Electric cars, developed in Japan flexible solar panels

Electric cars, developed in Japan flexible solar panels

Electric cars

The Japanese company Teijin, thanks to the collaboration with Applied Electric Vehicles (AEV), has developed a particular solar panel made of polycarbonate and intended for use in the automotive sector. The new green solution inevitably marks another important step towards the shared vision of companies on zero-emission mobility.

Through our collaboration with Applied EV, we are addressing strong demands in society by applying our advanced materials and our structural design know-how in innovative solutions for new generation electric vehicles. With the aim of becoming a company that supports the society of the future, we have positioned environmental value solutions as a priority field in which Teijin can contribute to circular economies and sustainability, said Toshiaki Hotaka of Teijin, General Manager, Mobility Div .

The panel, called Panlite, is made of resin and is flexible, thus allowing it to be applied to all curved surfaces just like those on a car roof. The Chinese company Teijin, using all its knowledge in the technological field, has managed to fully model the curved surface of the roof into an ideal shape, an extremely challenging process when using materials such as glass. However, thanks to a special resin processing, the panel is able to maintain the necessary rigidity and strength, such as to guarantee optimal performance in all conditions. Not surprisingly, the resin is a material resistant to both possible impacts and atmospheric agents, thus managing to guarantee a rather long duration over time even after prolonged exposure to atmospheric agents. Thanks to special covers, Teijin guarantees the new Panlite panel for a total of 10 years.

Carbon reduction and energy efficiency are fundamental to our design philosophy. Companies around the world are looking for ways to reduce their carbon footprint from transportation. Our partnership with Teijin is helping Applied EV reduce the energy used per transport mile and also increase the share of energy from renewable energy, which is good for businesses and the environment. Now that we've demonstrated the technology on a passenger EV, it's easy for us to implement solar charging for a number of other vehicle types, said Julian Broadbent, CEO of Applied EV.

The company has already given the start of the various test phases necessary in order to test and optimize the product. As stated, the new Panlite panels have been tested in Australia on a special electric vehicle from Applied EV, reaching in the tests conducted so far a power of 330 Watts, equivalent to that produced by traditional glass panels. In detail, the prototype used for the experimentation phase is a high-efficiency vehicle in which the solar panel has made it possible to increase the autonomy up to a maximum of 30%, reaching on average improvement values ​​of about 15%. 20%. These results have prompted Teijin to carry out the innovative project which should go into production by the end of 2022.

Enthusiasm For Electric Vehicles Appears Excessive

A mini electric vehicle of Banpu NEXT, a Thai ride sharing and rental service promoting clean energy ... [+] fuel vehicles, drives along a road in Bangkok. (Photo by Romeo GACAD / AFP) (Photo by ROMEO GACAD/AFP via Getty Images)

AFP via Getty Images

For nearly my entire career, there have ben enthusiastic advocates for electric vehicles which never seemed to translate into actual market success. While that should suggest skepticism about current claims for the technology’s viability is warranted, it is hardly proof that such claims should be completely disregarded. Skepticism doesn’t mean disbelief, it means careful consideration. 

I’m kind of like the grumpy old man in the microwave commercial a few years back who, listening to the marketer sing the over’s praises keeps saying, “But does it brown the food?” I am constantly hearing:

·       The Chinese market is booming;

·       Norway’s automotive market is dominated by electric vehicles;

·       Manufacturers are planning to introduce scores of new electric vehicles;

·       Battery costs are falling rapidly; and

·       When batteries are less than $100/kwh, BEVs will be competitive with ICE vehicles.

To all of which I respond, do the cars achieve mass market volumes without major government support? Or, to paraphrase a certain movie character, “Show me the sales!” Tesla TSLA is certainly doing well, but others, not so much. The graph below shows GM’s sales for the hybrid electric vehicle Chevy Volt and the battery electric vehicle Chevy Bolt. Note that they are not showing the massive growth projected by so many optimists and peak oil demand forecasters, which tend to run well into the double-digits. Similarly, where Ford offered battery and gasoline-powered versions of its Ford Focus, sales for the latter tended to be about 100 times the former, implying consumer preference is far from the tipping point for BEV sales to dominate the market.

