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Volvo CEO outlines friction points of EV . change

Acceptance of EVs is slowly starting to catch up with conventional wet-fueled cars in more developed markets around the world, but Volvo Cars CEO and president, Jim Rowan, said there are four “factors of friction” currently limiting the wholesale switch to electric motors.

Speaking to Australian journalists in Melbourne recently, Mr Rowan outlined battery range, charging speeds, cost and infrastructure that are among the roadblocks that stand in the way of battery-powered electric vehicles (BEVs) being suitable. with the sales figures of their gasoline and diesel counterparts, let alone surpass them.

While Mr Rowan believes car companies like Volvo can offer solutions to some of these problems, he believes the turning point will not come until vehicles and roads are “supported by the good infrastructure”.

“There are four factors of friction that will slow down full electricity use, and these will vary in different parts of the world. Three of these we can control, and one of them I think we cannot,” explains Mr. Rowan.

“Range anxiety is one of these things, and it’s kind of weird that you can have a car that can go 500km and still not feel like you’re going to get the same 500km. like when refueling; It’s really a matter of thinking.

“What’s really going down is the infrastructure. A car can go 500 km, but where will I charge it next time? I know where all the gas stations are, so I feel comfortable. But I don’t know where I can get the next charge. So range is one of them (friction factor).

“Charging speed is another matter. The move to an 800-volt system has helped a lot with that, I mean now we’re seeing customers being able to take their car 180km in about six or seven minutes.”

Mr. Rowan’s view is similar to that of many new car buyers, who feel electric vehicle range – and electric vehicle charging time – are far behind those of internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles.

Most electric vehicles today can take up to 40 minutes to charge to 80%, assuming a suitable high-speed charger can be found. In many state capitals, charging infrastructure is sorely lacking, a problem that is magnified tenfold in regional centers.

But concerns about range and charging speed are just two of three that Mr. Rowan said manufacturers – including Volvo – can address, given that cost is an important factor. are not always within the control of the manufacturer.

“Cost is the third point. Right now, of course, the war in Ukraine has pushed prices up, especially lithium still stubbornly higher… Nickel and cobalt have normalized, but lithium remains high. There are new mines coming up, so soon we should see lithium prices start to normalize,” he said.

“For example, some countries have relied on subsidies to support electric vehicle adoption, and that’s pretty good. But honestly, no company needs to rely on any government subsidies to succeed – as soon as you start relying on it as a way to sell your product, you miss the point. the point.

“We think we (Volvo) can be on par with ICE by 2025. We will be able to build and sell ICE cars or BEVs with the same range. In fact, the ICE vehicle will likely drop in price as it becomes older technology.”

While parity prices between ICE and BEV models will help attract buyers to adopt new technologies, Mr. Rowan said he believes many buyers will wait until the charging infrastructure is ready before make the switch – a change that can take a decade or more to realize.

In particular, the charging infrastructure in Australia is struggling to keep pace with electric vehicle use, with many locations seeing vehicles queuing for long periods of time and others ‘offline’. ‘ or damaged when the customer arrives at the location.

“The final point of friction – and one we cannot control – is clearly infrastructure. “We don’t think we should invest in infrastructure, because that’s not our core business,” said Mr. Rowan.

Mr. Rowan’s stance on infrastructure is at odds with some of its competitors, particularly Tesla with its Supercharger network remaining a compelling differentiator, while BMW, Ford, General Motors, Mercedes-Benz and Volkswagen Group is among the automakers that have pledged various large sums of money. towards the charging stations.

“What we’re starting to see now is that some governments, taking the US as an example, are starting to lean in and help, which is great, because that’s going to boost a lot of infrastructure. floor. We’re also seeing a lot of large private equity firms also contribute, particularly to the energy grid, which provides good long-term returns for them.”

Mr. Rowan said he believes faster charging infrastructure and wider availability of charging stations are key to broader use of BEVs and a facility that will go hand in hand with manufacturers being able to can offer cheaper BEV models.

“What is needed, and this is what energy companies understand, is an 800 volt system on a 150 kW supply – working,” he stressed.

“One country where they have done just that is Norway. They have relied on subsidies, which help keep costs down, they have the right infrastructure in place and of course as soon as you put the right infrastructure in place, scope is no longer an issue.

“That allows other savings to be made, of course. Once you have all those friction points sorted, you no longer need to install 100 kWh batteries in all your cars. You can offer cheaper cars with 50 or even 30 kWh battery packs because as an owner you can rest assured that your driving will be supported by good infrastructure .

“So as infrastructure starts to get built more efficiently, you’ll start to see us and other companies offering a 35kWh or 60kWh option, or for someone who needs that range, a 100kWh option.

That’s going to be something that really helps people make decisions about their scope and helps reduce some of those costs.”


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