The Future of the Electric Mobility Market – A Conversation Between Experts

In our new “Industry in Focus” article series, experts discuss emerging trends in specific industries and their impact on business and society. To launch the series, P3 senior executives Robert Stanek and Jürgen Schenk take a look at electric mobility together with HELUKABEL expert Uwe Schenk.

The future market of electric mobility is a topic that everyone is talking about. How long have you been involved with this megatrend?

Jürgen Schenk (JS): I’ve been following the transformation of the car industry for 15 years and am convinced electric mobility is the car market of the future.

Robert Stanek (RS): I’ve been interested in this topic for almost ten years, and in particular, how and when electric mobility will become economically viable.

Uwe Schenk (US): What appeals to me is the vastness of the field of application which goes far beyond cars. At HELUKABEL, for example, we’re investigating fast-charging technologies for e-buses and solutions for maritime applications.

What’s the current global share of e-mobility in transport?

RS: The largest electric mobility market is in China. About ten percent of cars there are battery powered. In the EU it’s about three to five percent, and in the USA about three percent.

P3 believes that the shift towards e-mobility requires a holistic approach that goes beyond simply electrifying vehicles. Can you explain this view with examples?

RS: The ongoing transition towards electric mobility is a multifaceted challenge. For instance, customer behavior needs to change, i.e., from driving to filling stations for fuel to using re-charging stations and installing a charging box at home. Additionally, a totally new industry sector is developing in order to provide the suitable infrastructure – seamless, nationwide charging coverage to facilitate long distance travel and counter the existing “range fears” from potential electric vehicle (EV) drivers. These charging requirements are causing the big sectors of mobility and energy to become closely interlinked.

Furthermore, the overall supply chain within the automotive industry needs to adjust to the new technology with high performance lithium-ion batteries and semi-conductors, which are becoming the most important components in new vehicles.

When is a charging standard likely to be available and how are the different markets changing?

RS: Given that we started with a variety of charging standards in the market, we have made some progress over the last decade. In the US, Type 1 (AC) and Combined Charging System (CCS) – Combo 1 (DC) are defined as standards. In the EU, similar systems are the norm: Type 2 (AC) and CCS – Combo 2 (DC). Furthermore, the legacy infrastructure from the early days of electric mobility in the EU is vanishing from the market (e.g. Type 3 plugs found in France or Italy). Standardization in fast charging has progressed over the years. We now have a high availability of CCS in the EU market with more and more Asian manufacturers (e.g. Hyundai-Kia, Nissan) adopting this standard for their European EVs. In Asia, some specific standards still apply, such as Japan’s Type 1 (AC) and CHAdeMO (DC) or China’s GB-T standard.

Apart from these examples, for AC or “normal” charging the de-facto standard is going towards 11 kW in markets with three-phase grid connections and 7.2 kW in markets with a one-phase grid connection – this is also driven by the on-board charger technology in the vehicle – and is sufficient for overnight charging or for charging over longer parking periods. For fast charging, there is a clear trend towards high-power charging with >100 kW. Nevertheless, the progression of this trend depends on EV specifications, modular hardware set-ups with a wide output voltage range, and the financial attractiveness for charge point operators (CPOs).

With the availability of 350 kW today, we are already well positioned to support the passenger car segment. To adequately support commercial vehicles, there are ongoing efforts to develop a new standard – the so-called Megawatt Charging System (MCS) – to enable charging power of 1-2 MW. This would make charging breaks for vehicles as convenient and short as possible.

What challenges does HELUKABEL face?

US: Our charging cables propagate a lot of energy through confined spaces. Our products therefore depend on good conduction technology and excellent insulating materials that are capable of withstanding high temperatures in cables.

What are the limiting factors for a charging cable?

US: They’re mainly limited by the vehicle peripherals and the plug type. We have also reached a limit with respect to handling the car charging cable. We use cables with diameters of up to 35 millimeters for CCS plugs that can be used for both direct current and alternating current charging. This means it already has a very high tare weight. A point comes when the charging cable is simply too heavy to handle.

Much of the discussion about e-mobility revolves around ranges and charging times. Are these issues overrated?

JS: I find charging breaks every 1.5 to two hours make driving an electric car much more relaxing. But these breaks are only necessary if I drive more than 300 kilometers. For shorter distances I try to top up at my destination. At this point I must mention that there are usually only AC chargers at the end of my journey which supply too little power. These AC chargers with 11 kW or less are remnants from the very early days of electric mobility and are incapable of charging a car in just one or two hours.

US: At HELUKABEL we still notice a very high demand for cables for AC chargers.

Why’s that?

JS: It’s because these AC charging points are easy to build and, in principle, the power supply wires for them have already been laid everywhere. Competition under the motto of “who’s got the most charging stations?” is fierce among the municipalities. But this doesn’t help customers. It would make a lot more sense to build more fast-charging stations.

