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Electric Vehicles – Technology Brief

Highlights

Technology status and performance

“Two main types of electric vehicle (EV) have both achieved significant sales in the world’s major vehicle markets in the past year. These are: (1) battery electric vehicles (BEVs), which use only batteries for energy storage and must be plugged in to be recharged, and (2) plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs), which have both batteries and liquid-fuel storage/refuelling systems. In both cases, the electric motor is very efficient, using 90-95% of the input energy to power the movement of the vehicle, and offer zero vehicle emissions driving. But the use of batteries poses the two main challenges for battery electric vehicles: their cost and driving range.

Most current models of BEV do not store enough energy to provide normal driving range, and are limited to below 250  km (160  miles) per recharge. However, some new and forthcoming models offer substantially more range, up to 400  km. PHEVs already offer 500  km or more due to the availability of their liquidfuelled internal combustion engine. Both technologies are expensive, with battery costs estimated around USD 350/kWh in 2015 and the cost of a hybrid system of several thousand dollars in PHEVs. For BEVs, a vehicle with 40 kWh of battery capacity may have a battery cost of USD 14 000, leading to a vehicle incremental cost of at least USD 12 000 compared to similar ICE vehicles, depending on retail mark-ups, incentives and other factors.

Fortunately, strong policies and ongoing cost reductions of batteries have helped enable the growth of EVs. EV sales have grown rapidly over the past five years, reaching nearly 500 000 worldwide in 2015, and nearly 800 000 in 2016, with nearly half of 2016 sales in China. EV sales and market share are quite variable across different countries and markets. In 2015, the EV market share was over 20% in Norway, nearly 10% in the Netherlands, and 3% in California, while under 2% in all other major markets. Electric trucks and buses are also emerging, with over 150 000  electric buses in service around the world, mostly in China. Electric two-wheelers are the runaway leaders with over 200 million sold through 2015, the vast majority in China. As battery costs continue to drop, and higher range EVs become available at a reasonable cost, sales are expected to continue to rise rapidly at least through 2020″.

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