As 2021 draws to a close, we thought we’d take a look at the state of play in the electric vehicle (EV) market and offer our thoughts as to where we see things headed for EVs in 2022 and beyond.
Continuing global supply chain issues, semiconductor shortages and the ongoing global pandemic notwithstanding - let us begin.
We start with perhaps the oldest talking point possible when it comes to EVs - but it’s still a thing:
Yes, when it comes to EVs, range remains top of mind, even as improvements in battery technology means range-anxiety continues to diminish. But the range that buyers think is acceptable continues to be a moving target as both technology and battery costs improve. So, what bar should car makers aim to clear?
Looking ahead to next year, we expect around 250 miles between charges will be the sweet spot many buyers will settle upon.
Eight out of 12 of the top selling EVs in the U.S. through the end of October this year, came in versions capable of at least that range. Yet some on the list, even from certain premium brands, only just crept over the 200-mile mark. Going forward, a sub-250-mile range will become a tough sell. And really, any new models in development, especially from premium brands, should include versions capable of at least 300 miles.
Tesla still sets the range standard as far as established brands go; the long-range Model S tops 400 miles. But while Tesla will no doubt continue to up its range game, a new entrant, Lucid Motors, already boasts an official EPA range of 520 miles with the most upscale versions of its Air, a luxury sedan. This is six-figure price territory, though.
Fast charging is something upon which automakers will increasingly compete.
While range is still king, car companies will increasingly compete on shortening charging times because doing so increases usability; the faster you can top-up your EV on a long road trip the better.
Generally, people are aware that EVs will charge quicker from a commercial fast charger than a standard wall socket. But it’s less well known that even if you plug into the fastest charging stations available, the speed at which a vehicle can be charged is also dependent on the vehicle’s ability to accept that charge.
Today’s fastest chargers operate at 800 volts, capable of delivering a charge of up to 350 kW. In practical terms, this is the EV equivalent of drinking from a fire hose! Though some come close, today’s EVs can’t accept that charge rate.
Instead, software engineers at car companies throttle the rate of charging to balance speed with battery stability. Modulating the rate is important both during individual charging cycles, and also over the life of the vehicle, to limit battery degradation. How well engineers can solve this technical conundrum is key to charging performance. But statistics on how fast a car will charge is something car makers are increasingly keen to tell people about.
Consider Hyundai’s new Ioniq 5 electric SUV. The South Korean automaker claims that when plugged into a 350-kW fast charger, the Ioniq 5 battery will charge from a 10 percent capacity to 80 percent in just 18 minutes: about the time to enjoy a cup of coffee. Or, if you’re in a real hurry, Hyundai claims it takes just 5 minutes to add 62.5 miles (100 km) of additional range. Buyers will start to pay attention to these capabilities.
A brief evolution of EVs since around 2010 goes something like this: At the outset, legacy automakers generally offered one token EV in their range; usually, it was an awkward adaptation of an existing internal combustion engine model, with very limited production.
Sometimes, as with the Nissan Leaf, an EV would be created from the ground up, i.e. a stand-alone dedicated EV. But still, it is a solitary offering.
Now, and an imperative for the future, makers are increasingly developing dedicated EV platforms upon which they can build a whole range of EVs. Platforms allow scalability through modular design, leading to cost effectiveness and speed to market.
And as customers increasingly want choices, it will be scalable platforms which will deliver them. Among the examples:
General Motors has staked its EV future on the Ultium platform, with plans to build a range of vehicles across its brands around proprietary flat-pack battery packs. These can easily be reconfigured for smaller or larger vehicles, while leveraging a common technology. The first of GM’s Ultium products, the Hummer EV, just hit the market and 2022 will provide insight as to how well the company has executed on its strategy.
Similarly, Volkswagen has staked its I.D. family of EVs on its own “modular electric drive matrix” (MEB) platform which the company says will underpin a variety of classes of vehicles. VW is doing well with the ID 4 already on sale in the U.S. market.
Meanwhile, Hyundai says the company will produce 23 global electric vehicles by 2025 on its E-GMP platform; this is the platform upon which the aforementioned Ioniq 5 is built.
As more and more car companies pledged during 2021 to be all-electric by the end of the decade, building a platform-based family of vehicles appears to be the emerging strategy to realize that goal. And this will not just apply to cars, because:
Though there has been a steady increase in the choice of electric passenger vehicles over the last decade, 2022 will be the year when truck buyers can finally get in on the action.
The Ford F-150, which is America’s best-selling vehicle outright - let alone pickup - will come as an all-electric option in 2022. The F-150 Lightning is slated for launch in the spring and it can’t be overstated how important this vehicle is given the iconic nature of the F-150 nameplate.
Also, 2022 will see customer deliveries of the much anticipated Rivian pickup and SUV, while of course the Cybertruck from Tesla should finally go on sale later in 2022, two-plus years after it made its dramatic appearance.
Look out too, for the Silverado EV pickup from GM that is to be revealed at CES 2022, on January 5. This will be another GM vehicle built on the Ultium platform and will position the company to continue its rivalry with Ford’s pickup range - EV style.
The introduction of electric trucks will open up a new and hugely significant market segment, which dovetails nicely with a positive signal from the federal government. Help is on its way for needed infrastructure.
While it's looking as if the Build Back Better bill may not cross the finish line, the bipartisan infrastructure bill which has been signed, at least includes $5 billion investment for state-administered grants for charging stations nationwide.
Though funds won’t flow overnight, work can gather pace in 2022 towards allocating this infrastructure spending. Importantly, funds will be directed towards building EV charging stations in communities that include rural, disadvantaged and hard to reach areas as reported by Forbes.
Hopefully this development will help begin to nudge EV adoption towards a broader base of consumers, and not confine ownership solely to people of above average means.
Image credit via Lucid Motors
Phil Covington holds an MBA in Sustainable Management from Presidio Graduate School. In the past, he spent 16 years in the freight transportation and logistics industry. Today, Phil's writing focuses on transportation, forestry, technology and matters of sustainability in business.