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Original Report from IDTechEX


Volvo Cars has been in the news recently in relation to their announcement this Wednesday on their decision to leave the internal combustion engine only based automotive industry.   The Chinese-European company announced that from 2019 all their vehicles will be either pure electric or hybrid electric. In this way it has been argued the company is making a bold move towards electrification of vehicles. Volvo to capture potential market in China The company will launch a pure electric car in 2019 and that is a great move indeed, considering that the company has been owned by Chinese vehicle manufacturer Geely since 2010.

The Chinese electric vehicle market has been booming in the last years reaching a sales level of 350,000 plug-in EVs (pure electric and plug-in hybrid electric cars) in 2016. The Chinese plug-in EV market grew 300% from 2014 to 2015 but cooled down to 69% growth in 2016 vs 2015, still pushing a triple digit growth in pure electric cars. The Chinese government has announced that in 2017 sales will reach 800,000 NEV  (new energy vehicles including passenger and bus, both pure electric and hybrid electric).   IDTechEx believes that China will not make it to that level, but will definitely push the figures close to that mark.

We think that the global plug-in electric vehicle market will surpass 1 million sales per year for the first time at the end of 2017.   Until recently this market has been mostly dominated by Chinese manufacturers, being BYD the best seller of electric cars in the country with 100,000 plug-in EVs sold in 2016. Tesla polemically could not penetrate the market but in 2016 sold around 11,000 units.  

Whilst the owner of Volvo Cars, Geely, is active in China selling around 17,000 pure electric cars per year, it might be that Volvo has now realized that they can leverage on their brand in the Chinese premium market to catch the huge growth opportunity in China and need to participate as soon as possible.   More information on market forecasts can be found in IDTechEx Research’s report Electric Vehicles 2017-2037: Forecasts, Analysis and Opportunities.

Volvo 4 Sedan volvo-40-series-concepts-16-1080x720

Is Volvo Cars’ move a revolutionary one? Not really, as technically speaking the company is not entirely making a bold movement to only 100% “strong” hybrid electric and pure electric vehicles.   This is because the company will launch in 2019 a “mild” hybrid electric vehicles,this is also known in the industry as 48V hybrid electric platform. This is a stepping stone between traditional internal combustion engine companies and “strong” hybrid electric vehicles such as the Toyota Prius.

The 48V platform is being adopted by many automotive manufacturers, not only Volvo. OEMs like Continental developed this platform to provide a “bridge technology”  towards full EVs for automotive manufacturers, providing 6 to 20 kW electric assistance. By comparison, a full hybrid system typically offers 20-40-kW and a plug-in hybrid, 50-90 kW.   Volvo had already launched the first diesel plug-in hybrid in 2012 and the company will launch a new plug-in hybrid platform in 2018 in addition to the launch of the 2019 pure electric vehicle platform.   Going only pure electric and plug-in hybrid electric would be really revolutionary.   See IDTechEx Research’s report Mild Hybrid 48V Vehicles 2017-2027 for more information on 48V platforms.

Tesla Model 3hqdefaultAdditional Information: The Tesla Model ‘S’

The Tesla Model S is a full-sized all-electric five-door, luxury liftback, produced by Tesla, Inc., and introduced on 22 June 2012.[14] It scored a perfect 5.0 NHTSA automobile safety rating.[15] The EPA official rangefor the 2017 Model S 100D,[16] which is equipped with a 100 kWh(360 MJbattery packis 335 miles (539 km), higher than any other electric car.[17] The EPA rated the 2017 90D Model S’s energy consumption at 200.9 watt-hours per kilometer (32.33 kWh/100 mi or 20.09 kWh/100 km) for a combined fuel economy of 104 miles per gallon gasoline equivalent (2.26 L/100 km or 125 mpg‑imp).[18] In 2016, Tesla updated the design of the Model S to closely match that of the Model X. As of July 2017, the following versions are available: 75, 75D, 90D, 100D and P100D.[19]


Tesla Battery Pack 2014-08-19-19.10.42-1280


For more specific details on the updated Tesla Battery Pack go here:

Teardown of new 100 kWh Tesla battery pack reveals new cooling system and 102 kWh capacity




