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Sunday, March 7, 2021
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CES 2021: EV and last-mile technology race to the front of the next-gen normal

CES 2021 was forced online this year but the auto-tech on show largely ignored the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic

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Vehicle technology has become a hugely important slice of the action at the world’s biggest consumer electronics event CES over the past decade. The US may be facing far more competition for car and vehicle manufacturers than ever, but it is also home to some of the world’s biggest and most exciting technology companies; making the annual showcase an essential window on how the next generation of vehicles will plug into our digital lives.

Arguably the main announcement at the event for fleets was General Motors EV600 annoucement which we have covered extensively in this issue but the auto-giant also detailed a raft of cutting edge tech at CES 2021, including a flying Cadillac – that some observers have likened to a COVID-19 facemask.

Perhaps reflecting the long lead time of the state-of-the-art development for the automotive industry references and solutions to the problems caused by the pandemic were noticeably thin on the ground. With its heavy slant on looking at what is imminent in the market and technology that is emerging on the horizon, CES continued in its role as a chance to highlight technology that is paving the way for the electrified and autonomous vehicles that have begun to make the transition from the drawing board to the road. Of course, EVs, in particular, are no longer exclusively in the hands of early adopters but – despite considerable progress – they are still hindered by price, charging infrastructure and range.

“Range is particularly still a big topic,” said Carolin Reichert, VP Connected Mobility Solutions, E-Mobility at Bosch during the Transform anxiety to delight for EV drivers session. “Depending on the vehicle model and the configuration, range can be a lot more than 200 miles. But depending on the traffic weather conditions and driving style, it can easily go down to 50% – and this occurs often unexpectedly – and then, of course, range anxiety is still there.

She continued: “After range anxiety, charging anxiety is the second important hurdle for drivers to buy an electric vehicle. So the density of the charging infrastructure is still far lower than what we know from gas stations. Often charging stations are blocked or they are malfunctioning and this is of course a very important problem. And finally, it will still a significant longer time than just taking some gas into your tank.”

Knuth Sexauer, vice president of sales at HERE Technologies suggested that owners need to be considering the type of navigation solution they have on-board to better plan their journeys and ‘fuel’ stops. His company and others are working on a solution.

“What’s coming is a lot of information that is very specifically made for EV drivers. We are gathering information from 80,000 different sources into one database logging all charger types and the exact precise position of the charging point themselves. A second element is that when you are calculating a route you obviously need to consider something completely different than with a nice internal combustion engine. You have a reduced range, you potentially need to have more stops and a different route than someone who’s driving another vehicle. Here we are adding topology because depending on the topology, the consumption is different plus we are adding weather and traffic to be as precise as we can in the range calculation.”

Bosch is in an almost unique position of providing both technology for brand EVs as well as the charging infrastructure they will use in partnership with commercial operators and local government agencies. As part of the process of developing a deeper route management system for EVs with Here, Bosch is using the data from vehicles out on the road to optimise planning, including where it should be recommending locations for vehicle chargers.

“There are some EV drivers who want to charge as cheap as possible. Others prefer to charge as fast as possible and that of course also has an impact on the route they choose.
The most important point is of course to provide very good coverage.

“Currently, together with our partners we provide around information to about 600,000 charging stations. For many of them, we have unified information and can see whether the charging stations are occupied or not.”

Reichert adds that the company is also looking at ways to ensure drivers can use the charging time to their advantage.

“We all know that charging takes some time. So it’s important to know can I go to a restaurant close by; can I do some shopping here? We can support by offering personalised recommendation (based on their preferences).”

In terms of electric vehicles solutions on show (virtually) at CES, many addressed real life issues facing both fleets and consumers alike.

Thunderzee, for instance, has invented a revolutionary Zinc air battery that not only eliminates the risk of fire that is commonly seen in lithium-ion batteries but also provides more energy, weighs less, costs less and is environmentally friendly. With 3 patents on file and more to follow, the Zinc air battery is ideal for a vast variety of consumer applications.

“Generally, zinc-air batteries are designed for low-power discharge and small-scale appliances, such as hearing aids. It is not suitable for high power applications.

Thunderzee’s zinc-air fuel cell is a self-developed high-performance component that can simultaneously provide higher energy and power than traditional zinc-air fuel cells,” said
Thunderzee founder and CEO Andy Lin.

“We have made a major breakthrough in electrochemistry of metal air batteries. We developed high power metal air fuel cell components: air cathode, ion membrane, and metal fuel formulation,” Lin said, noting that fuel cells can be widely used in military and commercial applications.

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Stephen Whitehttps://truckandfleetme.com/
Stephen White was formerly editor of Big Project ME.
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