The hybrid EV imperative

Context: 

Hybrid EVs present a big opportunity for economically developing countries for the transition to becoming net-zero.

What is net-zero for a vehicle?

  • Net-zero for a vehicle includes emissions at both the tailpipe of the vehicle and at the power plant.
  • Making vehicles net-zero requires cutting emissions from both new and existing vehicles.

Different types of EVs

What is EV?

Any vehicle propelled by an electric drivetrain, taking electric power from a portable, electrical energy source, is called an Electric vehicle (EV).

Hybrid EV:

  • In a hybrid EV, an internal combustion engine (ICE) is used to produce electricity with an electrical generator.
  • A small battery, typically 1-5kWh, is used in a hybrid EV as an energy buffer to store the electricity.
  • The battery can’t be charged from the grid.

Plug-in EV:

  • A full EV or a battery EV or a plug-in EV, has no ICE and hence no tailpipe emissions.
  • The battery typically is much larger at 20-120 kWh.
  • It can only be charged from the grid.

Plug-in hybrid EV:

  • A plug-in hybrid EV is still a hybrid EV with a much larger battery, typically 5-15 kWh.
  • This larger battery can also be charged from the grid.
  • This means a plug-in hybrid operates like a fully electric vehicle as long as there is energy in the battery.

Fuel-cell EV:

A fuel-cell EV uses a fuel cell to produce electricity for the drivetrain together with a small battery buffer to manage variations.

Challenges to transitioning to electric mobility

  • A fast charging infrastructure:
  • A successful transition to full EVs requires fast-charging infrastructure along highways.
  • The lack of a fast-charging infrastructure will discourage people from buying full EVs.
  • Fast-charging means power levels of 50-350 kW for cars and up to 1,000 kW for heavy-duty vehicles.
  • Fast-charging will enable drivers to make long-distance trips using their EVs with 10-20-minute stops to gain ranges of 300-400 km.

No access to grid:

  • Many parts of the world, especially economically developing nations, don’t yet have access to a grid or the grid isn’t 100% reliable.
  • The relatively high charging power for slow-charging (<22kW) and fast-charging (<350kW) make the problem more prominent vis-à-vis generation and transmission capacities.
  • This in turn could retard the transition to EVs.

Expensive:

  • Mass-market price points of cars in the economically developing world are much lower, ~$12,000.
  • EVs with a range of 300-400 km will reach parity with conventional vehicles in the richest countries at a price of $25,000-35,000 in the short term.
  • This is due to the high battery cost.
  • EVs with higher range will need larger battery packs and thus be more expensive

Way forward for Hybrid vehicles:

  • The current focus in the industry is on full EVs, which isn’t practical for the immediate future, given grid reliability, state of highway charging infrastructure, and prohibitive vehicle costs.
  • Hybrid EVs – either full or plug-in hybrids – present a big opportunity to lower emissions in

SOURCE: THE HINDU, THE ECONOMIC TIMES, PIB

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