When it comes to emerging markets, EV tech manufacturers should be asking themselves what’s really needed to accelerate adoption, apart from what’s next.
While 2020 was a decent year for the EV market, despite the setbacks to the automobile industry in general, the post-pandemic potential for this market in 2021 and beyond will surely be better. Morgan Stanley analyst Adam Jonas predicted in a note that global EV sales are estimated to grow 50% or more in 2021. The EV market is already witnessing an upsurge in profits even in the first few months of this year. Tesla’s remarkable rise in creating headlines in the previous year meant that the entire electric vehicles industry benefited. The emerging markets on EV bandwagon, like India, have also witnessed a steady uptick with regards to sales and positive conversation.
This in part is led by climate change regaining the highlight in the post-Trump era. EVs have incredible environmental advantages compared to conventional fossil-fuel based vehicles. They also help decrease dependence on expensive oil. On the flip-side, they require massive investments in infrastructure and their manufacturing & selling cost is usually higher than the conventional vehicles. This is a cause for concern as favorable conditions are very critical for market penetration in developing economies. The purchasing power of average individual is also much lower than that of developed nations.
Needs of emerging EV markets
Currently, the countries with the most EVs are USA, China, Japan, France, Norway, Netherlands & UK. Except China, the usual pattern suggests that e-transportation has better adoption in developed parts of the world, rather than economies like Brazil, Russia or India.
One major factor in such countries, of course, is the cost – which acts as a natural deterrent in price-conscious developing markets. Other factors include the readiness of charging infrastructure for EVs. But while these two factors get their fair share in ongoing conversations, we often miss that the emerging markets also have very different, sometimes rather peculiar needs, when it comes to the fundamental technology upon which an electric vehicle is built.
Any technology that is to excel in the very competitive, very demanding, and often not so supportive environment of emerging markets has to be designed keeping in mind a few key aspects.
Very high speeding is not a common feature in such countries. The commute is mostly short and done at low to medium speeds as compared to commute in developed countries like Germany or USA. Consumers are used to ‘sub-optimal’ treatment of vehicles, irregular service & maintenance, and demand the maximum out of their vehicles and expect to use it for longer time frame. Even the availability of skilled workforce to service these vehicles is dismal. The driving skills & knowledge of the vehicle is more often than not questionable, and that leads to added pressure on all parts of the vehicle.
Another important factor to look at is the environmental conditions of most emerging markets, notably India, Brazil, Thailand, and Malaysia. Difficult environmental conditions with regard to temperature, humidity, dust, potholes put further stress on the vehicle, thereby requiring the vehicle to be sturdier.
Technologies for emerging markets
Due to their unique demands, global emerging markets need very specific, robust yet cost-effective, technological solutions from the electric vehicles industry.
The most important of these is electric motors. Electric motors are the heart of any electric vehicle and it’s the electric motor that converts electrical energy to mechanical energy to support the drivetrain. These machines should be optimized for high efficiency & maximum regeneration – especially in high traffic density areas. Recent electric motors developed at Altigreen pay key attention to tough environmental needs of developing countries like India, with a focus on durability and stability over a longer lifetime.
While clutch-less EV gearboxes are now the norm, what needs to be looked at is how much power they transfer at high efficiencies across the full range of motor speeds – all the time being durable & economical. An optimal gearbox should have a very minimal contribution to structural vibrations otherwise the harsh road conditions can lead to long-term issues. In this regard, Altigreen’s focus on optimization of gear tooth micro-geometry using advanced Loaded Tooth Contact Analysis (LTCA), ensures long life even in the most stressful conditions.
In developing countries, it is important to create EVs that would resonate with the electrical power structure in those countries. Instead of expensive fast-chargers, they should be capable of working on the ubiquitous wall sockets that are readily available. Within the EV, the architecture in drivetrains should add to operational capability, enhance driving reliability and support the functional features of the EV. The IoT-based software should provide a seamless telematics function even in low data coverage areas – a feature still quite common in most of the developing economies.
As the EV market is poised for further technological advancements, global emerging markets should be keenly observing the changes in battery chemistry, energy density, and the size of battery packs. Eventually, such advancements will lead to price-cuts and better efficiency.
Talking about of efficiency, many manufacturers have plans of expanding their EV manufacturing due to increasingly better support from the government. It is good for the industry at large, as it means better competition, better product, and that the supply of EVs & EV components will be able to match the demand.
A major shift from vehicles run on fossil fuels to electric vehicles is the most feasible way to fundamentally reduce transportation’s contribution to climate change in emerging economies across the globe. However, to ensure that the consumer is not the one to face the burn of rapid change, as historically he has been, it is important that EV technology manufacturers be further encouraged, by government’s policy & its implementation, to continue to build upon the unique needs of such countries.
The author Dr. Amitabh Saran is the CEO, Altigreen propulsion Labs