US: Another possibility is to provide charging infrastructure based on battery swapping. You make an appointment at your destination and swap the empty battery for a full one.

RS: I think this development will first be realized in commercial vehicles or local public transport. Buses might be in their depot at night but if there are, say, a 100 or more of them, it would be impossible to charge them all at once because the power supplied to the depot is simply too little. The bus depot would need its own generating station.

from left: Uwe Schenk, Robert Stanek and Jürgen Schenk discuss today’s trends in e-mobility (© Tobias Bugala).

How would you summarizes the situation regarding the economic viability of charging infrastructure?

RS: As far as I know, only Tesla is making money so far with its fast-charging network. None of the other charging network operators have a positive business case yet. In other words, they’re still in the investment and development phase.

Wireless charging (inductive charging) is a consumer trend for mobile devices, for example. Could it be used for e-mobility?

US: HELUKABEL is currently receiving many enquiries about this. There are interesting applications, such as installations at taxi ranks. This type of charging system will come, particularly where fixed routes are involved. A good example of this are river ferries. They’re predestined for this type of charging.

In your opinion, at what stage of integration is electric mobility across the global markets?

RS: Today we are in the mass market rollout of electric mobility. With the introduction of EV platforms, major automotive manufacturers are paving the way towards an all-electric future. This is also reflected in the announcements from different players within the automotive industry to abandon internal-combustion engine technology in the upcoming years: by 2030, VW aims for 50 percent of its vehicle sales to be electric in the US & China and 80 percent in the EU; Audi announced that it is abandoning internal combustion engines in 2026; and Mercedes-Benz is currently reviewing their targets to further increase vehicle electrification (originally, they were aiming for 50 percent of e-car sales by 2030).

China is the clear international leader in EV adoption, but Europe is following close behind. The North American market is progressing in their electric mobility path with impressive governmental subsidies and industry development initiatives across the entire value chain, from battery cell manufacturing to the deployment of charging infrastructure.

On a global scale, how big will the e-mobility market share be in ten years?

RS: Based on the growing availability of attractive EVs that are suitable for daily use and meet the tightening CO2 emission targets, we expect very dynamic growth in the e-mobility market. In 2030, we expect global annual sales of >35M passenger EVs. For Europe, this means a market share of >45 percent with almost every other newly registered car being an EV. However, the overall market share will still be below 20 percent, which shows that this is a long-term transition across all regions. We expect the electric mobility market to increase more than sixfold between now and 2030, leading to EV penetration rates of between ~40 percent in North America to ~50 percent in Europe (automotive plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV) and battery electric vehicle (BEV) sales penetration rates).

On a global scale, what do you think mobility will look like in ten years?

RS: Besides vehicle electrification, additional major trends are shaping the mobility market: increased vehicle connectivity and the availability of smart services, increased autonomous driving and finally shared mobility. We are certain, that significant changes are needed to address climate change and its related challenges. It might not be sufficient to just electrify today’s traffic; we need more intelligent and shared concepts. The megacities in Asia can be looked at as the leaders of this change, e.g., their autonomous shuttle services, shared rides or the increased usage of two-wheelers. When it comes to electric mobility, the ongoing interlinkage between mobility and the energy sector might be one of the most interesting changes. With new options such as dynamic prices for charging, calendar-based charging schemes or vehicle-to-grid applications, interesting opportunities await to generate business and make electric driving even more attractive for drivers and their cars, as well as for large interconnected energy devices.

Robert Stanek, Global Advisor E-Mobility and member of the P3 automotive GmbH board, studied business administration and production engineering at the University of Stuttgart. He joined P3 in 2012 as an automotive consultant and has been a partner since 2017. Stanek leads the e-mobility team which focuses on battery systems, electric drives and cost management.

Jürgen Schenk is Senior Consultant E-Mobility at P3 automotive GmbH. The graduate engineer has 40 years of experience in automotive development which includes leading positions in the drive electronics sector and, in the last 15 years, involvement in electric mobility. Among his other previous roles is directorship of e-drive system integration at Daimler AG.

Uwe Schenk, Global Segment Manager E-Mobility & Renewable Energy at HELUKABEL GmbH, is a qualified radio and television technician. He’s been working at HELUKABEL since 1998. In 2006 he became global segment manager for wind energy and in 2017 for renewable energies and electric mobility. HELUKABEL is a solution provider for e-mobility and infrastructure projects, and supplies the right cables for a wide range of applications, from power generators to power consumers, including cars, buses, lorries, industrial trucks, maritime applications and airport service vehicles.

ABOUT P3 GROUP: P3 is an independent and international consulting company that offers consulting, engineering and software development services. P3 has over 1,000 employees in 17 international locations. It has been active in the field of electric mobility for over 15 years.

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