Battery Packs Are Getting Too Big
The mainstream trend in EVs these days is to get more and more range. This is a reasonable goal, especially to overcome the range anxiety that holds many people back and keeps them from buying an EV. But, to accomplish this, most manufacturers aren’t focusing very hard on efficiency. Instead, they’re putting in bigger and bigger battery packs. Even Tesla, which has done fairly well at increasing efficiency, is still going to offer a 200 kWh battery pack in the Cybertruck, for example.
They’re far from the only manufacturer doing this. The GMC Hummer EV, weighing in at a whopping 9000 pounds, is going to come with a 200 kWh pack, but get only 350 miles of range. The Rivian R1T’s largest battery option will be 180 kWh. As Inside EVs points out here, a growing number of EVs are coming with packs over 100 kWh. In other words, the Cybertruck, Hummer EV, and Rivian aren’t exceptions to the rule. They’re part of a growing trend.
From an environmental perspective, this is terrible, though. Battery production is nowhere near what would be needed if all new cars were PHEVs, and probably couldn’t support 100% EVs by 2030. Even 2040 would be challenging. Given those constraints, we really need to be figuring out how to build more cars with fewer battery cells, and not have manufacturers engaging in an inefficient range arms race that eats up gains in battery manufacturing and allows the production of fewer BEVs.
Vauxhall Is Starting To Get It
It appears from recent news that Vauxhall gets this, at least on some level.
To begin with, the Mokka-e already was getting 201 miles of range from only a 50 kWh pack. That comes out to just over 4 miles per kWh, or about 25 kWh/100 miles. Sure, the upcoming Aptera is going to absolutely put that efficiency figure to shame, but keep in mind that this is a mainstream EV crossover. Even the smaller Nissan LEAF Plus only gets 25 more miles on a pack that’s 12 kWh larger. So, among the mainstream, it isn’t bad at all.
But “not bad at all” isn’t a good place to be in a competitive, emerging market. If you’re not improving, you’re falling behind the other players who are improving. Fortunately for Vauxhall, it’s improving. The Mokka-e improved from 201 to 209 miles, and the Corsa-e went from 209 to 222 miles, both on the same 50 kWh pack they came with before. Compared to the LEAF example, that’s within just a few miles, and on a pack 12 kWh smaller.
They accomplished this by including a heat pump in the HVAC system, introducing a more efficient gear reducer, and switching to low rolling resistance tires. Each of these items would only net a few miles on its own, but that’s how improving efficiency works. A few more miles here, a few more miles there, and pretty soon you’re talking about a noticeable number of miles.
The Future Of The Industry Will Ride On Small Things Like This
Range and efficiency alone won’t make or break a company in the EV industry, but it’s a good indicator of whether a company is serious about improving. While GM is throwing all caution to the wind with the Hummer EV, just tossing piles of batteries at efficiency problems, companies like Vauxhall and Tesla are trying to actually get it right.
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