Electric vehicle of the future

Electronics Energy efficiency Energy storage Electricity supply Transport economy Transport models Transport behaviour Innovation and product development Climate adaptation
How will electric vehicles develop? Associate Professor Esben Larsen from DTU Electrical Engineering shares his thoughts on the subject.

Batteries will improve 

Today, batteries are the Achilles heel of the electric car, as they are too expensive to produce, thus increasing the cost of the vehicle. At the same time, batteries limit the range of the electric car, which is typically around 100-150 km on a fully charged battery. As electric cars gain in popularity, it is likely that batteries will become cheaper to manufacture. This will pave the way for a production of larger batteries, which in turn will give the car a longer range.  (Read more about battery research (link to ‘The Battery—heart of the electric car’).

Vehicle-to-grid provides new possibilities

With vehicle-to-grid (V2G), electric cars can charge when the price of electricity is cheapest, and return the power to the electricity grid when the power is more expensive—e.g. at peak load periods. In this way, electric vehicle owners can earn money from their electric car while helping to stabilize the grid. The first V2G experiments, which have just been completed at DTU Electrical Engineering, proved highly successful. (Read more about V2G in The car will become more than just a means of transport’ ).

Charging will be easier

We will see a development towards standardization of charging station sockets so that cars—irrespective of make—can recharge from any given station. Also, charging stations will probably be developed so motorists can carry out ultra-fast battery charging—e.g. 5-10 minutes. However, the faster the charging, the thicker the cables required. There is probably a limit to the size and weight of cables that vehicle owners are prepared to handle. We may, therefore, see the introduction of robots to address cable handling. As for the ultra-fast charging times under five minutes, I think this is still some way off in the future.

Information services 

The electric car’s modest mileage range may ‘drive’ the development of several information services initially aimed at curbing people’s fear of running out of battery power. Such information systems have already been seen in—among other things—Tesla’s cars. These systems may relate to monitoring of the vehicle/imminent charging reminders, information about the nearest charging station as well as the price of charging at potential charging stations. The service could be extended to include information about vacant parking spaces and other points of interest—similar to the services offered by GPS systems.

Operating costs can be reduced

Today, the cost of driving a kilometre in an electric car compared with a petrol equivalent is about half if we only consider the price of energy— i.e. the difference between a kilowatt hour and the corresponding amount of energy in the form of petrol. If, as a consequence of changes in the electricity markets or taxation, we one day get significantly differentiated electricity charges where the price of green electricity is considerably lower, it may be even cheaper to drive an electric car. (Read more about the electric car’s economy in ‘Economy is the key).

Increased energy efficiency 

Energy efficiency can be improved through the optimization of the electrical components of the electric car, but I don’t expect that we’ll see leaps in technology that will revolutionize electric cars. The electric car is already extremely energy-efficient. However, optimization may be achieved through the development of new materials that will reduce the car’s weight, as well as new designs that make the car more aerodynamic.



DTU theme on electric vehicles

Photo: Joachim Rode
  • "Electric vehicles are the long-term solution"

    According to Niels Buus Kristensen, Head of Department at DTU Transport and a member of the Danish government’s climate advisory committee, electric vehicles hold the key to a transport sector independent of fossil fuels.

  • "The car will be more than just a means of transport"
    The Japanese automotive giant Nissan and a team of researchers from DTU Electrical Engineering have become the first in the world to make a mass-produced electric vehicle return electricity to the grid.

  • "The battery—heart of the electric car"
    Batteries twice as powerful as those currently available may finally herald the breakthrough of electric cars. Developing such batteries is the goal of a European, DTU-led research project based on advanced materials research.

  • ”Economy is the key"

    Associate professor from DTU Transport, Stefan Lindhard Mabit’s assessment of the importance of economic factors for the spread and development of electric vehicles.