Energy

Ten new technologies to electrify the future: Electrical vehicles

Cyrill Million Jan 13, 2023

electrical vehicle, nexans

Like other sectors, the automotive industry must evolve to meet future economic and ecological challenges. Currently, thermal vehicles are responsible for nearly 10% of CO2 emissions worldwide. In developed economy such like in France, this figure rises to 15%. The electrification of these vehicles is therefore a key issue in the transition to a low-carbon economy.

According to the World Energy Outlook 2022 published by the International Energy Agency, the increase in global electricity demand between now and 2030 is equivalent to adding the current electricity consumption of the United States and the European Union! Such an increase in electricity is in the range of +5,900 to +7,000 TWh depending on the scenario.

The main contributors to such an increase are:

  • electrical transport in advanced economies,
  • population growth and demand for cooling in emerging markets and developing economies.

Electric mobility is an important stake and a major driver of additional electricity demand. However, this objective should not only focus on the development and evolution of vehicles by manufacturers but also take into account the infrastructure. It is important to focus on the need for recharging infrastructure and innovative technologies dedicated to electric vehicles (EVs), which should enable users of this type of vehicle to travel anywhere, at any time, with complete peace of mind and ensure the functioning of the electrical system.

Electrical vehicles: a major change coming required by energy transition

The public authorities in several countries are multiplying initiatives to foster this evolution of mobility solutions. Among the actions in force or under study, a growing number of countries have pledged to phase out internal combustion engines or have ambitious vehicle electrification targets for the coming decades. In Europe, the objective set is to stop the sales of new combustion-powered vehicles by 2035.

The IEA Announced Pledges Scenario (APS), which is based on existing climate-focused policy pledges and announcements, presumes that EVs represent more than 30% of vehicles sold globally in 2030 across all modes (excluding two- and three-wheelers). While impressive, this is still well short of the 60% share needed by 2030 to align with a trajectory that would reach net zero CO2 emissions by 2050.

By 2025, it is estimated that the electric vehicle market in France will be worth 12 billion euros, including 8 to 11 billion euros in sales of electric vehicles, 150 to 250 million euros for charging stations and 300 to 600 million euros for the sale of electricity needed for charging.

The fast deployment of EVCS, key condition of the development of electric vehicles

This transition to electric vehicles requires three main conditions to reach the target ambition:

  • The development of new & attractive vehicles, with the following issues at stake: battery capacity vs. the energy density of a litre of oil, the availability of mineral resources to fully renew the world's car fleet (due to the scarcity of rare metals), the challenge of the environmental footprint of an electric vehicle (beyond the sole issue of metal scarcity).
  • The availability of energy where and when the vehicles will be charged. While the impact of an EV on the electricity grid is very limited at the domestic level, the 22 million electric and hybrid vehicles expected in 2025 in Europe will significantly increase the overall demand for electricity (from 4,860 in 2020 to 47,000 GWh in 2025).That will require both grid reinforcement, more energy and moreover a smarter way to manage load to balance usage with energy availability.
  • Finally the deployment of a dense network of charging stations (EVCS) to provide a solution to the consumer in mobility.

Basically the EVCS network will be efficient if it is deployed as a global ecosystem fitting with consumer needs in four main applications:

  • Charging “at home” (90% of EV loads are today done at home, individual or collective);
  • Charging “at work” (tertiary or institutional buildings, factories,..);
  • Charging “in the city” (shops, restaurants, public parking,…);
  • Charging “in journey” (highways).

Each of this application obeys to its own constraints regarding economical cost of deployment, expected time for loading, competition with other vehicles “in queue”, energy billing to the user… Whatever the type of charging solution to be offered (in AC for the majority of needs or DC for fast charging), it will impose significant constraints on the electrical network that needs to be anticipated.

This large and complex ecosystem to deploy in a decade will require major investments but also strong innovation for a maximized installation scalability and smart energy management.

Partnerships and Innovation are key

To illustrate this challenge of innovation, we can highlight for instance 2 projects involving Nexans R&D teams in partnership with Enedis in the last years:

  • “BIENVENU” project: How to propose scalable and economical Charging infrastructure in collective housing buildings designed far before Electrical Vehicle rising (only 2% equipped in 2022 in France, for ~45% of population living in collective housing) ?
  • “SMAC” project: How to create technological conditions to allow Vehicule-to-Grid (V2G) to inject the energy stored in EV batteries in the grid during the peaks of energy consumption or to compensate intermittent energy production from renewable sources?

Nexans also propose with its partner e-Novates a complete range of AC charging stations from 7 to 22 kW designed to fit various indoor/outdoor applications for Business or Public customers.

This product range will be entirely renewed in 2023 with new models fast to install and compatible with the new standard ISO 15 118. In parallel will be introduced the new version of Nexans scalable cabling solution “NEOBUS”, designed in partnership with MICHAUD, dedicated to underground parking with specific fire safety risk integrated.

Nexans is therefore a key player in this evolution of the electric vehicle market. The new solutions proposed will greatly facilitate the daily life of users, both in the private sector and on public roads, and will improve the attractiveness of these new vehicles.

It is clear that the elements of differentiation are the key factors of innovation: 

  • for vehicles, overall design, autonomy linked to battery power and efficiency, and reliability over time are differentiating factors;
  • for recharging infrastructure equipment, we believe that the main differentiation criteria are not linked to hardware but to the digital layer which allows monitoring of the charging stations, interfaced with payment methods, and applications which improve the customer experience. The second area of differentiation is the ease and speed of installation of the kiosks and their connection to the electrical network.

To limit the impact on the environment

The deployment of electric vehicles and their growing share in mobility will have a significant impact on reducing global warming, provided of course that decarbonised electricity is produced and used. However, it is also important to consider the impact of electric vehicles on resources, particularly copper. In 2020, production was 21 Mt for an almost equivalent consumption. Demand will accelerate due to electrification and particularly electric mobility.

In concrete terms, a traditional thermal vehicle requires 20kg of copper, a hybrid vehicle needs twice that amount, 40kg, and an electric vehicle requires 80kg of copper on average, i.e. 4 times more than a conventional vehicle (this amount can reach up to 200kg for certain models like Tesla).

20kg

of copper for a thermal vehicle

40kg

of copper for a hybrid vehicle

80kg

of copper for an electric vehicle

To this consequent increase in metal dedicated to electric vehicles, we can add the copper needed for the recharging infrastructure, the AC and DC recharging equipment, but also the connection system to the electrical network. A conservative estimate is that 3Mt of metal will be needed for this transition.

To limit the impact of the electricity transition on copper resources, it is necessary to accompany the change by a copper recycling chain and the establishment of a circular economy ecosystem.

Buckle up! Frédéric Lesur is about to take us on a test drive with Thibault Dupont. Electric vehicles and charging stations, their build, and the future challenges that lie down the road - it's all in this episode of What's Watt.

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About the author

Cyrill Million

Cyrill Million is in charge of Electric Vehicle Charging Solutions department, part of Nexans Power Cable & Accessories BU. Cyrill joined Nexans in 2021 as Marketing & Strategy manager with mission to amplify Nexans position on energy transition markets and to promote innovative solutions to Nexans key partners. He holds a Master of Aeronautics Engineering from Supaero, France.

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