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Industry watch: Affordability and charging facilities key to EV industry

Colley Hwang, DIGITIMES, Taipei 0

With EVs gradually becoming the mainstream, a budget-friendly incentive is certainly crucial. The price of EVs is still much higher than that of traditional vehicles in Europe and the US. Although the penetration rate of EVs in China is relatively high, there are many low-cost mini cars on the road, so it is different from the scenarios in Europe and US.

The budget models launched since 2020 by European and American carmakers are priced around US$40,000. The price is lower than the US$50,000 in 2019 and may go much lower to US$25,000 in 2023. Range per charge of the existing budget models goes for about 400 kilometers which would duly ease EV range anxiety given daily driving distance within 100 kilometers for urban residents. There leaves room for price drop following improvements in efficiency of batteries and components. It is inevitable for EVs to get budget-friendly.

Widespread charging infrastructure is the most desirable supporting factor to accelerate EV uptakes. In 2020, 90% of the world's 1.3 million charging stations were deployed in China, the US and Europe, with China's 807,000 accounting for 62.1%, followed by Europe's 286,000 and the US' 110,000, contributing 22% and 8.5%, respectively.

In addition to the number of charging piles, the deployment of fast charging facilities is vital. Considering differences in populations and geographical conditions of each country, the strategies can vary. Take one of the most densely populated countries - Taiwan - as an example. More than 90% of its population is concentrated along the west coast where two national highways run almost its entire length. It would be cost-effective to deploy charging piles along the swathe in high density, which would also benefit the upstream of the EV ecosystem. According to Edwin Liu, president of Industrial Technology Research Institute (ITRI), Taiwan will set up at least 7,500 charging piles along the highways by 2025. The global expectations and requirements for decarbonization in recent years will motivate emerging countries, including Taiwan, to accelerate infrastructure construction.

Besides wide deployment of charging piles, it is essential to increase the proportion of fast charging facilities. Take recharging time of 200km-range as an example. It took 48 minutes for a 50kW-pile to have an EV fully charged in 2016, while it took 16 minutes using a 150kW-pile in 2018. It came down to merely seven minutes for a 350kW pile in 2020, close to the time needed for a re-fuel for traditional vehicles.

There are now more charging facilities to serve charging and discharging at the same time. That is to say, the EVs can be functioning as mobile power banks that release power back to the power grid if necessary. The island countries such as Japan and others that are at high risks of natural disasters are especially anticipating emergency backup power. Some regions in Europe also have problems of power shortage. If EVs can feedback power to the grid, there can be a mechanism to optimize power management during peak and off-peak hours.

Now there are applications of back-charging power supplied for camping in China. In Taiwan, the state-run Taiwan Power has cooperated with the MIH Consortium to develop a two-way charging and discharging system. According to a preliminary study, if all Taiwan's cars are replaced by EVs, it will increase the overall power supply by 9% through "peak shaving and valley filling." This echoes what Tesla's Musk has said: car sales and energy sales would each account for half of Tesla's revenue in the future.

Credit: DIGITIMES

Colley Hwang, president of DIGITIMES Asia, is a tech industry analyst with more than three decades of experience under his belt. He has written several books about the trends and developments of the tech industry, including Asian Edge: On the Frontline of the ICT World published in 2019, and Disconnected ICT Supply Chain: New Power Plays Unfolding published in 2020.
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