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Lack of Consensus on Technology, Infrastructure Stalling EV Growth

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Lack of Consensus on Technology, Infrastructure Stalling EV Growth

By William Diem

WardsAuto.com, Sep 28, 2010 9:00 AM

PARIS – PriceWaterhouseCoopers analysts are among the most pessimistic in the auto industry over the future of battery-powered electric vehicles.

Most analysts see EVs holding only 3%-4% of the global market in 2020, and alliance-partners Renault SA and Nissan Motor Co. Ltd. are sticking with their forecast of 10%. But PWC foresees EVs capturing only about a 1.5% share in the next 10 years, with a best case scenario of 2.5%.

Nonetheless, the industry is going that way, says Gerard Morin, head of the automotive sector at PWC’s French office. While 95% of light vehicles produced in 2016 will be internal- combustion engines, they are getting only 80% of the research and development money, the consultancy firm says.

Adding electric propulsion, including hybrids, is the only way Europe’s auto industry can meet its goals for reduced carbon-dioxide emissions, and other regions are making similar rules.

The problem, the consultants say, is governments are not moving in the same direction to establish a recharging network. Worse, there is no agreement on the physical plug and socket to be used to recharge the vehicles.

“The rapid deployment of EVs only can happen if norms are established globally, or at least regionally, in terms of the recharging plug and infrastructures are put in place in a homogeneous manner,” says Francois Jauman, an associate at PWC.

The European auto makers’ association, the ACEA, has proposed a timeline for making a decision, hoping if Europe can agree on a standard, it might set the global parameters. But, so far, that appears unlikely.

In France, PSA Peugeot Citroen and Renault disagree on recharging. And while the Renault-Nissan Alliance will share many EV components, Nissan is not interested in the quick-change of batteries that is one of three methods Renault proposes.

Renault lacks support for quick-change battery plan.

Renault’s technology partner in Israel and Denmark, California-based Better Place, believes a quick-change system is essential. And while Renault has agreed on a plug and socket plan with some German auto makers, there is no consensus.

“The European auto makers are not on the same road,” Jauman says.

In China, the government is making EV development a priority and already has chosen recharging standards, with the goal of taking global electric-vehicle leadership.

In Japan, Fuji Heavy Industries Ltd., Nissan, Mitsubishi Motors Corp., Toyota Motor Corp. and Tokyo Electric Power have agreed on a recharging method called CHAdeMo they hope to impose as a global standard.

Mitsubishi and Nissan in September agreed to work with Spain’s electric company, Endesa SA, to install recharging stations in two regions that use the direct current CHAdeMo system.

But there are other concerns, as well.

PriceWaterhouseCoopers identifies five potential barriers to mass acceptance of electric vehicles: raw materials, recharging capacity, costs, range and infrastructure. The analysts are not worried about supplies of lithium for batteries, or about the ability of existing electric networks to handle the recharging load.

Cost is a problem, with Li-ion batteries as expensive as €10,000 ($13,300). Morin says EVs need to be driven for five to seven years for owners to see an economic payback through lower costs of usage. But surveys indicate customers want a 2-year payback.

There are solutions in sight, such as leasing programs that hide costs to consumers and mass production, which will lower costs. Range also is a problem. While 100 miles (160 km) will be satisfactory for many trips, more is better, and batteries are expected to improve to meet demand.

However, the lack of an EV infrastructure, as well as the lack of leadership and cooperation in establishing an infrastructure, is seen as a critical obstacle.

The number of actors is multiplying, with companies, universities, public authorities and electric utilities all coming up with new ideas. Yet there are few synergies.

In spite of the approaching launch of EVs for the masses this year and next, “with all these problems, we didn’t change our outlook from last year,” Morin says.



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