Volvo 3 Truck imagesA radical move would be to drop diesel engines On-road diesel vehiclesproduce approximately 20% of global anthropogenic emissions of nitrogen oxides (NOx), which are key PM and ozone precursors.   Diesel emission pollutions has been confirmed as a major source of premature mortality. A recent study published in Nature  by the Environmental Health Analytics LLC and the International Council on Clean Transportation both based in Washington, USA found that whilst regulated NOx emission limits in leading markets have been progressively tightened, current diesel vehicles emit far more NOx under real-world operating conditions than during laboratory certification testing. The authors show that across 11 markets, representing approximately 80% of global diesel vehicle sales, nearly one-third of on-road heavy-duty diesel vehicle emissions and over half of on-road light-duty diesel vehicle emissions are in excess of certification limits.   These emissions were associated with about 38,000 premature deaths globally in 2015.

The authors conclude that more stringent standards are required in order to avoid 174,000 premature deaths globally in 2040.   Diesel cars account for over 50 percent of all new registrations in Europe, making the region by far the world’s biggest diesel market. Volvo Cars, sells 90 percent of its XC 90 off roaders in Europe with diesel engines.   “From today’s perspective, we will not develop any more new generation diesel engines,” said Volvo’s CEO Hakan Samuelsson told German’s Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung in an interview .   Samuelsson declared  that Volvo Cars aims to sell 1 million “electrified” cars by 2025, nevertheless he refused to be drawn on when Volvo Cars will sell its last diesel powered vehicle.

Goldman Sachs believes  a regulatory crackdown could add 300 euros ($325) per engine to diesel costs that are already some 1,300 euros above their petrol-powered equivalents, as carmakers race to bring real NOx emissions closer to their much lower test-bench scores. Scandinavia’s vision of a CO2-free economy Volvo’s decision should also be placed in a wider context regarding the transition to an environmentally sustainable economy.

Scandinavia’s paper industry has made great strides towards marketing itself as green and eco-aware in the last decades, so much so that countries like Norway have tripled the amount of standing wood in forests compared to 100 years ago. Energy supply is also an overarching theme, with each one of the four Scandinavian countries producing more than 39% of their electricity with renewables (Finland 39%, Sweden and Denmark 56%, Norway 98%). Finally, strong public incentives have made it possible for electric vehicles to become a mainstream market in Norway, where in 2016, one in four cars sold was a plug-in electric, either pure or hybrid.   It is then of no surprise that the first battery Gigafactory announcement in Europe came from a Swedish company called Northvolt (previously SGF Energy).

The Li-ion factory will open in 4 steps, with each one adding 8 GWh of production capacity. This gives a projected final output of 32 GWh, but if higher energy cathodes are developed, 40-50 GWh capacity can be envisioned. A site has not yet been identified, but the choice has been narrowed down to 6-7 locations, all of them in the Scandinavian region. The main reasons to establish a Gigafactory there boil down to the low electricity prices (hydroelectric energy), presence of relevant mining sites, and the presence of local know-how from the pulp & paper industry.   After a long search for a European champion in the EV market, it finally seems that Sweden has accepted to take the lead, and compete with giants like BYD and rising stars like Tesla. This could be the wake-up call for many other European car makers, which have been rather bearish towards EV acceptance despite many bold announcements.   To learn more about IDTechEx’s view on electric vehicles, and our projections up to 2037, please check our master report on the subject .

Top image source: Volvo Cars Learn more at the next leading event on the topic: Business and Technology Insight Forum. Korea 2017 on 19 – 21 Sep 2017 in Seoul, Korea hosted by IDTechEx.

More Information on ‘NextGen Magnum SuperCap-Battery Pack’ that could propel a Tesla Model ‘S’ 90% farther (almost double) and cost 1/2 (one-half) as much: Video

Fuel cell electric vehicles have a long way to go before they can compete with their battery EV cousins, and energy storage is a key sticking point when the fuel is hydrogen. Hydrogen is light, plentiful, and fabulously energy dense, but energy storage in a personal mobility unit racing down a crowded highway is a different kind of chicken. Safety, cost, and performance are critical sticking points, and a research team at Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory is on to a solution for at least one of those.

hydrogen energy storage with graphene

Energy Storage Challenges For Hydrogen Fuel Cell EVs

The US Energy Department’s 2015 annual report provides a birds-eye view of the array of energy storage solutions that are emerging for hydrogen fuel cells, including advancements in hydrogen tank technology as well as solids-based storage.

