As battery technology makes major strides forward and fossil fuel prices soar, electric vehicles have shifted from being a niche product to a viable answer to the transportation needs of today and the future. However, researchers are sounding the alarm bell that if the attention of experts doesn’t stretch beyond trying to improve EV batteries alone, it may be hard for electric vehicles to serve humanity’s transportation needs as reliably as the combustion engine has done for a century.
David Klink, an EV researcher based at Monash University in Australia, says the current attention placed upon improving battery tech is off the mark if the end goal is to make electric vehicles resilient and viable to the same degree as internal combustion engine vehicles have been in the past. Klink says ICE vehicles have been undergoing incremental and radical refinements for the past 100 years. Those refinements have worked to make these vehicles stand the test of time up this point when the need to tame runaway climate change has triggered a shift away from fossil fuel vehicles.
In comparison, electric vehicles are barely a decade old and can hardly be described as undergoing significant refinements in their technology. While the EV battery is important and Klink doesn’t discount the necessity of the improvements being made on that front, he is quick to add that the motor as well as the drivetrain are also vital components whose refinement can bring major improvements to the efficiency of electric vehicles.
Klink is heading a lab at Monash University called PEARL. This lab is focused on looking for ways through which greater efficiencies can be harnessed in EVs. For example, the team is looking at how smaller and lighter controllers can reduce cooling requirements inside EV powertrains just as fixing sources of internal power loss can also increase the battery range of the vehicles. Innovations to tap expended energy and return it to the EV’s battery would also help to drive efficiency. Some of these innovations are already evident in some EV models, and they just need further refinement.
The lab also wants to find a way to wrap carbon fiber around EV motors so that those motors can weigh less and spin a whole lot more. 3D printing is also on the cards for motor coils in a bid to limit heat generation.
The PEARL lab head also foresees a future in which battery electric vehicles will coexist alongside hydrogen fuel vehicles. This is because each of these systems has its own strengths and applications. The split between hydrogen-fueled vehicles and BEVs is likely to follow along the same pattern as the existing complementary split between petrol and diesel-powered internal combustion engine vehicles.
As more refinements are featured in the EVs sold by different manufacturers such as ElectraMeccanica Vehicles Corp. Ltd. (NASDAQ: SOLO), the motoring public will gradually let go of its apprehensions about these vehicles and their adoption will accelerate.
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