Plugged In: Explaining Electric & Hybrid Vehicle Tech

As you would know, I have been touring Europe for the past few weeks and on my travels have taken the opportunity, when presented, to research the state of the electric vehicle industry in different countries. The final leg of my trip took me to Germany and Berlin.

The city certainly has had a tough time of it over the past 80 years. 70 percent of Berlin was wiped out in World War II and before recovery could be completed the wall that would divide the east and west sides of the city went up, splitting things in two for nearly 30 years.

Things have, of course, improved considerably since 1989 when the Berlin Wall was demolished and Germany itself, and the major car manufacturers based there, are at the epicentre of the electric vehicle revolution.

Not too long ago, Germany set in force a program to lead the market in electric mobility by 2020 and had planned to have one million EVs on the road by the end of that year. This date has been pushed back to 2022, but it is still ambitious and a worthy target at which to shoot.

As of December 2018, the official statistics state that 196,750 plug-in electric cars have been registered, so they have a fair way to go to meet their target, but in my opinion it has always been the decade following 2020 in which we will see the biggest shake up in transportation of the last hundred years.
While in Germany, I was able to meet and talk to Baraja Alshroukh, Production Manager at Audi City Berlin.

During our conversation, Baraja outlined the Audi program for the coming decade, and that strategy includes using electric and hydrogen power. While it comes as no surprise that manufacturers will look at all energy source options, the cost of hydrogen production and the lack of infrastructure regarding its storage and delivery centres means that there is some way to go yet to see it used as a mass transport option. It is, however, very good to see it being including in the company’s strategy.

Batteries, on the other hand, are getting better and the infrastructure to support their use is improving all the time. They are becoming cheaper while also being able to store more energy and charging infrastructure is growing all the time – if we look at the UK as an example, there are currently 15,000 charge points at more than 9000 locations, and that number is increasing every day.

Baraja mentioned that in Germany they are looking to have one million rapid charger points available at service centre and service stations. DC ‘ultra-chargers’ – chargers that can recharge a battery to 80 per cent in 10 minutes and are rated at 350kW – will likely be the norm.

Audi says it plans for ultra-chargers to be at service centres throughout Berlin but out in the city there are plans for more standard fast chargers to be fitted into existing infrastructure such as lamp posts. Berlin has reported that more than a thousand such devices have been installed so far.

A quick note about the Audi e-tron. It has a price tag of $170,000 and is claimed to have a range of 300-350km per charge. The next generation of the SUV will, Audi says, achieve 400-500km per charge. I’ll confess to sometimes being a little sceptical about distance claims because range does depend on driving habits, climate temperature, and landscape conditions, but it should, all things considered, be fairly accurate.

The e-tron is, of course, a premium product and likely out of the reach of most of us. However, there is little doubt that the cost of EVs will tumble in the coming years as more models, with better batteries and performance, begin their roll out.

And on that note of acknowledging that the future is electric, it would be remiss of me not to highlight that the MTA Institute is a leader in Hybrid and Electric Vehicle training and in the next few months will begin to offer advanced training in EV technology.

THANKS AND FAREWELL

I have spent the last three months in Europe enjoying a holiday, but also studying and researching the electric vehicle industry. I have been fortunate to have met a lot of people who want to help to achieve my goal of putting Australia at the forefront of electric vehicle technology, and it is because of this that I will be moving on from my role with the MTA Institute to new challenges.

I wish to take this opportunity to thank the people that have helped to get the MTA Institute where it is today – a leading educational institute committed to helping teach the next generation of automotive industry professional.

Remember, electric vehicles are not the future – they are here now! – and by the end of the next decade 65 percent of vehicles on the road will be electrified in some form. So, keep studying!

I wish you well, and thanks to all of you.

Paul Tugwell.

9 Oct 2019

Original source: Motor Trader E-Magazine (Oct 2019)