Electric cars

“I have heard countless times against electric cars”

“So many times when I approached an auto industry executive, be it my manager or one of my clients, I was faced with ‘what part of no don’t you understand? When I proposed to invest more in electric cars. I’m happy that electric cars are finally becoming mainstream, ”says Dr Prabhakar Patil.

Dr Patil, originally from India, headed the hybrid car division at Ford in the 1990s. He spent the next decade managing LG Chem. The South Korean battery maker supplied batteries to Ford, General Motors, Renault, Volkswagen and Tesla in their early days. Today, he advises Addionics, an Israeli startup looking to improve existing batteries.

Dr Prabhakar Patil. Photo: Reuters

He says: “Until the diesel door crisis in Europe, automakers were even reluctant to invest in hybrid cars, insisting on diesel engines. This is understandable because the necessary investment is so large that managers find it difficult to justify it unless a dramatic event justifying a transformation has occurred.

How long will it take before we all drive electric cars?

“There are two famous photos taken on a Manhattan street at the turn of the 20th century. One shows many coaches and a car. The other, which was taken a decade later, shows many cars and a single coach. While the switch to electric cars will be slower than the switch from coaches to cars, the train has visibly left the station. By 2025, 12-15% of global car sales will be electric cars, and that’s just the average. In some countries, electric cars will dominate the roads. By 2030, the global average will be 30-35%. At this point, the process will speed up quickly as many automakers have announced that they will stop making and launching internal combustion cars by the end of this decade. “

Batteries are still expensive.

“The prices are going down. I remember the days when each kw / h of battery cost $ 1,000. Already in 2012, the price had fallen to $ 300. Today’s price is around $ 100. Even without technological breakthroughs, by 2025 the price will be around $ 70 per kw / hr. At this point, an electric car with a range of 320 km will be cheaper to manufacture than a gasoline car, even without tax relief. Also, because the maintenance and energy required for electric vehicles will be cheaper, there is no point in purchasing a patrol car.

People are concerned that the batteries will not last long after the warranty ends. As a result, they would be stuck with a used car that is not worth much unless an expensive new battery is installed.

“The concern is understandable because the battery currently accounts for 40% of the price of the car. However, automakers offer a long warranty, with eight years becoming almost the norm. Some even offer a 10-year warranty. Additionally, Tesla has shown that even with cars that have driven 320,000 kilometers, the battery still charges 90% of the capacity of a new battery.

It has been said that using fast charging at road stations will reduce battery life.

“If the charge is programmed to stop when the battery is 80% full, its life will not be affected. Limiting allows the battery temperature to be controlled while charging and benefits from a shorter but efficient charge. Car manufacturers, led by Porsche and Hyundai, have decided to increase the voltage from 400 to 800 volts. This helps to charge the battery with more electricity at low temperature.

“Agassi was ahead of his time”

What about the possibility of changing the batteries of electric cars, as Better Place had proposed?

“Shai Agassi was ahead of his time. Some manufacturers, like Neo, have gone for the battery change option. However, for this to work, standardization is required so that batteries are the same shape and size and manufacturers can use the same infrastructure. “

Who is leading the electric race?

“China is the leader in absolute numbers, but Europe has overtaken it in terms of penetration. The Chinese car market is the largest in the world, with 28 million cars per year compared to 13 million in Europe. However, in 2020, Europe sold 1.4 million electric and hybrid cars compared to just 1.3 million in China. Therefore, I believe that Europe will maintain its leadership in penetration. At the same time, the Chinese will continue to exert themselves because they do not want to continue spending such a large part of the national budget on the purchase of gasoline. In the United States, for example, Biden has launched a major investment in infrastructure, which is also likely to accelerate the penetration of electric cars.

China has a monopoly on cobalt, a key ingredient in the manufacture of batteries. This can help speed up penetration there.

“China’s monopoly is on cobalt processing, not mining. Cobalt is shipped from South America and is also available in large quantities in Australia. Treatment is a polluting process, which other countries do not want to carry out on their territory. But cobalt-free batteries are being introduced to the market by others.