Editorial

Type de publication:

Journal Article

Auteurs:

Marc Alochet

Source:

International Journal of Automotive Technology and Management, Volume 23, Number 4, p.339-342 (2023)

Résumé:

The carbon neutrality objectives for 2050, resulting from the Paris Agreement in 2015, as well as the numerous global regulations concerning the reduction of CO2 and other polluting emissions are putting the automotive industry under great pressure to switch rapidly from internal combustion engine vehicles (ICEVs) to battery electric vehicles (BEVs).

The regulations that are currently being decided on in the world’s three largest markets make this clear: Europe and California aim at 100% of zero emission vehicles (ZEV) by 2035, the US federal regulation aims at 50% of ZEV by 20301 (and 67% by 2032) while China aims at 50% ZEV, 50% PHEV by 2035.2

Switching from an ICEV to a BEV involves changing the energy source that allows the vehicle to move, i.e., a high-voltage (HV) battery instead of a fuel tank – as well as modifying the powertrain by replacing the internal combustion engine with an electric motor and changing the way power is transmitted and modulated to the wheels.

The greater modularity of the electric powertrain as well as the centrality and higher price of the HV battery system compared to conventional ICEV systems lead to a key hypothesis regarding the effects of electrification: specialist suppliers would gain power over automakers and reverse the traditional hierarchical relationships, taking over the dominant position of value added in the industry.

While most of the automakers have now strongly engaged in this transition, two recent studies (Alochet et al., 2023; Alochet and Midler, 2019) have shown that, so far, the architecture of the automotive industry has not yet been impacted by this transition.

Moreover, it is probably too early in the transition to draw definitive, broad-based conclusions: in 2022, a year in which the global automotive market has yet to return to pre-COVID-19 levels, BEV sales exceeded 10.5 million vehicles and accounted for approximately 13% of sales, up +55% compared to 2021.3 This very significant result shows that we are still in the construction phase of the market and that many developments have yet to take place before its completion.

For HV batteries whose centrality is major for the future of the automotive industry, it is clear that we are still far from a period of stabilisation, for at least four main reasons:

  1. Many major technology choices remain largely open: choice of electrochemistry, liquid or solid-state lithium-ion, 400 V or 800 V, cell to pack or even cell to chassis to name a few. We do not know if a dominant HV battery design will emerge. If so, when will it emerge and what impact will it have on battery and vehicle production systems?

  2. Cost, which still represents about 40% of the cost of BEVs, while their high price is perceived as one of the main barriers to their mass commercialisation.

  3. The impact on the performances directly visible to the customer: maximum speed, range and charging capacity are directly impacted by the characteristics of the HV battery.

  4. The profound change in the organisation of the value chain that this implies.

But, we are just in time to frame the key questions and interpret the direction of trends. The objective of this special issue of IJATM is to offer keys to understanding this major question of the ongoing transition: “From oil to electricity, are HV batteries changing the game for the automotive industry?” To answer this question, we combine comprehensive contextual overviews with detailed analyses to identify trends and accurately inform next steps.

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