Environmental Concerns

The ever-increasing C02 levels in the atmosphere and related problems related to this change have prompted many government bodies across the world to take necessary steps and actions towards reducing or sustaining the same level of emissions in order to protect the surrounding environment and maintain the ecological balance.

Thus, it is no surprise that governments across the world are focussing their respective efforts towards the reduction of pollution levels through controlling the vehicular population numbers and thus trying to reduce the adverse effects on the overall environment of the society and country. Strict rules and regulations for new vehicle production for manufacturers and higher fees levied on cars which have higher emission levels are some of the negative incentives introduced. In order to further the cause, there is a rapid push and focus on promoting the emerging industry of EV/ PHEVs which are termed as positive incentives.

Current Barriers

Range anxiety, which is the fear of being stranded due to the limited battery range, is one of the key barriers for PHEV penetration. The limited driving range along with high purchase price and comparable higher charging time as compared to the refuelling of traditional ICE vehicles are the three major disadvantages for potential customers. Other barriers for the growth of the overall industry include fragmented and scarce infrastructure in terms of charging, lack of regulations and standards and the apprehension of consumers towards the technology. Figenbaum et al. also points to the fact that the second-hand value of PHEVs is extremely difficult to measure as the market is underdeveloped and there is a lack of information and consensus regarding the life expectancy of the batteries used in the vehicles. Sierzchula et al. in their study of vehicle adoption in 30 countries point out financial incentives, number of charging stations and the presence of a local PHEV/EV manufacturer as the most important factors influencing vehicle adoption rates. This again confirms the fact that, apart from the technology itself, a potential customer required additional infrastructural support and lower usage cost of PHEV usage.

Technological

Most of the barriers for mass adoption for PHEV/EVs are technological. Based on earlier studies these technological limitations have been categorised as limited range, long recharge times and high battery costs. The first EVs manufactured by General Motors in the early 1990s ran on lead-acid batteries and had a limited range of 90-120 km on a full charge. The second generation EVs’ used nickel-metal hydride batteries and demonstrated a slightly longer range of approximately 135 km. Recent developments in the battery front, wherein lithium-ion technology is used, now allow for even greater range along with the reduction of component and overall vehicle weight. The Tesla Roadster for instance travels 340 km on a single charge. However, the majority of end consumers still cannot afford high performance models and most of the available vehicles in the market still have a very limited range.

Range

The range limitations and anxiety presented by the vehicles results in the consumers being extremely cautious when planning their journeys by EVs. The farthest journey made in the UK was only 25% of the average vehicle range and about 93% of them were done with the battery being at least 50% charged. Commercial EV users in Denmark also exhibited similar cautious approach and behaviour and were primarily concerned that the range of the vehicles were far inferior to that of gasoline- powered vehicles, in spite the range being more than adequate for their respective daily needs.

Charging Time

Current charging points available across countries use the ‘standard charging’ of 13A single phase current which takes approximately six to eight hours of charging time for a full charge of the vehicle battery. However, with the rapid advancement of technology, ‘fast’ and ‘rapid charging’ (32A) with direct current (DC) is presently available in countries like Norway, Denmark and Sweden where adoption rates are comparatively higher as compared to other countries. Fast-charging battery technology reduces charging time to a one-to-three-hour affair for a 80% charge. The development of rapid charging technology is however expected to take longer time for its implementation and is expected to reduce charging times to only 15 minutes. Better Place battery replacement system, wherein the car battery is replaced by robots in a two-minute time frame, may go a long way to overcome the current problem.

 
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