Future is coming fast for commercial electric vehicles

Reports shine light on what might be in store for electric and energy independent vehicles

Future is coming fast for commercial electric vehicles
Dr Peter Harrop examines the future of electric vehicles.


The future of commercial electric vehicles (EVs) and their manufacturing are examined in two recent international research reports by UK market research firm IDTechEx.

With electric propulsion already making inroads with vans and forklifts, the next step is commercial vehicles that charge themselves, according to IDTechEx chairman Dr Peter Harrop in Energy Independent Vehicles 2016-2026 co-authored with Raghu Das.

Dubbing the concept the a megatrend in the making, the authors says energy-independent vehicles (EIVs) will create all their electricity from ambient energy such as light, wind, waves and tide, where necessary storing it until needed.

The report also notes how such energy independent vehicles (EIVs) will often also be navigationally autonomous and be pure electric rather than hybrid, relying on technologies such as energy harvesting shock absorbers, regenerative active suspension and regenerative braking.

"The logical extension of these one dimensional movement harvesters is to devices converting movement in all three dimensions into electricity: Caterpillar and Witt Energy have done that experimentally already," the authors say.

"There is a progression from today’s EVs to all this, dynamic energy harvesting being one transition on the way to full EIVs."

The report follows an earlier one on EVs.

The commercial market is where EV manufacturers and component makers should focus their efforts, according to Electric Vehicle Forecasts, Trends and Opportunities 2015-2025: Hybrid and pure electric vehicles for land, water and air.

 "Those selling components for electric vehicles and those wishing to make the vehicles themselves must seek where the majority of the money is spent and will be spent," IDTechEx researchers say.

"That must lead them to industrial and commercial electric vehicles because today these represent 60% of the value of the electric vehicle market.

"Indeed, this sector is set to grow 4.2 times in the next decade."

Transport and logistics is already some way down the path, particularly with forklifts.

However, the report argues that with forklifts a mature market, growth will be found elsewhere, particularly as almost all earthmoving and lifting vehicles use the conventional internal combustion engine.

Differing dynamics are seen in private sector and government spheres.

Companies are increasingly lured by hybrid electric versions that reduce cost of ownership and exposure to price hikes with fossil fuels while offering more power from stationary, ability to supply electricity to other equipment and other benefits including less noise and pollution.

On the other hand, airports, often government owned or funded, are under great pressure to finish converting their Ground Support Equipment GSE to pure electric versions both on and off the tarmac partly using federal grants.

Yet another industrial trend is for use of electric vehicles to replace slow and often dangerous manual procedures.

"Buses, trucks, taxis and the other light industrial and commercial vehicles are going electric for similar reasons but we must add the desire of national and local governments, who buy many of them, to go green, even where there is no payback.

"However, the size and growth of the industrial and commercial sector is less dependent on government funding and tax breaks than the more fragile market for electric cars, particularly pure electric ones.

"Excitingly, most of the electric vehicle technologies are changing and improving hugely and innovation often comes here before it is seen in the more publicised electric vehicle sectors such as cars.

"Asynchronous traction motors were first widely used on forklifts: their benefits of longer life, less maintenance, low cost and freedom from magnet price hikes and heating problems are only later being seen in a few cars.

"Ultracapacitors otherwise known as supercapacitors permit very fast charging of buses whether by the new Level 3 charging stations or regenerative braking and they release huge surges of power when the bus is full and starting on a hill.

"Gas turbine range extenders have been on some buses for 12 years but they are only now being planned for cars. Fuel cells will be viable in fleets where the expensive hydrogen distribution is manageable - not for cars across the world.

"Energy harvesting shock absorbers about to hit the market will be very viable on buses and trucks where they can put up to 12 kW into the battery whereas such devices on cars will take longer to prove."

The full reports can be bought here.


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