Electric vehicles: manufacturers are stepping up a gear

VW and BMW have expressed strong ambitions for the deployment of their electrified fleets. But will public infrastructure be able to keep up with the electricity revolution?

On Tuesday, an announcement from the German automaker Volkswagen had the effect of a bomb. “By 2025 at the latest, the group wants to become the world leader in the electric mobility market.” With these words, following the group’s statement revealing its intention to open six European battery cell factories by 2030, the manufacturer confirmed its intention to attack Tesla in the electric mobility industry. In numbers, Volkswagen has said it wants to sell 1 million electrified cars in 2021, up from 422,000 last year. Also, 46 ​​billion will be invested in the sector over five years by the group, which hopes to become the market leader in the meantime.

“By 2025 at the latest, the group wants to become the world leader in the electric mobility market.”

Barely had the market had time to digest the news – the VW title

taking off on the stock market – that the manufacturer BMW

decided to follow suit with its German counterpart. This Wednesday, on the sidelines of the publication of its results, the Bavarian group has unveiled its electrification strategy, announcing in the process that it wants to sell some 10 million 100% electric vehicles over the next 10 years. As an intermediate step, BMW expects two million electric vehicles on the roads by the end of 2025.

Earlier this year, Swedish manufacturer Volvo had previously said it would only produce electric vehicles from 2030.

Electric boom

A thousand times predicted, the electric vehicle boom is now visible on the horizon. In the short term, even. It is therefore the manufacturers who will have taken the lead in the electric revolution. “They face so many investment demands that it’s time to make bets“, observes Eric Desomer, industry expert at Deloitte. The keystone of the energy transition, the electrification of mobility seems to be accelerating here. Let us recall that the International Energy Agency (IEA) considers that, to decarbonise the global economy, 50% of vehicles sold worldwide will have to be electric by 2030.

“The electrified vehicle is fast becoming the norm.”

Eric Desomer

Automotive Industry Expert at Deloitte

“We can see that things are really accelerating. The window of opportunity for cars with conventional engines shrinks dramatically. The electrified vehicle is on the way to becoming the norm “, comments Eric Desomer. A boom, of course, but consumers still need to follow suit. And here, the price is still a brake on the mass adoption of the electron. However, what worries observers of the sector more is the capacity of the electricity network to integrate this transformed mobility. “Today, it is wealthy consumers who buy electric vehicles and charge them directly at their homes. So that the final flight takes place, it will inevitably require an evolution of public infrastructure, so that everyone can recharge their car“, further underlines the expert.

The Belgian network prepared

This question, the Belgian energy players did not wait for the announcements from VW and BMW to ask themselves. Indeed, a study by the association of network managers, Synergrid, looked into the issue in 2019, with the aim of helping managers define their strategy in this area. “The study shows that from the moment we extend vehicle recharging in time and space, this does not represent a problem for the network“, sums up Jean Fassiaux, spokesperson for the Belgian operator of the electricity transmission network, Elia.

“The electricity grid is ready until 2030.”

Mehdi Khrouz

Head of Strategy and Innovation at Sibelga

Same story with the manager of the Brussels distribution network, Sibelga, where it is said that “the network is ready until 2030”. Following the results of the Synergrid study, the company decided to install 400 additional charging points in Brussels by 2022, thus adding to the current 300.

Note that, the most optimistic scenario of the study regarding the deployment of the electric vehicle assumes that 1.5 million plug-in cars (including plug-in hybrids) will circulate in Belgium in 2030 and 4 million in 2050.

“The Brussels network is ready to accommodate 30% more electric vehicles, without major investment, by 2030.”

Mehdi Khrouz

Head of Strategy and Innovation at Sibelga

Promote virtuous behavior

If we believe Sibelga, Brussels would therefore be ready to accommodate up to 30% more electric vehicles, without major investment by 2030.. “From there, we will have to prepare to manage the charging stations that will be installed,” points out Mehdi Khrouz, head of strategy and innovation at Sibelga. “Intelligent charging management will be the key. It will also be necessary to encourage customers to adopt virtuous behaviors so that consumption takes place when electricity is produced,” he continues.

Clearly, it will be a question of adapting to the intermittence of renewable production capacities so as not to saturate the network. With this in mind, the deployment of smart meters will also be essential..

Concretely, a Brussels resident travels an average of 30 km per day by car. “If we consider a high-performance electric vehicle, that would mean that 5 kWh would have to be recharged overnight. With a conventional outlet, this recharging can be done in 2 to 3 hours. The time available is sufficient. It will be possible, via smart terminals, to prevent everyone from charging at the same time. Then, consumers who adopt virtuous behaviors will have to be able to be rewarded, ”he explains.

In short, the network is ready. And the builders unveil their plans. It only remains for consumers to take the plunge.

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