Many technological improvements have been made to vehicles to reduce their environmental impact. Some of these advances have been imposed by environmental legislation, others have been incentivized by commercial pressure to improve energy efficiency and limit our dependence on fossil fuel. Greening the transportation sector is thus important for meeting global emissions reduction targets.
One innovative technology to achieve a green transportation sector is radically changing the design and components from fossil fuel based internal combustion cars to electric vehicles and hybrid electric vehicles. This technology shift will lead to emergence of new technologies that will be definitive in the race to capture the biggest market share. In this paper, we trace back the evolution of the internal combustion automobiles and give insight to the new emerging industry of electric and hybrid electric vehicles using the S-curve diagram.
An electric vehicle, or EV, is a vehicle with one or more electric motors for propulsion. The motion may be provided either by wheels or propellers driven by rotary motors, or in the case of tracked vehicles, by linear motors. A hybrid electric vehicle (HEV), also known as a plug-in hybrid, is a hybrid vehicle having an electric motor and an internal combustion engine with rechargeable batteries that can be restored to full charge by connecting a plug to an external electric power source. S-Curve for Automobile Industry Figure 1 S-Curve for the automobile industry
The traditional internal car combustion engine technology has been around since 1890. However, the major tipping point in automobile manufacturing was the introduction of the T-model by Henry ford in 1920 and later the development of the automated assembly line which started the mass production of automobiles.
This concept was later adopted by many European and Asian manufacturers. Mass production remained the standard in automobile manufacturing, until Hiroshi Toyoda a Japanese owner of a textile factory visited USA and was fascinated by the Supermarket functioning system.
He then developed what is now called Lean Manufacturing System that focuses on achieving zero waste, zero defects, and zero inventories. Lean Manufacturing soon became a standard in the automobile industry leading to an increase in the performance of automobiles. Since early 2000s, automobile manufacturers have reached market saturation as the traditional vehicles reached a maximum integration of technologies and luxuries (CDs, ACs, TVs…). Car manufacturers are now in pursuit of a new technology to replace the polluting internal combustion vehicles that have long shaped the formation of our societies and economies.
With the increase of global awareness on climate change, car manufactures are looking for innovative measures to renovate their gas guzzling vehicles. As a result, new electric and hybrid electric vehicle cars are already launched and are roaming the roads. The concept of electric vehicles has been around since early 1900’s with Thomas Edison displaying his first electric car in Detroit in 1914. However, since then the technology remained dormant with no major breakthroughs.
In 1978, after the oil shortage governments started to encourage manufactures to look for alternatives. GM in that period started developing a marketable electric vehicle, however GM had to put an end to this project due to the pressure from oil companies and governments as the report “Who Killed the Electric Car” claims which was a major disruption for electric vehicles. Later, with increasing appeal of the sustainability buzz, car manufacturers started a race to release the first fully electric car.
This race was accelerated by the new proposed model of better place for battery swapping. The new Leaf the first EV vehicle is schedule to be released in December 2010. While companies raced for dominating the electric vehicle technology, they realized that this market is highly shaped by many external factors. As result, companies like Toyota decided to take incremental steps toward electrification through the introduction of the first hybrid electric vehicle Prius in 2004. Prius was well received by customers and gave Toyota an edge over its competitors.
The Prius however used an old battery technology based on Nickel Cadmium NiCa. General Motors later developed a better battery that uses the lithium ion technology (with the help of A123 company) in its first plug-in hybrid electric vehicle the Chevy Volt which is expected to be official launched by the end 2010. External Factors Controlling the EV markets Electric vehicle market is highly shaped by the external factors controlling this market. Some of the major external factors impeding the diffusion of EV to markets are:
- Incompetent battery technology
- Carbon intensive grid electricity
- Immature renewable energy techology
- Safety Issues – (for example cars with lithium ion batteries are not allowed to be shipped by air)
- Long battery charging hours ( in the US 6 hours, in EU around 2 hrs)
- High battery cost
- Compatibility issues with the new Smart Grids Infrastructure
The major external factor (technology limit) affecting the diffusion to the market is the technology and economics of the vehicle batteries. While it is still not clear which battery technology will emerge as a winner technology, companies are at high risk of adopting the wrong battery technology. Hybrid Electric Vehicles: The Missing Link As the technology for EVs are not well developed, plug in hybrid electric vehicles seem to be the best solution for balancing the long commuting demands and the greening requirements of the transportation sector. EV might find resistance from customers, as they are not willing to risk running out of charge especially if charging the EV takes up to 6 hours.
As result, HEVs are expected to play a vital role in smoothing the transition from a transportation based on internal combustion to electrification. The emergence of hybrid-electric vehicles (HEVs) provides a potentially significant green enabling technology. The large-scale deployment of HEVs may be possible with continued improvements and decreasing costs of existing HEV technology, as well as advanced battery technologies. A study by the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) found a significant potential market for PHEVs, depending on vehicle cost and the future cost of petroleum.
For this reason, car manufacturers should keep an eye on the emerging HEV market and should try to dominate this market quickly as it will ultimately determine who will win the full electrification race. Future Projection of the Industry The electric vehicle industry seems to be currently highly impeded by the advances in the external factors controlling the industry in particular the battery technology and the renewable energy.
For this reason, the HEV will gain more market appeal than the electric vehicles, however as renewable energy, battery technology, and entrepreneurship concepts evolve a tipping point effect will occur and the electric vehicles will dominate the market.
[ 1 ]. http://en. wikipedia. org/wiki/Automobile
[ 2 ]. The Machine That Changed the World : The Story of Lean Production by J. Womack
[ 3 ]. http://en. wikipedia. org/wiki/Electric_vehicle