Navigant Research Blog

Volvo Adds Electrons Across the Board

— July 6, 2017

Volvo Cars isn’t the biggest player in the premium automotive landscape, but it seems to be one of the smartest in the years since being acquired by China’s Geely Group. Sweden’s sole surviving volume automaker has moved aggressively to reinforce its safety-oriented heritage with the development of automated vehicles. And the company just made the news, as CEO Hakan Samuelsson announced that the brand was going “all electric” from 2019.

Read Past the Headline

While this was an important announcement about Volvo’s environmentally friendly intentions, it also illustrates the importance of reading past the headline. Readers would be forgiven for thinking that Volvo wants to transform itself into the next Tesla. The reality is that between 2019 and 2021, all products from the Volvo Car Group will transition to having some degree of electric propulsion. That includes three new battery EVs (BEVs) from the main Volvo brand and two other BEVs from the high performance Polestar sub-brand.

But the internal combustion engine isn’t going anywhere just yet—it’s just getting an assist from electric motors and batteries. In 2015, Volvo introduced its Twin-Engine system, a plug-in hybrid (PHEV) propulsion system, on its large XC90 SUV and has since expanded availability to the other 90 series models, including a sedan and station wagon. The new midsize 60 series that shares a platform architecture with the 90s will also get this system.

Based on an animation released by the automaker, Volvo’s baseline setup from 2019 will be a 48V mild-hybrid that will utilize a belted starter-generator configuration. Along with a likely lithium ion battery with a capacity in the 0.5 kWh range, this should boost fuel efficiency by about 10%-15%. Navigant Research’s Low Voltage Vehicle Electrification report projects nearly 9 million global sales annually of 48V systems by 2025.

Engineering Made Easy

For a company that only sold a bit over half a million cars globally in 2016, this might seem like a lot of complexity. But Volvo only has three model lines going forward with several body styles, the compact 40 series and the larger 60 and 90. The larger vehicles share the scalable platform architecture and the 40s will use a new smaller platform. Across this range, Volvo is only using one engine family that currently has gas and diesel four-cylinder engines with natural aspiration, turbocharging, and combined turbo and supercharging. With a single engine family, engineering 48V capability should be straightforward. Even the PHEVs utilize this same engine with a through-the-road hybrid architecture that uses the engine with a conventional automatic transmission at the front axle and electric drive for the rear axle.

With a limited component set on only two core platforms, this transition should be manageable for a company of Volvo’s size. Geely can also leverage the technologies developed by Volvo, just as prior owner Ford did for many years. Numerous Ford vehicles, including the Taurus, Flex, and Explorer, still utilize a platform originally designed by Volvo in the 1990s. Geely can take both the powertrain and automation technologies developed by Volvo for its domestic brands, including the new Lync & Co. EVs.

For Volvo, utilizing light and strong electrification across its premium vehicle lineup will help it to meet increasingly stringent efficiency and greenhouse gas emissions standards in Europe and China, where it has seen significant growth. All automakers are looking at varying degrees of electrification as a strategy to meet these standards in a cost-effective way, as noted in Navigant Research’s Automotive Fuel Efficiency Strategies report. The difference is mostly in degree and configuration. As a premium brand, Volvo’s customers are also more likely to absorb the added cost of these technologies.

 

Diversity of EVs to Power Sales Growth

— May 23, 2017

Plug-in EV (PEV) sales have climbed by more than one-third thus far in 2017, and the plethora of new models coming out will continue to drive sales even higher during the next decade. Despite gasoline selling for less than $2.50 per gallon in much of the United States, PEV sales increased by 39% during the first 4 months of the year, according to data from HybridCars.com.

PEVs have been available in only a limited number of segments and have appealed primarily to middle- to upper-income buyers, which has constrained sales volumes. However, by 2020, the number and variety of PEV models for sale will grow dramatically. As seen in the table below, more than 30 new or updated PEV models will be on offer within the next 4 years from both established and aspiring auto companies.

More battery EV (BEV) than plug-in hybrid vehicle (PHEV) models are expected, as improvements in battery technology are prompting automakers to push all-electric driving. PEV sales in the United States are expected to surpass 2.1 million annually by 2030, according to Navigant Research’s Transportation Forecast: Light Duty Vehicles report.

Announced PEV Models

(Source: Navigant Research)

A Range of Options: Hyundai, Kia, and Honda

While most auto manufacturers are focusing on increasing the driving range of their BEVs, Hyundai, Kia, and Honda this year instead announced cars that focus on value and efficiency.

Hyundai and Kia each announced a trio of models based on the new IONIQ platform: a hybrid, PHEV, and BEV. The Hyundai IONIQ BEV is estimated by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to go 124 miles on a charge, which is superior to many of today’s BEVs—except for the Tesla Model S and X and Chevrolet Bolt. Comparable to the Ford Focus Electric and Nissan LEAF, Hyundai’s BEV is priced competitively (under $30,000) while offering greater range, but well below the Bolt and other upcoming 200-mile BEVs. Kia is using the same platform and propulsion systems with a taller crossover body style called the Niro, which will be slightly less efficient but may be better suited to the current market trends.

