From their origin in the mid 18th century, electric vehicles or EVs have seen several changes including the development of the first electric car in the 1830s, the introduction of the first mass-produced electric cars in the 1900s, advancements in lithium-ion batteries and the possible introduction of solid-state batteries expected in 2020.
Traditional vehicles using internal-combustion engines are posing several environmental and economic concerns. The obvious advantages EVs offer over the traditional vehicles getting more relevant by the day.
In the last decade, the demand for electric vehicles has been constantly rising and the current trend is expected to accelerate in the coming decade.
With the future of fossil fuels looking bleak, it becomes important to explore what the future holds for heavy vehicles in an electric future.
For several years now, the commercial heavy vehicles segment has been dominated by multinational giants. These companies have hardly invested in electric vehicles.
The few electric vehicles in this segment were produced mainly by startups. However, one can see substantial changes in this trend over the last few years.
Frequent advancements in battery technology have brought down the production costs for electric vehicles. Consequently, larger companies are making more and more attempts to enter this market.
The larger players in the market such as Volvo, Daimler and Ford have reported that they are investing up to 500 million dollars in electric vehicles owing to a surprising increase in demand from their consumers.
There are also other companies such as Rivian and XL who deal with the conversion of diesel-powered trucks to hybrid and fully battery-powered trucks.
Tesla has introduced a model of semi-electric truck and is expected to launch an electric pickup truck shortly. It is safe to say that the big truck makers are taking electric vehicles seriously.
Another reason for the companies to venture into the market for EVs is the number of individuals and authorities voicing their concerns against traditional vehicles.
Although there have been steady improvements in the engine technology to minimize emission, it is true that emission can never be completely eliminated.
Heavy vehicles are designed to have longer active lives than lighter vehicles like cars. Thus, an increase in heavy electric vehicles is expected to make a substantial positive impact on the levels of pollution.
In the US, while only 7% of all vehicles are heavy vehicles, they make up nearly one-fourth of the fuel consumption in the country.
With a future that shows little promise for conventional sources of energy, electric vehicles are bound to become a popular choice in the years to come.
Dedicated efforts are being made by several institutions to conduct research in the field of battery technology. However, breakthroughs in this field are few and far between.
The advancements in this technology are often expensive. This means a greater expenditure for the end-users who are often discouraged by the higher costs.
An important development in the research concerning electric vehicles is in the direction of Regenerative Braking. It refers to the conversion of the kinetic energy into chemical energy to be stored in the battery which can be used to move the vehicle.
This technique prevents the kinetic energy of the vehicle from being wasted as heat and is used efficiently.
Regenerative Braking System (RBS) can be used to improve the range of the vehicles by 8-25% thereby improving the durability of the vehicles.
Regenerative Braking is more efficient with bigger vehicles. Hence, efforts are being made to incorporate this technique into heavy vehicles in the future. It is estimated that 90% of the heavy electric vehicles will be using RBS by 2024.
Governments in all major countries, however, are encouraging people to shift to EVs by offering tax credits and subsidies on the use of electric vehicles.
Tax credits are available to $7500 in the US per electric vehicle purchased. The Ministry of New and Renewable Energy in India too had announced a subsidy of 950 million rupees on electric vehicles in November 2010.
The highest subsidy (₹ 4,00,000) has been allowed on heavy vehicles such as electric mini-buses. As per the Union Budget of 2019, the GST on electric vehicles has been lowered from 12% to 5%, coupled with a total tax exemption of ₹1,50,000.
According to a report by Niti Ayog (the think-tank of the Indian government), more than 60 million electric vehicles are expected to be sold by 2030.
The awareness among the consumers has been rising steadily. Many people are coming to prefer electric vehicles over petrol and diesel-powered vehicles owing to maintenance and other financial benefits.
The manufacturers of heavy-duty vehicles are slowly but definitely embracing the shift in paradigm. Environmentalists who have constantly opposed the use of traditional vehicles have come to be staunch supporters of the new wave of electric vehicles.
The benefits offered by the governing bodies are adding a certain impetus for electric vehicles. With such developments, the growth environment looks extremely favorable for heavy electric vehicles in the near future.