Sales of Chevy HEV and BEVs

The author from GM data.

And there are certainly those who have been overly uncritical about the challenges facing electric vehicle sales, such as the 2017 CarbonTracker/Grantham Institute report which predicted a peak in oil demand in 2020, in large part because of technological advances in clean energy, for instance saying “This cost projection is credible given that most studies believe EVs will be cost competitive with ICEs when battery costs are between $150-300kWh and Tesla already claims that batteries will cost as little as US$100/kWh by 2020. Furthermore, Volkswagen asserts that its ID vehicle will be launched in 2020 ‘at a price on a par with Golf’, and the next batch of EVs available in 2020 will have double or triple the range of the current ones, offering 200-300 miles per charge.”

Well, not quite. The range for the ID4 is, indeed, 250 miles (at least nominally) but the price is roughly double that of the Golf. The question of what battery cost makes BEVs competitive comes up repeatedly, although this seems to be one of those “everyone knows” issues as opposed to serious analytical estimates. In part, this reflects the fact that some aspects of the driving experience are intangible, such as the ‘coolness’ factor of driving a Tesla but also the range anxiety of driving any BEV, to say nothing of the inconvenience of long charging times.

The M.I.T. Center for Energy and Environmental Policy Research has created a calculator that allows for some clarity on this issue, by, for example, testing different assumptions about electricity and oil prices, battery range, and savings on maintenance for BEVs to generate the battery price needed to compete with ICE vehicles. (A link to the calculator is provided below.) I have used this to generate utility or demand curves for different oil prices shown in the figure below, partly because oil prices are a significant component in the competitiveness equation and many advocates of BEVs appear to assume that oil prices will always rise, a common but flawed assumption amongst energy economists. Indeed, one of the reasons so many fuels and technologies (methanol, coal-to-liquids, DME, shale-to-liquids, etc.) that were lauded as the next big thing in the 1970s failed was that predictions oil prices would accelerate after tripling in 1979/80 proved wildly incorrect.

Competitiveness of BEV and ICE vehicles.

The author from CEEPR Calculator

The results in the figure above suggest that at $60/barrel of oil, BEVs will not be competitive until approximately 2030, using the battery cost projections from Bloomberg New Energy Finance (the large blue stars). Changing the assumptions used will move the curve up and down, but this at least shows the importance of the price of oil in the competitiveness of battery electric vehicles.

And one assumption in particular seems worth testing. (I could perform a variety of sensitivity analyses and produce numerous graphs of the results, but that is a task for another time and venue.) A recent paper from the Energy Policy Institute at the University of Chicago analyzed electricity demand in households with electric vehicles and concluded that BEVs were used much less than ICE vehicles, about 5300 miles per year vs. 12,000 miles for the average light duty vehicle. The CEEPR model has a default assumption of 15,000 miles and when that was reduced to 6000 miles, the picture changes significantly, as the figure below shows.

Competitiveness of BEVs vs. ICE vehicles under different miles travel assumptions.

The author from CEEPR calculator.

The lesser distance traveled for BEVs implies that they are often a family’s second car, used for short trips such as shopping or commuting, which is rational given their limited range and range anxiety. However, since BEVs are much more expensive the ICEs, the capital costs per mile are thus higher if the car is driven less. In the future, this should improve of course, moving the lower curve closer to the higher one, but for now, the results suggest that lithium-ion battery costs are still far above what is needed to compete for the mass market in light duty vehicles.

In recent months, there has been a huge tendency on the part of the media, social and news, to confuse ‘evidence’ with ‘proof’. The above constitutes evidence that enthusiasm for the domination of vehicle markets by BEVs is likely overblown: it is not proof, as there are many assumptions about both intangibles like convenience and tangibles like future battery costs. But at the least, the reader should recognize the value of skepticism on this topic. Further reading can be found here:

EPRINCThe Pandemic and the End of Oil? The Pandemic, Peak Oil Demand, and the Oil Industry - By Michael Lynch and Ivan Sandrea - EPRINC

The CEEPR calculator is here: CEEPR Site (mit.edu)

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