There is no doubt that the adoption of electric vehicles is already underway. Key auto markets such as China and Europe have adopted aggressive goals for a zero-emissions future, and electric cars continue to improve with every iteration. Yet, inasmuch as the EV segment has grown since the early days of the original Tesla Roadster, the evolution of electric cars is only just beginning. Over the years, there will be more breakthroughs for all-electric propulsion, and automakers that refuse to acknowledge this will probably find themselves in dire straits.
These, as well as the upcoming EV technologies that are set to make a debut within the next few years, was the focus of an extensive interview with Sandy Munro and Mark Ellis from Munro and Associates. Conducted by Tesla owner-enthusiast Sean Mitchell of All Things EV, the interview touched on several topics, including the breakthroughs that will likely be seen in the Model Y crossover, the potential of Maxwell’s supercapacitors for electric vehicles, and what traditional automakers can do to be more competitive in the emerging EV market.
Munro, who has extensive experience with the early-build Model 3 and several other vehicles like the BMW i3 and the Jaguar I-PACE, noted that the EV he is most excited about is the Model Y. Munro noted that the Y will be an interesting EV because it would likely show just how much Tesla learned from the Model 3 and its challenging ramp. The teardown expert also stated that he is immensely interested to see just what Tesla did to reduce the wiring of the Model Y to 100 meters from 1.5 km in the Model 3.
One thing that Munro and Ellis emphasized in the interview was that when it comes to electric cars, battery technology is key. Munro noted that at this point, any company that aims to push EV batteries further would best be advised to take on emerging technologies such as supercapacitors, which could have great implications for electric car technology. This is where Tesla’s acquisition of Maxwell Technologies could come into play. Maxwell, after all, is primarily noted for two of its innovations: dry electrode batteries and supercapacitors.
Both of these have the potential to improve Tesla’s electric cars significantly. “The dry battery technology is game-changing if it comes to pass and they can put it in a car,” Ellis said while discussing Maxwell’s potential for Tesla. The veteran also provided a scenario where Maxwell’s supercapacitors could play a part in the operation of an EV.
“One of the issues with the battery is, when I step on the throttle hard, I’m pulling a lot of energy from the battery. And then, when I brake hard, I’m pulling a lot of energy out of the regen, but the batteries can’t take it fast enough. The batteries get really stressed when you try to pull it up too much, so if I had supercapacitors that I could use as a cushion; so when I need energy quickly, (I can) pull it from the supercapacitors and then fill the supercapacitors back up with the battery slowly; and then when I brake, I can capture more of that regen energy and do the supercapacitors faster. I think that just makes logical sense, because now all of a sudden I’ve got a sponge in front of my main energy source and I’m not stressing (the battery) so much,” Ellis said.
As for the underwhelming range from competing EVs such as the Audi e-tron and the Jaguar I-PACE, Munro noted that this is simply because of their lack of vertical integration. “(It’s) because they’re buying them from somebody else,” the teardown expert mused. When asked if a good way for traditional automakers to be more competitive in the EV market is to start developing their own battery tech, Ellis warns that adopting such a strategy will likely take a long time.
“That would be a 10-year project. There are going to be leaders in the battery industry, and a lot of the electric chemistries are under patent. They’re gonna have to be licensed. Whoever comes out on top is probably going to win. But just due to the sheer volume of batteries that are going to be needed in the next five years, you basically have three or four battery (cell) companies that are out there. You got Panasonic, you got Samsung, you got LG, and you’ve CATL from China. Those are the big four. Everybody else is going to find a niche in there,” Elli said.
With companies such as Tesla already making headway into the mass market with vehicles like the Model 3 and the upcoming Model Y, it would be easy to perceive the EV segment as having sufficiently matured. It should be noted that this is not the case, as EVs, including Tesla’s electric vehicles like the 370-mile Model S Long Range or the bang-for-the-buck Model 3 Standard Range Plus, still have far more to improve in the years to come. And it is exactly these improvements that make the electric car market just so compelling.
Watch Sean Mitchell’s extensive sit-down interview with Sandy Munro and Mark Ellis in the video below.