Dept. of Electronic Systems Engineering, IISc
This article presents a frank and open opinion on the challenges that will be faced in moving towards an electric mass transport ecosystem. World over there is considerable research activity on electric vehicles and hybrid electric vehicles. There seems to be a global effort to move from an ICE driven ecosystem to electric vehicle ecosystem. There is no simple means to make this transition. This road is filled with hurdles and challenges. This paper poses and discusses these challenges and possible solutions for enabling EVs.
Electric cars have been around since 1870s. It pre-dates the internal combustion engine (ICE) which came into being only after 1885. However, due to various factors, energy storage being one of them, the ICE quickly overtook the electric vehicle (EV). Although the electric propulsion was superior in many respects with respect to its ICE counterpart, the storage battery was no match for the high energy content, ease of handling and availability of petroleum fuel. The entire 20th century was the era of the ICE vehicles. Today, nearly more than a century later, the EVs are re-surfacing from obscurity. It appears that EVs may actually hold the key to the future transportation systems of the world. If one considers the decreasing fossil fuel reserves, rising population of people and automobiles, deteriorating environmental conditions due to ICE vehicle pollution; it appears that the ICE will gradually and eventually loose out to the electric engine. However, the transition from the ICE vehicle to EV will not be without difficulties. There are several challenges that need to be addressed before the transition is effective in a big way.
The increase of automobiles is directly coupled to the growth of population. The world population will grow up to 10 billion people by 2050  and lead to increased energy demand for mass transportation. A significantly large proportion of national energy generated is diverted to the transportation sector. This would impact the electric power sector demand. The national power sector generation is unable to meet the nation’s current electric demands. To this, if the transportation sector loads are converted as electric sector demands, the stress on the national electric power generation and distribution will be unimaginable.
Serious research on electric and hybrid electric vehicles began in the late seventies of the 20th century as an after effect of the oil crisis. For quite some time now, hybrid electric vehicles have been considered as possible solutions to resolve the ICE to EV transition problem without having to reduce performance or range. Hybrid Electric Vehicles (HEV) will probably be the bridging technology between a completely petroleum-based transport system to a completely electric based transport system. This article discusses the electric vehicles and the challenges that this technology has to face in order to become a reality.