31 Oct 2018 / E-mobility

The End of ICE?

Market momentum continues to build for electric vehicles (EVs), hybrids, fuel cells and other alternatives to the internal combustion engine (ICE). A combination of governmental and regulatory pressure on polluting hydrocarbons, surging consumer interest and a flurry of new investments by the automotive manufacturers (OEMs) is creating a self-fulfilling prophecy for the dawn of the e-mobility era.

Three years ago, e-mobility was a dream; today it is a reality,” says Nancy ZILLI, E-mobility expert for Solvay Performance Polyamides. “Legacy automotive people are challenging this conclusion, but the enormous levels of investment the OEMs are putting into alternative technologies, combined with ever tighter carbon regulations, shows that we cannot go back to the old ways of combustion.

According to a report by the Dutch bank ING, current developments in technology put battery electric cars on a growth path to a 100% share of new passenger car sales in Europe by 2035, posing a threat to the established automotive industry. For some, this may be an overly ambitious forecast, with ICEs still to be around for another 30-40 years, but it does serve notice that change is coming rapidly.

Road to ruin

A number of cities and countries have announced outright bans on ICE or on new vehicle sales of combustion engines in the coming decades. Germany has set a date limit of 2030, along with the Netherlands, Ireland, Israel and India for the end of new ICE sales; France has put the date at 2040 for the same, while the UK has announced a target that at least 50% of new car sales — and “up to” 40% of van sales — be ultra-low emission by 2030.

One of the biggest hurdles to a market transition to e-mobility has been cost. But, according to recent article in Bloomberg, the price cross-over point when electric vehicles become more affordable than legacy ICEs will be in 2024 or 2025, as battery pack prices continue to fall. ING analysts agree, citing 2024 as the date when the cost of ownership of a high range battery electric car is expected to match that of a similar car with an internal combustion engine in Europe’s largest market, Germany. A key factor is the ramp-up of supply, with global battery production expected to double by 2021.

Fuel sells

Nor is the future pure electric plug-in. Another key emerging technology is hydrogen fuel cells. A recent report published by Allied Market Research says the global hydrogen fuel cell vehicle market, valued at $278 million (EUR237m) in 2016, is projected reach $12 billion (EUR10b) by 2023, growing at a CAGR of 72.4%.

While Toyota, Honda and Hyundai have been leading the fuel cell charge, other major OEMs are also exploring this promising technology, in parallel to EV efforts. Toyota recently announced that it was going to “shift from limited production to mass production” and that it is planning a phased introduction of a range of fuel cell models, including SUVs, pick-up trucks and commercial trucks beginning around 2025.

In fact, the hydrogen technology is particularly well adapted for commercial vehicles and long-haul road freight. The promise of refueling in minutes and over 1000km of range on a stack of hydrogen-charged lithium batteries has freight companies willing to bet on the technology. According to a recent Daimler press release, “The potential of this technology is undisputed. That applies above all to comparatively large vans with a need for long range and short refueling times.

Anheuser-Busch, one of the largest beer producers in the US and a subsidiary of AB InBev, recently announced that it would buy 800 hydrogen fuel cell trucks from Nikola Motor company, to be delivered between 2020 and 2025. The beermaker also said that it wants to power its entire “dedicated fleet” (the trucks it directly operates in its supply chain) with renewable energy by 2025.

PA partner

Solvay Performance Polyamides has a dedicated line of super-high-purity materials for fuel cells, including the ion-free Polyamide PA66 and is a leading developer of solutions rigorous enough for temperatures as low as minus 70°C for this industry. As the partner of choice for OEMs for thermal management solutions, metal replacement, fire protection and fluid barriers, Technyl® is the partner of choice in the electric and fuel cell vehicle space.

Find out more about our Technyl® offering for e-mobility.