‘You have solar, battery pack, EV and you control everything on your phone’
Since Tesla’s acquisition of SolarCity, the company’s mission slightly changed from “accelerating the advent of electric transport” to “accelerating the advent of sustainable energy”. The company wants to offer solutions throughout the entire energy production and consumption process.
At a conference last week, a Tesla executive explained the company’s vision for managing all that energy across all their products.
Kurt Kelty, Tesla’s longtime director of battery technology, was in Florida last week to give a keynote address at the International Battery Seminar.
During his presentation, he explained Tesla’s vision of energy management in future houses (transcript via evannex):
“Where we see the future [is] in houses [and] we want to be your EV provider. Put your EV in your garage and you charge it up with one of our chargers, you have a powerwall… [and] a solar product [solar roof] that we’ll be introducing this summer. You [can] see how this could integrate well in your house. You have solar, battery pack, the EV and you’ve got all the controls on your cell phone and you could control everything. This is the kind of future we see for [your] house.”
That’s similar to the vision shared by CEO Elon Musk when he first suggested Tesla’s acquisition of SolarCity in order to have a single company offering electricity generation, through solar products, storage, through Powerwall and Powerpacks, and consumption, through Tesla’s electric vehicles.
Currently, most of the attention on autonomous vehicles is focused on the technology that lets cars drive themselves. However, in the near future, the industry will need to broaden its focus to include what is arguably just as important: the passenger.
Renault pioneered the development of electric vehicles in Europe, and leads the European electric vehicle market today. The vehicle batteries are rented to customers, and have been since release of Renault’s very first electric vehicle. In this way, Renault keeps full control over the whole battery lifecycle, which is advantageous not only to customers but to the planet as well.
Renault was the first European automaker to believe in the all-electric vehicle. Back in 2009, Carlos Ghosn announced a strategy that was ambitious and unprecedented on the market: Groupe Renault would be offering a full range of affordable all-electric vehicles by 2012. The promise was kept, with release of a line-up of electric vehicles addressing a broad customer spectrum: ZOE, Kangoo ZE and Twizy, plus Master ZE later this year in Europe, and RSM SM3 ZE in Korea.
Circular economy and battery lifecycle
Some 93% of Renault’s electric vehicle customers rent the batteries that power their cars. Because Renault owns the batteries, it can optimize both the usage and the end-of-life phases in the battery lifecycle.
Renault electric vehicle batteries are managed to a three-stage circular-economy approach:
1) Optimum battery life in the car
Renault monitors the battery condition in real-time and can therefore ensure an optimum battery lifespan at the on-the-road phase.
Renault repair centres can also repair defective batteries in the vast majority of instances. And any batteries that do prove irreparable for in-vehicle use continue active service in stationary energy storage applications.
2) Battery reuse off the road
When a battery falls below 75% charge capacity and can no longer meet the demanding requirements of providing vehicle power, it can nevertheless continue to provide valuable energy storage service in less demanding applications. Since renewable energy sources such as solar panels have an inherently intermittent output, local production is optimized by storing the energy in batteries.
Renault is an active member of several national and European green energy projects that use electric vehicle batteries in this kind of stationary energy storage application.
3) Battery recycling
Renault implements a specific recycling process and works on improving its materials recovery practices, with partners such as Veolia.
Recycling starts with removing the battery’s cells (the electrochemical elements that store energy). The other battery materials are either reused or recycled through conventional processes. The cells are processed by specialist Renault partners using a hydro-metallurgical process for recovering metals such as copper, cobalt, nickel and lithium.
Ten years ago the notion that electric vehicles (EV) could significantly disrupt the conventional diesel-fuel monopoly of the car market seemed like a pipedream – but that dream is coming close to a reality. Erik Fairbairn, the Founder of UK electric vehicle (EV) charging company POD Point, which recently crowdfunded £9m on Crowd Cube, explains why EVs are about to become the new normal.
It’s Fairbairn’s belief that in the future EV drivers will no longer need to stop somewhere to charge their car, but instead this mundane task will happen when the car isn’t being used, which is 90% of the time.
Starting a revolution
“My first thought was: how do you put energy into your car? With a petrol pump, so you probably need something similar for an EV,”
His POD Points look like conventional petrol pumps, but instead of a long, oily nozzle at the end of the handle there is a large plug.
Fairbairn quickly grasped that he couldn’t completely replicate the petrol station experience, as to take a battery from empty to full in two minutes simply doesn’t work.
“I realised I need to put a charge point everywhere your car is parked,”
One of the main concerns linked to widespread EV roll-out is the energy demand and strain they will inevitably put on the national grid, which Fairbairn believes can be managed with demand-side response.
“In the future, when we get to a mass roll-out of EVs we can carefully manage how many cars are charging at any one minute,”
POD Point is one of the top ten most crowdfunded business in the UK. It previously raised £5m across three different rounds of crowdfunding and in December raised an additional £9m.
“Crowdfunding is great as there are many EV drivers that want to invest in the company – there is this affinity between the company and the drivers who like being part of the POD Point ecosystem,”
The immediate plan for POD Point is to scale-up the UK operation, but regardless of the outcomes of Brexit, there is huge potential for the company in neighbouring Europe.
“I think the UK is one of the more advanced places in Europe for EV charging, but the opportunity to export from UK to the rest of Europe and build networks across the whole of the continent is very exciting,”
In the rankings of EV adoption, Norway is first, the Netherlands second at 5%-8%, and the UK third at 2%.
“The biggest barrier for EVs today is that they are more expensive,” Fairbairn says. “My rule of thumb is that mass adoption is going to happen when we get a 200-mile range car for £20,000 and I think that will happen in 2020.”