Next Race:MOTUL COURSE DE MONTEREY

Day
Hour
Minute
Second

EVs and the state of play

It’s been a while since I’ve written a blog and even longer since it was on EVs and EV ownership.  The start of the motorsport season always means there’s little time for anything else, however with a bit of a break before my next race and quite a few EV related items in the news recently,  I’ve taken a closer look at three in particular I picked up on.

SOLID STATE BATTERIES

This one comes up a lot but made the news most recently as Toyota says it’s on the brink of manufacturing a solid state battery capable of 1200km/700m range, and that could be fully charged in 10 minutes.

Manufacturers have been trying to figure out how to swap out lithium ion batteries for a solid state version for what feels like years.  They share many similar details but in basic terms the electrolyte within the battery is a solid rather than a liquid.  They are harder to manufacture but offer hugely improved performance.

Firstly you can pack more energy into the ‘box’ which means more potential range.  Secondly, the stated wisdom is that you can charge them more quickly than a lithium ion battery.  And thirdly, there are big performance and safety gains to be made through the thermal management process.

In modern EVs, considerable weight is accounted for by systems typically dedicated to keeping the battery pack from overheating.  The liquid electrolyte inside the lithium ion battery is pretty flammable but solid state can withstand much more heat which means less effort needs to be made to keep the battery cool, and therefore in turn you can save weight/space and make safety improvements in the process.

So plenty of upsides, yet it feels like we’ve been on the brink for 6-8 years now and we’re still not there.  This could just be because taking something from ideation through to mass market roll-out and all the rigorous testing cycles that that entails, means it will always take a long time.  For example, the best way to understand degradation over a period…is to test it over that same period.  There’s no quick fix.  However there are obviously other inhibitors to progress and it could be that a lack of availability or accessibility to materials (something most tech industries are struggling with), lack of global collaboration, balancing production of solid state vs other technologies and the sheer cost of development means we may be waiting for some time yet.

Hopefully given the undeniable benefits, we see progress before long, but in the meantime the constant advances being made in battery chemistry mean the future of batteries still looks positive for EV owners, regardless of Toyota’s claim becoming reality.

MOTORWAY SERVICE STATION CHARGING

Probably of bigger concern right now is the age old issue of infrastructure and in particular rapid charge availability at motorway services.

Set out in May 2020, the DfT said all motorway service stations would have at least six ultra-rapid charge points by the end of 2023.  As of the beginning of this year just 46 of 119 UK service stations meet this requirement.  From personal experience, all too often there are inadequate charging facilities for anything near peak usage.

My increasingly occasional visits to designated motorway service stations make it clear just what impact the government’s failure to meet targets is having.

With a poor volume of chargers generally, a total lack of mass use rapid chargers, large queues whenever there is a reliable option, it’s little wonder I’m hearing of more and more people returning to conventional petrol/diesel powered vehicles.

In contrast – prior to an upgrade at Cobham services which I used recently on my way to Gatwick – the only other suitable site I’ve visited is off the motorway at Banbury, where there are a bank of 16 rapid chargers on site.  Whenever I’ve been there I’ve managed to charge without queueing, but it’s always busy which only goes to show that the need is there and that with these facilities in place, there will be good utilisation.

I’m fortunate to be able to charge at home and also rely on destination charging, rarely topping up out and about any more.  This is not how it should be.

The government are failing and it’s becoming a real, real issue that needs urgent redress if more people are to take up EV ownership.

RECYCLING INFRASTRUCTURE

Of course if you live rurally, maybe you’re just happy to have any charger available once you leave the house.  So one story that caught my eye was BT repurposing its old green street cabinets as EV chargers.

With the ongoing roll-out of full fibre technology, many of the cabinets that have housed broadband and telephone cabling to date can be recommissioned with a single charge point and two sockets per unit, whilst also retaining battery backup for broadband where needed.

Starting in Scotland, BT hopes to convert up to 60,000 cabinets across the UK, which whilst unlikely to benefit the mass motorist, should be really helpful to those living rurally and unable to charge at home.  More chargers are obviously always going to be better than fewer too.

 

It’s nice to finish on a somewhat positive note and maybe if I do this again in three month’s time, we’ll have seen real improvements to the all-round EV experience.

 

Share this content
Spacesuit-Media-Lou-Johnson-315094

About Alexander Sims

The 36-year-old Corvette Racing driver has been involved in motorsport since he was 10 years old, initially racing karts before moving on to single seater, GT and Endurance racing and most recently four seasons in the all-electric FIA Formula E World Championship. With wins across the board including Spa 24 hours, Nurburgring 24 hours, Petit Le Mans and the Diriyah E Prix Sims continues to showcase his skill and race raft on the global stage.

Alongside his racing activities, Alexander is a passionate advocate for sustainable technology and electric mobility on the road, having owned and driven EVs since 2012, and aims to incorporate sustainable choices in his daily lifestyle wherever possible.

Partners