferation of EVs among consumers, but reaching the 31 minute charging time that market research says consumers want is the largest barrier to its mass-market adoption. Tesla’s Model S — which currently has the best charging time of EV models on the market — can barely charge its battery to 83% in half an hour, and this is in ideal conditions using one of Tesla’s supercharging stations.

The industry doesn’t just need faster chargers, it also needs more of them, which is a big stumbling block due to the enormous cost of fast EV chargers. Tesla needs to build an additional 31.3k supercharging stations in the US, which would cost the company USD 7.8 bn, or almost 10x their total annual profits from 2020. But the infrastructure is still not ready to underpin such a breakthrough, and continues to undermine EV makers’ ability to meet the mass-market demand.

And the fundamental structure of electric grids is getting in the way: Alternating Current (AC) power is the standard for most electricity grids, but EV charges need a direct current (DC) supply to power up. This requires the integration of high wattage AC to DC power inverters to allow EVs to charge their batteries, which is both costly (around USD 58k) and about the size of a large fridge, hampering owners’ ability to charge their EVs rapidly at home.

Egypt’s journey towards an EV-powered future has its own hurdles — not least of which is the charging problem: The government plans to establish 3k EV charging stations nationwide within three years, in addition to establishing electric vehicle parking and charging stations in shopping center garages and the Tahrir and Ramsis garages. Our friends at Infinity-E have also set up 130 charging points across the country, and other multinationals — including Schneider Electric — are also looking to get in on the action. The good news for Egypt is that the costs of charging EVs (and owning them as a whole) are expected to drop over the years, once a critical mass of users is reached. Schneider Electric’s Regional President of Egypt, North East Africa, and the Levant, Walid Sheta previously told us that the cost of battery storage alone has already dropped 80% in the past 10 years.

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