Lessons from EVS31 Japan


#1 EV adoption

Author: Ruud van Sloten

Tim van Beek and Ruud van Sloten visited EVS31 from 1-3 October in Kobe (Japan) in a delegation with the Deputy Mayor of Amsterdam, Sharon Dijksma. We combined the trip to Japan with a visit to some of our clients, including various OEM’s and energy companies in the Tokyo region. In a series of blogs we will present you our lessons from Japan. We will start of with a blog about ‘EV adoption’, followed by the ‘Race for the battery production and second life batteries’ and finally about ‘The Energy of EV’.

EV adoption

Japan has a great public transport network and the trains run almost perfectly on time. Except when typhoons hit the coasts, which let us no choice but to wait a day to travel to Kobe. Stuck in Tokyo we travelled one day later to Kobe for EVS, where Tim van Beek presented about our V2G studies (more about this in blog 3).

At EVS we found that the Japanese OEM’s still see PHEVs as primary first step to zero-emission vehicles (either BEV and/or FCEV). Most of them have a strong focus on plug-in hybrids and in our business meetings with these OEM’s they also pledged for fiscal incentives for PHEVs, perhaps higher incentives when more electric kilometres are driven. In the Netherlands our focus is on stimulating full emission free transport, which was also stated clearly by Sharon Dijksma in her keynote speech at EVS.

On the other hand, most Japanese OEM’s have a focus on fuel cell electric vehicles (FCEV) for the future. And Japan, especially the Tokyo-region, wants to present itself as hydrogen frontrunner in 2020. In a meeting with NEDO – the Japanese national research institute – we found that although there are approx 2.700 FCEVs on the road in Japan, which is a fifty-fold of the number in the Netherlands. The hydrogen economy however, is still immature in Japan as well. The fuel costs are high (just as in Europe) and the environmental impact is suboptimal, as they now import hydrogen produced using brown coal from Australia. On a well-to-wheel basis this is not the way forward. As one of our speaking partners stated: “FCEV maybe a solution in the future, but I have to come with affordable solutions today. Hence, the people who push for hydrogen, are those who have nothing else to push today.” An interesting thought, putting the BEV and FCEV in the right perspective as for today.

From the sessions at EVS we also found some interesting notions:

  1. A study by ICCT revealed that 40% of worldwide EV sales takes place in just 20 cities/metropolitan areas. Three Dutch cities – Amsteram, Rotterdam and Utrecht – belong to these top-20 of front runners. Leading markets tend to have more extensive charging infrastructure, more EV models, greater consumer incentives and local promotion actions.
  2. Johan Wedlin from RISE Viktoria in Sweden presented a plan to reach the target of 70% CO2-reduction in Sweden. They see company cars as a fastlane for EV adoption, since approximately 40-50% of new car sales go to companies. Of these half are to be used for company operations and the other half for employees as part of their benefit package. People tend to be less hesitant to choose an electric vehicle as a company car than as a private car. Hence, company cars can give an important contribution to a faster adoption of EVs in Sweden and thereby to a fossil free future. For this to happen, the following is important:
    • a continuous and significant difference in taxation and monthly costs for EVs compared with ICE cars
    • charging possibilities at the workplace and possibilities for fast charging at a reasonable cost/km
    • commitment from companies and active support with arranging the cars and charging infrastructure for employees
  3. Heavy duty electric transport is at the beginning of its uptake. At EVS there were only a few presentations and companies with a focus on zero-emission busses or trucks. We expect this to change the coming years as we ourselves are busy with the electrification of public transport buses in the Netherlands and Belgium and recently we are also carrying out a study to the possibilities for electrification of heavy duty trucks that supply transport from the Port of Rotterdam.

Blog 2: race for the batteries and 2nd life

During the many presentations on battery development and while on our mission with the Dutch delegation afterwards it became clear that there is a race for the best batteries. The development of (solid state) batteries with a higher energy density and faster charging capabilities is seen as key to a next generation of electric vehicles. Alternatives to lithium as the main component of car batteries are being researched by OEM’s. However, the market introduction of these next generation batteries is still very uncertain, so as for today the current lithium batteries will remain the norm.

On the other hand, a lot of attention is give to the life-cycle of EV batteries. The high environmental impact related to batteries use, often stirs discussion about the life-cycle impact of EVs. The Japanese OEM’s feel responsible for the impact of their batteries after use in EVs and are therefore busy setting up a life-cycle solution for batteries in electric vehicles sold today. At the moment EVs and thus batteries are relatively new, resulting in few batteries needed to be discarded yet. This will logically increase in the future, calling for an end-of-life solution. The focus of OEM’s will be on re-use for as long as possible (either in vehicles or for stationary storage) and only consider recycling materials as a last resort. Batteries are seen as valuable at all times, not as waste. The developments in battery re-use are a positive signal, reducing the impact of batteries and therewith further reducing the already low life-cycle impact of EVs.

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