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Global demand for buses is projected to increase 4.9% per year through 2021 to 623.000 units, an improvement over 2011-2016 market performance. The number of buses in use worldwide is expected to reach 9.7 million units. These and other trends are presented in Global Bus Market, 6th Edition, a study from The Freedonia Group, a Cleveland-based industry research firm.
During the 5'th e-Mobility Stakeholder Forum in which the preliminary ZeEUS results were presented, 'e-Mobility and Energy Storage' was the title of an interesting workshop. Although the vehicles are important as well as the engines and charging solutions, one of the most important pieces in the chain of e-mobility is energy storage.
Since three years prof. dr. Noshin Omar heads the 'Battery Innovation Centre (BIC)' at the Vrije Universiteit Brussel (VUB).BIC is researching and testing 400 innovative NMC lithium batteries in the project BATTERIES2020, funded by the European Commission with one million euro.
Omar started his presentation with a short but important remark that although it is very often said, batteries or energy storage are not the most expensive component of electrically driven vehicles. “There is one specific challenge in the field of batteries. If you increase energy you will lose power and if you increase power you will lose energy. This is a law that can not be changed because it is related to the material characteristics.” Omar mentioned the Tesla cars with batteries that will last for up to 350 or 400 kilometres, but he states these batteries are completely over dimensioned. “With the current technology we are touching the boundaries of the technology itself, so we need to tackle new technologies. This is what we are doing the last five to ten years. We are looking for new materials for the anode, cathode and a solid electrolyte to build a solid state battery. We have to increase the voltage levels and increase the capacity of the anode as much as possible.”
Here he pointed out a problem, because the new materials for this new batteries are up to now only to be found in China. In Europe and especially at his university there are tests underway using materials like silicon composites and alloys to get to this higher capacity combined with high voltage materials. Because as Omar explained, a combination of those two should allow us to go to the most powerful performance of the vehicle. “Unfortunately combinations of new materials creates also additional problems. We are working on a completely new approach. For the anode classical graphite is used, but this has been classified by the European Commission as one of the critical materials for Europe because it can only be found in China. An alloy with silicon can be a replacement. Silicon is easily found in Europe, cheap and offers no risk from the supply change perspective. We use a high voltage cathode and in between of course a high voltage electrolyte. By optimizing the interfaces you can increase the capacity. But still, when you increase energy you will lose power. There are still some problems such as that it is not working properly at low voltages and high currents, so fast charging means an expansion of the anode by 200 to 300%.” Still Omar is positive because the results over the last year show a good progress and also because silicon is becoming a commercial material. He expects to have this technology ready for the automotive industry in five to ten years.
The second technology he thinks is very promising is a simplified architecture to store energy. It replaces the liquid electrolyte by a solid electrolyte and offers a lot of possibilities and flexibility. “The problem is that the interfaces are not excellent and the connectivity is very low. Here also power is the limiting factor. The energy density can be increased up to 350 watt/hour per kilogram. Nevertheless there is a huge development going on in this technology also pushed by the European Commission. For this also we hope to have it ready in five to ten years. With this optimized battery technology we should be able to shift 100 kilogram in just one single charge. But still this means for Europe we need to find new sustainable materials. Europe does not have lithium, cobalt or nickel.”
Omar expects a huge improvement in the life cycle for batteries. Assume a battery with a range from 400 to 500 kilometre on one charge. “This already means at 2000 life cycles a lifetime of at least 600.000 kilometres”, as he calculates. “Much higher then any gasoline engine. In cost per kilometre it will be one of the cheapest technologies.”
For passenger cars he expects a decline in price of the battery from at this moment 115 euro per kW/h to 100 euro in 2020 to around 70 euro per kW/h in 2025. The price of the battery will be at that time around 15% of the total price of the car. “But until Europe has found its own materials we are depending on China, Africa and South-America for these 'Rare Earth Elements'”.
The 'Battery Innovation Centre (BIC)' is part of the research group Mobility, Logistics and Automotive Technology Research Center (MOBI) at the Vrije Universiteit Brussel (VUB).
Global bus and coach sales outpaced expectations for 2016 by posting impressive growth of over 8%. Once again, China was the main contributor to this with a record-breaking year of sales – in which 2015 levels were surpassed by over 25,000 units (+16%). On the other hand, Brazil was the biggest suppressor of growth with a large decline in bus and coach sales of -34% for 2016.
Transport for London (TfL) in partnership with three cities in the UK has recently launched a tender for the bulk procurement of fuel cell buses. The procurement activity is part of the JIVE project, an EU funded project deploying 139 new zero emission fuel cell buses across nine cities in Europe. JIVE will run for six years from January 2017 and is co-funded by a 32 million euro grant from the 'FCH JU' (Fuel Cells and Hydrogen Joint Undertaking) under the European Union Horizon 2020 framework programme for research and innovation.
ZeEUS, Zero Emissions Urban Bus System, is an European project co-ordinated by UITP. Its goal is researching, testing and implementing electrical and hybrid (city)buses in daily practice. To share the preliminary results – data generated by 33 of the 70 participating buses – UITP recently organised a 'stakeholders' meeting' in Brussels.