Among the many trends that have dominated the world of automobile engineering, the switch to electric vehicles has been both fast-paced and yet has only inched forward a few steps from where we started last year. Any imagination of the future is fueled by a vision of electronics, customizations, mods, and robotics that simplify and elevate the lived experience of every single individual in one way or another but our fantastical thinking has outpaced the planning needed for such a future. 

While we’re still a few rungs away from unlocking flying cars and light-speed travel, we have, in fact, unlocked electric vehicles as a replacement for the simpler fuel-powered automobiles that we still rely on today. Many argue that this upgrade is merely illusionary and that electric vehicles aren’t quite the revolution in sustainability, but determining the validity of their argument requires considerable work. 

Drivetrain EV Are We Truly Headed Towards an Electric-Powered Future

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The idea of a sustainable life cycle for vehicles can take on many shapes in the story EVs are trying to write. Consider this: Are we prioritizing planning out whether our shift to electric vehicles is really viable in the long term? The excitement around EVs often starts and stops at the EVs are a stylistic accessory to flaunt in front of those still driving gas-powered vehicles, the next big thing that shows you care about the environment. But we’re not entirely sure if it is helping the environment and if we won’t just power through towards EV adoption only to find ourselves entirely unprepared to handle our fleets of electric vehicles in the end. The revolution of EVs needs to be more than just a temporary fad for it to realistically be the future of automobiles. 

If major infrastructural changes aren’t made to support the rise of electric vehicles, what we will inevitably witness is a stockpile of cars with no buyers over time, simply because after the initial shine of electric vehicles wears off, people will be left with a car that doesn’t serve their daily needs. For this shift in perspective and resources to be a realistic one, we need voices from adjacent industries to have a say in the move towards EVs, their insight into the infrastructure forming the basis of the kind of change we need as we pace our progress towards the next step in the evolutionary cycle of automobiles. 

Sustainability Starts and Stops at The Push of a Button

Apart from chasing a futuristic aesthetic, the main reason for the shift from gasoline and diesel to electric has been the assumption that electric vehicles are better for the planet as a whole. Fossil fuels are a limited resource and the closer we get to the end of our reserves, the more expensive it will become to run our existing vehicles. We are yet a while away from the doomsday predictions of running out of our natural resources but that doesn’t mean we can take a breather and relax for now. 

Early in 2023, Maryland Gov. Wes Moore announced that the state would start working on phasing out the sale of new, gas-powered cars by 2035 in an effort to curb climate change. Maryland’s climate change strategy has an aim of bringing down greenhouse gas emissions by 60 percent by 2031 as compared to 2006 levels, and to achieve net carbon neutrality by 2045. This structural change adds to the conversation on why EVs need to be more than a change in power source in our vehicles.

The environmental impact of EVs isn’t just in the reduction of the use of non-renewable resources but is also conceptualized in the reduction of carbon emissions and air pollution as well. EVs produce no tailpipe emissions that we see gasoline cars generate, making their individual impact on the environment inevitably lower and marking an easy win for EVs over the vehicles we have today. Naysayers regularly argue this point, stating that the production and use of EVs create sufficient pollution to match up to the impact caused by individual gasoline cars. Some state that the large-scale generation of electricity needed to power these cars serves to be counterproductive to the goal of pollution reduction, while others target the battery production process to state that it outweighs any benefits the car will reap while in use. 

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency firmly disagrees with these concerns. Citing a study by the Argonne National Laboratory, even though the manufacturing process and end-of-life greenhouse gas emissions are higher than what the production of a gasoline car involves, the overall emission numbers over the entire life cycle of the EV car are less than half of what a traditional car will produce. In the long run, the electric car is more beneficial for the environment for those willing to consider the matter of pollution seriously. This brings us back to the “Why?” of EVs and highlights why the shift to electric should be the future of transportation, but the “How?” element of it still remains fully undefined.

Mark Thomas, EVP of Strategic Alliances at Ridecell has been a helpful voice in providing perspective throughout this article, and his opinions bring forth much insight towards how we actually need to approach the idea of a sustainable future, “The move to EVs is a great first step towards sustainability, but it’s only the first of many to achieve a more sustainable future. Battery recycling and sourcing clean energy are critical to continuing to benefit from the EV transition. But overall, we will need to reduce the total vehicle miles traveled in passenger cars also. Saving the environment means changing our driving habits as well as vehicle types.” 

Our answers with regard to the environmental impacts of technology have been consistently unilateral and a one-dimensional perspective does not seem suited for the long run. There is likely no one right answer for whether EVs truly are the way forward, but there is no reason to rule it out instead of exploring how to best invest in this tech. 

Are We There Yet? What About Our Infrastructure?

At present, we appear to be powering towards EV adoption in full force despite concerns that we might lose steam after the initial burst of electric vehicles. The last year was seemingly a good one for EVs, with U.S. sales of these modern vehicles reaching 9 percent of light-duty vehicle sales according to Atlas Public Policy. The combined U.S. sales of hybrid, plug-in hybrid, and battery-electric vehicles reached 17.7 percent of new light-duty vehicle sales in the third quarter of 2023 as per an article published on Utility Dive, making it very evident that the public was most certainly enthusiastic about the shift to EVs. 