Despite the progress, according to the Energy Department, challenges still remain for stationary and portable fuel cells in terms of raising the energy storage density, and there are “significant challenges” for fuel cell EVs. The problem is this:

Hydrogen has the highest energy per mass of any fuel; however, its low ambient temperature density results in a low energy per unit volume, therefore requiring the development of advanced storage methods that have potential for higher energy density.

The Energy Department has set a goal of 2020 for achieving verifiable hydrogen storage systems for light duty fuel cell EVs that meet the driving public’s thirst for range, comfort, refueling convenience, and performance. Here are the targets:

1.8 kWh/kg system (5.5 wt.% hydrogen)

1.3 kWh/L system (0.040 kg hydrogen/L)

$10/kWh ($333/kg stored hydrogen capacity)

Fuel cell EVs are already leaking into the transportation scene, particularly in California, Japan, and the European Union, notably including Wales.

However, the Energy Department is already looking beyond the current state of on-road technology to meet its 2020 goal. According to the agency, the 300-mile range is being met by using compressed gas, high pressure energy storage technology, and the problem is that competing technology on the market today — primarily gasmobiles and hybrids — already exceeds that range.

To compete for consumers on the open market, the agency is pursuing a near-term goal of improving compressed gas storage, primarily by deploying fiber reinforced composites that enable 700 bar pressure.

The long term goal consists of two pathways. One is to improve “cold” compressed gas energy storage technology, and the other is to go a different route altogether and store hydrogen within materials such as sorbents, chemical hydrogen storage materials, and metal hydrides.

The Berkeley Lab Energy Storage Solution

Where were we? Oh right, Berkeley Lab. Berkeley Lab has been tackling the metal hydride pathway.

Metal hydrides are compounds that consist of a transition metal bonded to hydrogen. They are believed to be the most “technologically relevant” class of materials for storing hydrogen, partly due to the broad range of applications.

That’s the theory. The problem is that when it comes to real world performance, metal hydrides are highly sensitive to contamination and they degrade somewhat rapidly unless properly shielded.

The Berkeley Lab energy storage solution consists of a graphene “filter” encasing nanocrystals of magnesium. With the addition of the graphene layer, the magnesium crystals act as a sort of sponge for absorbing hydrogen, providing both safety and compactness without causing performance issues:

The graphene shields the nanocrystals from oxygen and moisture and contaminants, while tiny, natural holes allow the smaller hydrogen molecules to pass through. This filtering process overcomes common problems degrading the performance of metal hydrides for hydrogen storage.

Berkeley Lab has provided this photo to show off how stable the crystals are when exposed to air (for scale, the bottle cap is about the size of a thumbnail):

graphene hydrogen energy storage

At one atom thick (yes, one atom), graphene is known to be an incredibly finicky material to work with. It is extremely difficult to synthesize it without defects, but that’s not a problem for this energy storage solution. The defects are actually desirable in this case. The tiny gaps enable molecules of hydrogen gas to wriggle through, but oxygen, water, and other contaminants are too large to penetrate the shield.

The new energy formula also solves another key challenge for metal hydrides. They tend to take in and dispense hydrogen at a relatively slow pace, but the Berkeley Lab solution has sped up the intake-outflow cycle significantly. That effect is attributed to the nanoscale size of the graphene-shielded crystals, which provide a greater surface area.

Energy Department Gets The Last Word?

We’ve been having a lively debate about fuel cell electric EVs over here at CleanTechnica, so let’s hear from the Berkeley Lab team:

A potential advantage for hydrogen-fuel-cell vehicles, in addition to their reduced environmental impact over standard-fuel vehicles, is the high specific energy of hydrogen, which means that hydrogen fuel cells can potentially take up less weight than other battery systems and fuel sources while yielding more electrical energy.

However, the team also makes it clear that:

More R&D is needed to realize higher-capacity hydrogen storage for long-range vehicle applications that exceed the performance of existing electric-vehicle batteries…

Among other issues, the next step for a sustainable fuel cell EV future is to develop sustainable and renewable sources for hydrogen fuel. Currently the main source of hydrogen is natural gas, which puts fuel cell EVs in the same boat as battery EVs that draw electricity from a coal or natural gas-fired grid.

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