Hyundai challenged its engineers 11 years ago to produce the most fuel efficient hybrid vehicle available, and the design was used for the six new variants from the two brands. According to fueleconomy.gov, the IONIQ BEV is the most efficient of all vehicles, earning a 136 combined mpg equivalent rating. The car also won the greenest vehicle award from the ACEEE.

During an extended test drive earlier this year, the IONIQ was a pleasure to steer through turns and had quick acceleration and a comfortable interior. It is a very competitive offering. The company is developing a longer range BEV, but the added battery mass means it won’t be as energy efficient, according to Hyundai.

Honda’s upcoming Clarity EV is expected to travel around 80 miles on a single charge, which is well below the standard of 110 miles or more for current BEVs. The company has taken some heat for announcing a car that is “uncompetitive” from the start in both range and price, as it is expected to list for more than the LEAF or Fusion and near the price of the longer range Bolt.

EVS Conference

The international EV community will be gathering in October at the 30th EVS Conference in Stuttgart, Germany. Billed as the largest trade fair and conference event for electric mobility, EVS features manufacturers of EVs, charging infrastructure, and mobility software and solutions, as well as researchers presenting papers on the latest innovations. Navigant Research will be discussing the latest EV innovations during a presentation at the conference.

 

Carshare Services Gear Up for Gig Economy

— May 5, 2017

Younger urban dwellers are increasingly joining the ranks of carsharing, ride-hailing, and delivery service workers, as more and more companies are customizing their offerings for participants in the new gig economy. Driving jobs that offer flexible hours and attract predominantly younger drivers are known as “gigs.” Carshare companies see renting out their vehicles to these independent drivers as an opportunity to grow revenue and increase their brand awareness. Since Navigant Research expects revenue from carsharing programs in North America to surpass $1.1 billion annually by 2021, the combination of gigs and carsharing services represents a significant opportunity.

Maven Gig

Maven, a mobility company launched by General Motors (GM), announced partnerships on May 3 for its Gig program, which includes several services that simplify the process of renting vehicles for multiple services. With Maven’s mobile app, a rented vehicle can be used by drivers for Instacart, a grocery delivery service; GrubHub, a take-out food delivery service; and Roadie, which uses passenger vehicles to deliver packages. The rented vehicles can also be used by drivers for the ride-hailing companies that Maven has had relationships with, Uber and Lyft. Drivers can access their revenue, vehicle, and driving data for all services through one web portal and mobile application.

Maven will broaden exposure for GM’s Bolt battery EV by exclusively offering the car in its Gig program for rent for $229 per week. The program initially launched in San Diego and will include free charging at EVgo charging stations in the area. Drivers can save up to $100 per month in fuel when compared to driving a gasoline-powered vehicle, according to Rachel Bhattacharya, director of Commercial Mobility and AV Fleet Operations at GM.

Bhattacharya said having the vehicles available to drivers full-time enables them to work for multiple companies and switch tasks to match peaks in demand. For example, they can drive passengers during the morning rush hour and then deliver food at lunch and packages in the afternoon. After San Diego, Gig will be available in San Francisco later this year, and then in cities in other states, said Bhattacharya.

Promoting the Bolt is likely to boost EV awareness in areas where Maven Gig is available, as both drivers and passengers new to EVs will gain exposure to the capabilities of the vehicles. Bhattacharya said drivers receive in-person training on the differences in operating and charging vehicles, as well as information from both Chevrolet and Maven.

Maven City Carsharing

Maven City carsharing is available in 13 markets across the United States. In Denver, 200 Maven vehicles are available for rent, including the Chevrolet Volt plug-in hybrid. Lindsey Whiddon, general manager at Maven General Motors, said she is working with property managers to locate Maven rentals and charging infrastructure for the Volts close to the many new high rise apartments and condos in Denver. “Millennials have been quicker to adopt [carsharing],” said Whiddon, so she is prioritizing putting Maven vehicles close to highly dense areas where younger people may not have cars.

Carsharing and Gigs Not Just for Maven

Peer-to-peer carsharing company Getaround also recognizes this opportunity and is targeting freelance drivers via a partnership with Uber that allows vehicles to be rented for $5 per hour, including insurance, gas, and unlimited miles. The vehicles, which initially are available in San Francisco, are being provided by Xchange Leasing, Uber’s leasing program. Getaround also recently raised an additional $45 million in capital investment to continue expanding its carsharing service, which recently moved into the Tri-State New Jersey area. Maven has a similar deal with Lyft to provide GM vehicles to drivers through the Express Drive program.

 

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