China continuing to lead EV charge

By Myles McCormick
Published: Monday, 03 October 2016

China still leading EV demand with on demand movement fleet a key driver. Europe, meanwhile, is leading in EV standardisation.

China remains the biggest influence behind the so-called electric vehicle (EV) revolution, with on demand movement (ODM) fleet sales set to be a prime driver going forward, delegates at the 2016 Battery Show in Michigan, US, heard.

Demand, supply and government factors, alongside the sheer scale of the country, continue to converge to put China at the forefront of the growth seen in the EV market.

But ODM for EVs is likely to play a big role in driving the market in coming years, with companies such as Didi Chuxing, the new owner of Uber Technologies Inc. in China, already heavily experimenting with EV usage.

"Fleet sales will dominate neighbourhood EV (NEV) sales in the next 20 years," Bill Russo, managing director of China-based advisory firm Gao Feng, told delegates, adding that "China is poised to revolutionise the automotive industry".

China – the largest automotive market globally since 2009 – saw a rapid growth in overall vehicle sales in the early noughties, culminating in a subsidy-fuelled surge in 2009/10. Growth in 2015 was at 4.6% year-on-year (y-o-y), for overall sales of 24.6m units. 250m cars are expected to be on the road in China by 2020.

But driven by a desire to detoxify the environments of its major cities – five out of 10 of the world’s most polluted cities are in China – and reduce its reliance on oil – two thirds of consumption is accounted for by imports – the government is pushing for an emphasis on EVs, targeting 5m EVs on the road by 2020, Russo said.

A total of 331,000 EVs were sold in 2015, of which 75% were battery EVs (BEV) and 25% plug in hybrid EVs (PHEV), up from a 60:40 split between BEV and PHEV in 2014, driven by incentive focus, he added.

Subsidies in the country include an exemption from a 10% purchase tax and a free license plate fee, which can cost up to Chinese renminbi (Rmb) 74,000 ($11,241) in some cities.

And demand for EVs continues to rise. According to Claire Curry, senior associate at Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF), EV sales were up 200% in Q2 2016 from Q2 2015.

BNEF expects 676,000 EVs to be sold globally by the end of 2016, a 46% rise year-on-year.

Standardisation key to electric bus adoption

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Delegates discuss the need for standardisation at the Battery Show in Novi, Michigan (Source: Smarter Shows)

Achieving a common standard in electric bus infrastructure will prove highly important in reaching their wide scale adoption, delegates at the 2016 Battery Show in Novi, Michigan, US, heard.

Differences between models relating in particular to charging requirements limit the capacity to provide infrastructure that can support a variety of different manufacturers in a given region.

"You’ve got a range of voltages from as low as 200V to as high as 1,000V, with some guys talking about 1,500V," Fred Silver, vice president of clean transport group Calstart, told delegates.

The inability to provide a universal charger, interoperable across a range of voltages, provides an issue to the electric bus industry.

But work is being carried out globally to provide common standards within regions.

"On the Europe side it’s going well," said Maxime Ouellet, chief project manager at Nova Bus, a North American electric bus producer within the Volvo group.

Ouellet said efforts were ongoing to create a consensus in the US, specifically through the drafting of standard SAE J3105. All major bus original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) are involved in the discussion, alongside charge providers.

The parties are hoping to publish a draft agreement by the end of the year, according to Ouellet. A number of points have already agreed, with questions of voltage, current and equipment position still under debate.

As to the chances of a global standard, he said this was unlikely, with Europe, the US and China all inclined to set their own boundaries.

Charging technology more generally is a critical part of the jigsaw in bringing electric buses to prominence and sets them apart from smaller vehicles.

Ouellet noted that passenger cars are used around 10% of a given day, leaving 90% of the day for charging. Buses, conversely are used up to 20 hours a day or more in some instances, meaning that they have a far smaller window to charge, despite needing a lot more power.

The reduction in battery prices over recent years has proved a "big enabler" for electric buses, according to Gary Horvat, chief technology officer at US-based manufacturer, Proterra.

Costs fell below $700/kWh in 2012, at which point electric buses beat diesel and compressed natural gas (CNG) on economics, he said.
According to Proterra, its electric buses achieve 21.4 miles per gallon equivalent (MPGe), compared to 4.58 MPG in hybrids, 3.86 MPG in diesel and 3.27 MPG in CNG.

China

In China, which leads the global market on electric bus production, 63,913 battery electric buses and 25,627 plug in hybrid electric buses were produced in 2015, said Jianping Gao of Yutong Bus, the world’s largest bus supplier.

Gao argued, however, that the country’s achievements to date in this area "rely too much on financial support".

Subsidies for buses will fall by 20% in 2017/18 versus current levels and a further 40% in 2019/20, after which they will be abolished.

As incentives are wound down, even greater energy efficiency will be required, he told delegates.