You almost certainly saw some hybrid cars among the many gas- and diesel-powered vehicles on the road this morning. You probably didn’t see any plug-in hybrid vehicles (PHEVs), plug-in electric vehicles (PEVs), or fuel-cell vehicles (FCVs). Changing that is the aim of the second IEEE International Electric Vehicle Conference (IEVC), to be held from 17 to 19 December in Florence, Italy.
The conference’s theme is “Building the Electrical Vehicle Ecosystem to Gain Critical Mass”—that is, reaching the tipping point where plug-in and fuel-cell electrics, now numbering only about 0.05 percent of the world’s motor vehicles, start rapidly becoming common. Driven largely by increasingly stringent CO2 emission limits worldwide, vehicle manufacturers are investing heavily in plug-ins and FCVs, while an infrastructure of battery-charging stations and hydrogen sources for the most common fuel cells is beginning to grow.
“Critical mass will be reached when the car manufacturers produce enough EVs to make it profitable for them and for suppliers of batteries, charging systems, and parts to really support these vehicles,” says IEEE Fellow Joachim Taiber, IEVC’s founder and general cochair of this year’s event. “We’ve already reached the point of critical mass in the hybrid category; plug-in hybrid and full electrics are approaching that point, but it’s still a couple of years away.”
“In numbers, the point of critical mass might be a million EVs on the road in Europe and maybe another million in the United States,” adds Giuseppe Tomasso, the conference general chair. “But a million worldwide would not be enough.”
As of June 2014, there were 500,000 worldwide, versus about 10 million internal-combustion hybrids and more than 1 billion road vehicles of all kinds, according to published reports. Their price (now US $10,000 to $20,000 more for EVs than for equivalent gas or diesel vehicles, according to Tomasso) and sparse infrastructure aren’t the only hurdles EVs must overcome.
The conference will cover in some 150 papers the key technologies for EV development and utilization, government policies and regulations, technical standards, and education, according to technical IEEE Fellow and program chair Chris Mi. Topics include wireless charging, electrical and vehicle components, and vehicle, grid, and infrastructure development. Presenters will come from Europe, the United States, the Far East, and possibly the Middle East and Africa.
IEVC plans to cover not just system architecture concepts and components for power electronics and motor drives, but all aspects of the EV ecosystem. That would include manufacturing, marketing and the supply chain, systems modeling, simulation and testing, in-vehicle networks, connected vehicles, autonomous vehicles, and vehicle platooning (which would expand road capacity by synchronizing vehicles to move almost bumper to bumper at road speeds).
“We need to educate the general public about why EVs matter and why they should buy them,” says Mi, a professor of electrical and computer engineering at the University of Michigan, in Dearborn. “They’re more expensive initially but will save fuel and repair costs and yield environmental benefits.
“We also have to educate people with technical expertise to work in this relatively new area. How do you develop courses, curricula, and materials?” he asks. “And how do you reeducate engineers who already have the background but just need a boost of their technological knowledge base to get into EVs?”
IEVC will also focus on energy production, distribution, storage, and EV interactions with the grid. Papers will cover the interaction between battery and charger designs, and the needed compromises between fast charging (which usually shortens battery life) and battery longevity. In this area, says Tomasso, a professor of electrical drives and machines at the University of Cassino, in Italy, “wireless charging is the future, especially dynamic inductive charging.”
That technique, which involves charging vehicles as they drive over coils in the roads, can be 90 percent efficient—but only if the vehicles drive directly over the coils. If they move just a few feet off that path, efficiency drops markedly. Autonomous vehicles, however, could be guided to ride the optimum charging path. As CEO of Greenergy, in Cassino, which designs and produces EV charging infrastructure, Tomasso is involved in such dynamic charging. He is also the founder and chief of the European Ph.D. School on Power Electronics, Electrical Machines, Energy Control and Power Systems, in Gaeta, Italy.
Wireless charging will also be the topic of a tutorial session at the conference. Other tutorials will deal with fuel cells, advanced electric-energy storage systems, and smart fast charging for mass transit. Keynote sessions will focus on innovations and future trends.
Norway’s minister of transport and communications, Ketil Solvik-Olsen, will open the conference. He will also chair a workshop on EVs’ impact on reducing urban air and noise pollution. C.C. Chan, honorary professor and former head of the department of electrical and electronic engineering at the University of Hong Kong and founder of the World Electric Vehicle Association, will also give a keynote, as will executives from BMW, IBM, Siemens, and Toyota.
Other workshops will cover energy storage and standardization. The IEEE Standards Association, International Electrotechnical Commission, International Organization for Standardization, and Society of Automotive Engineers have been invited to participate.
The conference will end with a Showdrive, an exhibit of prototypes of high-performance EVs–some not yet ready for test drives–and drivable vehicles already on the market.