Important breakthrough: BYD's Blade line of li-ion batteries are fire and puncture resistant, which is a huge step forward in addressing electric vehicles' safety concerns | Photo: Auto Devot

The 2020 EV news round up

Major technological breakthroughs and policy initiatives drive bright forecasts

Delhi, Telangana adopt EV policies, Ola to build world’s largest scooter factory

Delhi and Telangana formally adopted their EV policies in August and both lay an emphasis on expanding EVs in public transport. Delhi’s comes with an additional pollution tax on petrol and diesel vehicles and a focus on ‘electrifying’ two- and three-wheeler delivery vehicles. Telangana, on the other hand, will allow for ICE vehicles retrofitted with EV kits to be registered with its transport authority. 

Rideshare firm Ola, meanwhile, will invest $327 million to set up the world’s largest scooter manufacturing facility in Tamil Nadu. The firm is determined to expand the reach of electric mobility to India’s smaller cities and towns, and the facility will be capable of manufacturing two million units a year. It has already acquired Dutch scooter manufacturer Etergo, which builds high-tech electric scooters with long range, swappable battery packs. 

Fire-resistant and million-mile EV batteries  

China’s BYD announced its “Blade” line of li-ion batteries that can withstand being penetrated by nails, bending, crushing and overcharging of up to 260% without catching fire. Very impressive, considering li-ion batteries catching fire have raised questions about EVs’ safety. Also, CATL (Contemporary Amperex Technology Co. Ltd.) was ready to start manufacturing li-ion batteries that would run for two million kilometers (1.2 million miles) over their 16-year lifespan. Replacing contemporary li-ion packs after about eight years and 100,000 kms is a major expense associated with EV ownership. 

Li-ion breaches $100/kWh threshold 

BNEF reported that prices for China’s li-ion batteries for some electric buses have dropped to below the much-touted $100/kWh mark. The figure is used as the threshold beyond which EVs would be cheaper to manufacture than ICE vehicles and BNEF thinks that it could reach a low of $58/kWh by 2030. However, the price reduction may be driven by manufacturers ramping up their output of solid-state or Lithium Iron Phosphate battery packs, which can be churned out at up to 40% less cost. 

California and the UK announcing deadlines to stop ICE vehicle sales 

The US state of California joined 15 countries when it announced that it would only sell zero emission passenger vehicles from 2035. The executive order by its governor was significant in that it specifically acknowledged petrol and diesel vehicles’ role in driving up greenhouse gas emissions and worsening climate change. The state is also one of the US’s biggest car markets — with nearly two million new car sales in 2019 — and has for years led the country in setting stricter vehicle emission norms despite the lack of support from the White House.

The UK, too, revised its target to ban new ICE vehicle sales from 2040 to 2030 — and was even supported by none other than BP (British Petroleum). The timeline brings it in line with Germany, the Netherlands and Ireland and is aimed to steer the country to being carbon-neutral by 2050. Its aviation industry has also pledged to achieve net zero emissions by 2050, even though cutting 30 million tons of annual CO2 emissions while increasing passenger numbers by 70% is quite the challenge. 

GM commits to expanding electric models, resurrects Hummer as all-electric pickup truck

Automotive giant GM (General Motors) will up its commitment to building EVs to $27 billion and will launch 30 new electric models by 2025. The figure will exceed its investment in ICE vehicles and has been revised upward from the previous quantum of $20 billion. Most importantly, CEO Mary Barra has said that “climate change is real” — unlike the Trump Administration — and that EVs are the right strategy for growth. 
The automaker will also resurrect one of the most fuel inefficient vehicles ever built, the Hummer, as a 100% electric pickup truck. It will go into production in 2021 and the decision goes to show that the electric powertrain is viable even for the heaviest of cars. The electric Hummer’s base model alone may retail north of $79,995 but the first edition sold out in 10 minutes flat, and it will use GM’s Ultium line of long-range batteries to offer more than 350 miles (~560 km) of range per charge.