But does the shift to EV only involve the purchase of new electric vehicles? It’s hardly that simple considering that the rise of electric vehicles will mean a shift in manufacturing units to support the increased demands as well as a significant move from gas stations to charging stations that can help cars stay on the road. 

Cameron Clayton, CEO at EasyPark Group, elucidates on the shift in infrastructure most eloquently. “For the US to catch up to other countries who already have infrastructure in place for EVs, the government will need to offer financial incentives to drive the transition and help with the cost of installing EV charging stations. Local governments would greatly benefit from grants and tax credits for businesses and people alike will be helpful. Successful incentives should consist of a broad palette of initiatives to drive adoption. This separates successful governments from less successful ones.

“The charging stations that have opened in Ohio and New York as part of the National Electric Vehicle Infrastructure Program are a great example and the beginnings of significant public investment in EV infrastructure. But more still must be done to catch up to the years of private demand and interest.”

While we’re still ahead in terms of EV adoption, it’s ideal for us to begin considering the full ecosystem of change required to support electric vehicles. The increasing power demand has been one of the main concerns expressed by experts in the field. With a sudden upsurge in the use of electricity to support our vehicles, the power grids available globally may not be able to dial up the support they can provide.

CEO at SkillFusion, Rue Phillips, agrees that the demands will increase, but we might not have to worry about being overwhelmed, “As the transition towards EVs takes place against aggressive forecasts and mandates, there will be an imminent increase in power demand requirements from the utility power suppliers. However, this shouldn’t be a crisis for the energy companies, since a majority of EV charging will be done at home in the evenings during off-peak times. Utilities will offer special discounted EV energy rates for off-peak ‘evening’ charging against higher demand rates for on-peak during the day.

“Additionally, new and exciting technologies are already being implemented through Bi-Directional Vehicle-to-Grid (V2G) functionality, using the EV as a battery energy storage source that can sell back energy on demand or at peak times to the utility company. Imagine hundreds of V2G capable EVs on a single electric utility circuit, that could short burst combined ‘Megawatts’ of energy to the grid in return for special lower tariffs for the EVs. Sounds crazy? This is already in use in some States.

“EV drivers of the ‘near’ future will inevitably have homes utilizing EV charging, solar PV and battery energy storage systems (BESS) that will manage and reduce the demand and usage of electricity within the household.”

Ancillary Supporters Will Light the Way

Infrastructural changes start with consistent power support but that’s not all we need to support the transition to EVs. While car makers are put at the forefront of the advancement in terms of what best they can do with an electric vehicle, it is the support network that is generated around these primary services that truly makes it possible. 

EasyPark Group, for example, is a company dedicated to making cities more livable, providing technology to address a problem that we don’t consider until we’re two minutes away from raging over it—parking. CEO Cameron Clayton believes that planning begins with considering existing data and that’s where they fit into the EV journey. “Parking and mobility data is crucial for cities to plan where, how many, and what type of EV charging stations they should invest in. In addition, this data is also crucial to have to help implement the right policy to facilitate usage.

“The feedback loop of data for charging demand helps municipalities to place key charging locations and keep pace with demand for the growing EV transition. The feedback loop from parking data helps to understand the adoption rate and compliance of EVs. Data will also benefit visitors as travelers that are not as familiar with the cities they are visiting can access available information in seconds on the app.

“Currently, EV road trips can be difficult due to uncertain charging availability or require additional pre-planning to incorporate charging stops. EV charging is a data-intensive service for consumers, e.g. ‘Where can I find a Charging Pole; Is the Charging Pole operational and available?; Does the Charging Pole work with my car; What type of Chargers is it?’ We can help users remove this friction to create a seamless experience.”

EV Adoption for Business Use Also Requires Consideration

It seems quite evident that while we fret over whether to invest in an electric car or not, companies like EasyPark Group are considering the consequences of that decision for us, and they’re not the only ones to do so. While we ponder the systematic changes that will support us on an individual level, Ridecell, a fleet management service, is all geared up for the large-scale adoption of electric vehicles. EVP of Strategic Alliances, Mark Thomas, states “With the transition to EVs, there will be increased complexity in managing fleets. Implementing new policies and procedures for EVs while maintaining the older ICE processes will tax the fleet management professionals. By adopting automation of their fleet-related tasks using the Ridecell Fleet Transformation Cloud, fleets can reinvent how they manage the complexity of their business by automating the majority of the tasks associated with managing fleets.” It seems that while there are few stones left unturned, innovators and investors still have a chance to invest further in the field of EVs. 

“EVs as an industry will dramatically change the value chain around mobility. With maintenance dramatically dropping versus a conventional petrol-powered vehicle, the supporting infrastructure will need to adapt to changing market demands. New businesses and business models will evolve around the prevalence of the new experience. How people pass time while charging may shape the US gas station experience into a more European auto rest stop approach,” he explains. Apart from counting on the government to further the EV industry, there are likely a lot of opportunities to support the growth of electric vehicles, and those who are intimidated by the growth of the industry might want to take another look at what they can do to participate.

There’s no better way to summarize the shift to EV compared to what SkillFusion CEO Rue Philips had to say on the matter. “The adoption of Electric vehicles from traditional ICE vehicles will indeed be an uncomfortable transition for some, however, implementation will be a slow and gradual process. Full electrification of general transportation will see new creative technologies and ancillary business opportunities develop.”