The electric vehicle market is expected to grow rapidly as automakers upgrade electric vehicle (EV) designs and as EVs become more popular around the world. It’s estimated that electric vehicles are expected to account for 20% of global new car sales by 2025 and 50 percent by 2030.
But these predictions face some harsh realities. Limited driving range, slow charging rate and a lack of public charging infrastructure, for example, keep many would-be EV buyers on the sidelines. The good news is that China efforts to build charging infrastructure and recent improvements in battery technology could accelerate the mass adoption of electric vehicles.
In this article, we will discuss two key design challenges to solve EV’s charging issue.
Faster charging time
One of the persistent criticisms of electric vehicles (EVs) is that they take longer to recharge than gasoline vehicles do.
The charging time depends on the charging method, vehicle type and when the charging facility was built. Level 1 charging facilities for home garages are the slowest, taking 40 to 50 hours, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation. Level 2 facilities are used for home and commercial charging and require drivers to wait 4 to 10 hours. However, the fastest charging method is direct current fast charging (DCFC), which can charge the battery to 80% level in 20 minutes to 1 hour for commercial customers.
Despite the convenience of charging at home, consumers show a clear preference for fast charging. More than half of respondents to a 2020 Fuel Institute survey said they would be willing to pay more for DC fast charging.
Manufacturers are well aware of customers’ desire for faster charging methods and have been increasing the voltage to speed up the charging process. But this is a tricky business. Charging too fast can damage the battery, shorten its lifespan, and reduce its performance. Even worse, it will lead to catastrophic failure of the battery. More power doesn’t necessarily equate to fast charging across the board, as the charging rate slows down as the battery ages.
Charging is also affected by battery configuration, which varies widely, not only between different manufacturers, but also between different models. Battery configuration is important to automakers, who use it as a differentiator in creating EV designs ranging from sporty to strictly utilitarian.
Some manufacturers are investing in charging stations where different battery configurations can lead to different results. Tesla, for example, has built a nationwide network of Supercharger stations that can fully charge an electric car in as little as 15 minutes.
Considerable improvement on batteries
The reason why so many battery configurations exist is simple: batteries still need considerable improvement. For example, DC fast charging is not achievable for every EV, which limits the benefits of fast charging infrastructure.
It is clear that we need to experiment and innovate in batteries so that EVs can take full advantage of the rapidly growing charging infrastructure. This has been a challenge because EV batteries are difficult and expensive to manufacture. However, this is also changing.
For example, the new battery connection system uses a flexible printed circuit (FPC) board to connect the battery to the monitoring system and various ports. Thanks to this innovation, we no longer need manual wiring, which can lead to configuration errors. The setup is also less prone to degradation than discrete wires, while being lighter and less expensive to transport.
Making batteries faster and more cost-effectively will give manufacturers more time and money to innovate their designs. It will also allow them to try new ways to safely speed up the charging process and extend battery life.
Expanding charging infrastructure
Even with these constraints, the range has improved considerably. Many EVs now have ranges of 200 to 300 miles.
But the problem has not been fundamentally resolved. Drivers who live hundreds of miles from home cannot afford to charge in their garages, with few and far between charging stations along the way. This is indeed a problem for drivers. According to Deloitte’s 2022 Global Automotive Consumer Study, 14% of consumers decided not to consider buying an electric vehicle due to concerns about the lack of available charging infrastructure.
To change this, we need to invest in expanding the charging infrastructure. Tesla’s investment in and pilot program for a nationwide Supercharger network, mentioned above, is just the beginning. In order for the EV market to survive and thrive, we need to have a more adequate charging network.
New business model
The rollout of new charging stations is also likely to be accelerated by growing economic strength. For example, the Department of Energy recently issued a memorandum of understanding aimed at coordinating agencies and the private sector to build vehicle-to-everything (V2X) infrastructure. Bi-directional charging will allow mobile batteries in homes and workplaces to store power during the day and then return power to the grid during peak hours.
Carriers are also finding new ways to make money from charging stations. For example, some carriers have added digital screens to charging points that can provide customers with promotions if they shop at nearby restaurants, malls and theaters while they wait to recharge.
Other companies are working on visual chargers that can collect customer data, including demographics and the make and model of the car being charged. Others, however, may broadcast local televised sporting events or other revenue-generating entertainment.
A charging kiosk is a branding opportunity for any business, and with its unique design, businesses can put their corporate message on it. Automakers, for example, are beginning to deploy charging kiosks at their dealerships, with designs chosen to portray values such as “easy luxury” or “forward-looking technology.”
While exterior design is largely dictated by interior components, flexibility is increasing. For example, Molex can build busbars in a variety of shapes, sizes and coatings, giving the company the flexibility to meet the design needs of electric vehicles while maintaining manufacturability.
There are still many hurdles to EV battery charging and infrastructure development, but the momentum is clear, motivating manufacturers, suppliers and businesses to take their ideas to the next level.