Australia finds itself in a unique position when it comes to electric vehicle policy, infrastructure and adoption.
If other countries are ahead in this journey, we have an opportunity to learn from other countries’ successes and failures. While policy may be one of the most critical factors in ensuring a successful transition to electric vehicles, innovation and technology are equally important.
If we step back and look for clues in other markets, there are four global technology trends that will play a role in the future of electric vehicles in Australia.
Smart charging is an intelligent form of electric vehicle charging that optimizes energy consumption. By enabling communication between the vehicle and the grid, charging can be automated to take advantage of cheaper electricity bills. It can also be used to limit charging to minimise stress on the grid.
In Europe, high energy prices have led to the rapid development of smart charging technology. Ohme is a UK company that has taken smart charging a step further, offering the option to charge when the grid’s renewable energy generation is at its highest – helping to reduce the impact of carbon dioxide.
In Australia, companies including AGL and Origin are growing rapidly. As part of the trial, AGL installed 200 EV smart chargers in homes in March. Recently, Origin agreed to provide 100% renewable energy for an ARENA-funded project to trial roadside charging for homes without parking facilities.
Domestic demand for the technology is expected to grow if more electric vehicles are integrated into the grid. Over time, it will become the standard charging technology for homes and businesses.
Beyond self-driving cars, EV companies and manufacturers are still finding ways to use AI effectively, but early research points to applications that could prove useful here.
Research by the US company Volta is using machine learning to determine the best places to place charging stations. The technology analyzes data, including EV adoption rates, demand and expected utilization rates within the region. It also analyzes demographic data to predict infrastructure needs.
Researchers at Idaho National Laboratory are using machine learning to reduce the charging time of electric vehicles. Scientists have discovered how to create new charging protocols that allow lithium-ion batteries to be charged to 90 percent in ten minutes. These smart technologies will become increasingly important as the Australian government rolls out its first national electric vehicle strategy.
Home and Business Integration
If more electric vehicles come online in Australia, both households and businesses – especially those offering public charging stations – will have increased demand for electricity. This will require the integration of renewable energy to minimise energy costs and CO2 emissions, and increase energy supply.
Integrating solar panels into the charge point power source is one option. Another approach is to integrate battery storage.
We’ll likely see both launch in Australia. In the U.S., EVgo pioneered the use of batteries and smart energy management to provide stable EV charging. Electricity is fed into batteries from grid off-peak hours or from on-site renewable energy, and then released to charge electric vehicles during peak hours.
Australian companies are making moves in this area. E.g. Chargefox’s ultra-fast sites are backed by 100% green electricity, which also meets the growing need for EV owners to reduce their emissions footprint. In many cases, they also add solar power and batteries on-site to recharge from the sun.
Integration makes clear business sense for Australian households and companies, and consumer expectations for using clean energy to charge vehicles are expected to rise.
Battery and Vehicle Design
Lithium-ion batteries are not very efficient, and better ways to power electric vehicles are being researched. The battery pack battery is an innovation we can expect to hear more about.
Battery to battery pack refers to the direct integration of the battery into the battery pack. Instead of placing flat battery packs or battery modules on the bottom of the car chassis, they can be integrated into it.
This design reduces the weight of the vehicle and allows for increased cabin space. The benefits are faster charging, less frequent charging, and increased driving range.
Chinese battery company CATL claims its latest version of the technology can deliver 13 percent more power than Tesla’s latest battery. Leapmotor has developed a battery-to-chassis (CTC) battery technology. CTC technology uses the bottom of the car as a battery compartment, which is then integrated into the frame of the vehicle.
Solid-state batteries are another upcoming innovation. With the potential to reduce the carbon footprint of EV batteries by as much as 39 percent, they are expected to start production in 2025, with OEM testing imminent.
eyes of the future
Australia has just started its electric car journey. Policy and EV supply are two hurdles that need to be addressed first, but by focusing on global innovation, we can work towards a smart transformation.
Paul Sinclair is a telematics solutions consultant for RACV’s mobile technology company, Intelematics.