Striking a balance on the long haul

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It is one of the most essential questions in the design and development of an electrically powered automobile: should we focus on fast charging or large batteries?

The debate is not only very complex, it is further fueled by emerging technologies and market trends.

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Sodium vs. lithium: The growing debate over sodium versus lithium batteries is largely due to recent advances in cell chemistry. While Li-ion batteries were considered a set in the past, they may now be changing that. Sodium, which is more common and a waste product of potash mining, could be a cheaper and more environmentally friendly alternative to lithium. This would mean that a key argument against “large” battery capacities – the cost factor – would no longer be essential in the debate.

Range anxiety: Another argument in favor of high battery capacity remains a key psychological factor: despite advances in the ranges of EVs, range anxiety remains an obstacle for many potential customers. Larger batteries could offer a solution – with now potentially solvable cost and sustainability drawbacks.

Quality of the fast charging network: The market ramp-up is very exciting to follow, especially in Europe. With the opening of the once Tesla-exclusive Supercharger network, the public fast charging network has become much more attractive. In addition, smaller players such as Pfalzwerke are also making the use of fast chargers more attractive with strategically located HPC charging points in large commercial areas. The enormous competition between EnBW, Aral Pulse and Fastned is also a major advantage for customers in terms of pillar availability on the long haul.

High-performance batteries: With companies like CATL announcing super batteries that let e-cars charge in just 10 minutes for a range of 400 km, the debate over the need for large batteries versus the availability of fast-charging stations could be reignited. That’s because a compact battery is not only cheaper, it’s also lighter, allowing the vehicle to be driven more efficiently – which in turn leads to further reduced downtime at the fast charger.

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However, the balance between battery size and fast charging depends on much more than just the factors mentioned above. From the quality of battery technology to the efficiency of the charging infrastructure network, we are only scratching the surface here – although these are certainly the most important points of discussion.

Last but not least, the intended use of the vehicle must be considered in the discussion, because the points mentioned above count primarily for long-distance travel. In short-haul and commuter traffic, they play only a minor role. Here, above all, a nationwide AC charging network is crucial for the progressive success of electromobility – and here, too, there are still many problem areas that need to be worked on. But I would like to address this in one of the next “deep dives”.

It is one of the most essential questions in the design and development of an electrically powered automobile: should we focus on fast charging or large batteries?

The industry is changing, and I look forward to discussing with them the direction we will take in the coming years.