The gradual changeover of personal transport to electromobility – away from the use of combustion engines – is one of the central elements of the energy revolution.
Since this is a highly networked branch of one of the industries with the highest turnover of all, electromobility is also a driving factor of Industry 4.0.
What do we know about electromobility?
Electromobility is a modern way of satisfying the continual demand of society for means of transport that are increasingly efficient.
The concept of sustainability now also has a much higher priority than it did with any of the preceding technologies.
All vehicles with an electric drive are regarded as electric vehicles, such as electric cars, electric scooters and electric bikes, and also electric trains, which are already established.
All types of vehicles with hybrid drives are also included, of course.
A central element of electromobility for industrial transport is the development of efficient energy storage.
This is the only way to make electric vehicles independent of energy control systems and become increasingly competitive with internal combustion engines.
Electric mobility and the energy revolution
Vehicles that run on nothing but electricity are basically a means of transport that is free of emissions, at least locally.
The energy revolution in this segment will actually only be achieved if the energy that is consumed is also sustainable and comes from green energy production such as solar energy or hydroelectric power.
However, vehicles equipped with electric drives already emit less greenhouse gas than vehicles with conventional internal combustion engines.
At least, this proven method applies if the average European energy mixture is used as the basis for calculation.
The same also applies for hybrid vehicles to a lesser extent.
Short history of electromobility
Rail-guided electric transport systems were already established back in the late 19th century.
Trams and subways gradually became used in metropolitan areas.
It was a good hundred years later before electromobility appeared in private personal transport: The Toyota Prius, the first series production hybrid vehicle, came onto the market in 1997.
Since the early 21st century, the majority of important motor vehicle manufacturers have at least had hybrid vehicles in their product range.
Barely twenty years later, in 2015, more than 500,000 electric cars were sold worldwide. Electric bikes and electric scooters are also enjoying increasing popularity.
However, the experts are predicting that the electromobility boom will not take place until the 2020’s: The biggest hurdles which are currently reducing the competitiveness of electric vehicles will then have been overcome.
Until then, many industrial countries are attempting to stimulate electromobility with comprehensive development programs – not least because the governments of all of the main industrialized nations of the global community have agreed on a general reduction in greenhouse gases.
The advantages and disadvantages of electromobility
Sustainability is one of the most important arguments for switching to an electric vehicle. If an electric vehicle is charged with green energy, the transport is almost emission-free.
The convenience of electric vehicles is also an argument for a change: The torque of an electric vehicle from a standstill is higher than that of a combustion engine. Changing gear is also no longer necessary. Vehicles with electric motors are also quieter and vibrate less, they have a longer service life than internal combustion engines, and their maintenance costs are also lower.
However, the manufacturers of electric vehicles are currently faced with some technological difficulties. These are mainly the relatively low capacity of the energy storage, which limits the range that can be covered with a single charge.
Whereas combustion engines can be refuelled within little more than a minute, batteries need to be charged for quite a long time. At least the cost of rechargeable batteries is currently decreasing dramatically, which should lower the relatively high purchase price of electric vehicles.
Another hurdle on the way to the energy revolution in individual transport is that it will probably be many years until the network penetration of charging stations for electric vehicles can keep up with that of gas stations for internal combustion engines.
Another possible alternative to batteries are fuel cells. Their performance does not reach the same level of efficiency, but fuel cells do not need to be recharged but are refuelled like vehicles with internal combustion engines. This technology is nearly ready for the market in 2017.