The New Materials That Are Shaping The Future Of Mobility
Auto Components India|July 2021
Dr Shankar Venugopal, Vice President, Mahindra & Mahindra correlates the discovery of key input materials with the future of mobility.
Dr Shankar Venugopal

Sustainable mobility is a key growth enabler for fast-growing economies like India. The future of sustainable mobility is being shaped by a combination of technology and business model disruptions. The convergence of electric, connected, autonomous vehicle technologies and the shared mobility business model has the potential to create sustainable mobility options for the future. These new technologies are growing exponentially in their performance and are fast becoming affordable. Leveraging these disruptive technologies and building innovative products are of strategic importance to companies and countries that wish to lead the development of sustainable mobility for the future.

The adaption of electric mobility in India will greatly accelerate when (a) the Electric Vehicle (EV)’s range improves sufficiently to remove the range anxiety of customers (b) the initial cost of acquisition of EV reduces to match the price of ICE vehicle (c) the batteries can be charged easily and quickly. As the battery pack contributes to about 40 per cent of the price of EV and determines the range of the EV, it is a key sub-system of the EV both from a performance and price perspective. The advantage of an EV arises from (a) high energy conversion efficiency and (b) the elimination of vehicular tailpipe emission.

When we build a technology roadmap for Connected, Autonomous, Electric and Shared (CASE) vehicle technology, we realise that materials hold the key to unlock a whole new world of opportunities. The number of electric cars rose from 17,000 in 2010 to more than seven million in 2019 — a 400X increase in a decade [1]. Successful scale-up of EVs critically depends on the availability of certain materials - lithium, cobalt, rare earth etc – that enable the batteries and motors for EVs. We will describe two important groups of materials that comprise (a) the battery that stores the energy and (b) the motor that powers the electric vehicle (EV).

EV battery materials

Batteries are key to the performance of EVs as they store incredible amounts of energy that can be discharged quickly, safely, and smoothly— thereby giving EVs instant acceleration, responsive handling, and fast recharging times. The key enablers that would encourage customers to adopt EVs – improving the range, reducing the initial cost and reducing the time for charging – are all controlled by the battery’s performance. EV batteries hold the key to realising scalable and affordable electric mobility.

Most electric vehicle batteries are lithium-based and rely on a mix of cobalt, manganese, nickel, and graphite and other primary components. When the first mass-market EVs were introduced in 2010, their battery packs cost an estimated USD 1,000 per kilowatt-hour (kWh). Today, we are at about USD 200 per kWh - that’s a drop of more than 70 per cent in the price per kWh in six years! EVs are forecast to cost the same or less than a comparable gasoline-powered vehicle when the price of battery packs falls to between USD 125 and USD 150 per kWh [2]. The cost of storage is expected to reach USD 100 per kWh by 2025 [3].

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