The speed with which electric vehicles (EV) are being adopted globally is fundamentally changing the economics and dynamics of the automotive industry. In addition to escalating demand for electric cars and vans with ever greater range and faster recharging options, the industry is also facing up to a need to address the underlying supply chain. How much progress has the industry made in adopting better, more efficient and environmentally sound battery technology throughout its logistics operations?
Steve Richmond, director logistics systems, Jungheinrich UK, discusses the importance of embracing electric battery technology throughout the automotive supply chain.
The adoption of EVs appears to have reached a tipping point. With rising consumer awareness of issues such as increasing greenhouse gas emissions and the implications for the environment globally, countries have been prompted to rethink the use of fossil fuels in transportation. Indeed, with governments now setting targets regarding the sale of EVs, incentives to encourage consumers to swap from diesel and petrol are driving up the adoption of EVs.
As a result, battery technology is evolving fast, with vendors increasing their efforts to produce more prismatic lithium-ion batteries catering to this spike in demand from the automotive industry. It is also very interesting to discover that the implications of this shift in consumer commitment to EVs is being felt outside the automotive design area, according to recent research conducted on behalf of Jungheinrich UK.
Almost half (49%) of the logistics experts surveyed currently using diesel or LPG trucks are thinking of replacing them with a battery powered alternative, and it is environmental considerations that are significantly influencing decision making. Over half (54%) of those looking to move to electric trucks confirm that environmental factors, such as a reduction in emissions, are a key motivation.
The opportunity to embrace innovative battery technology within the supply chain should be a key consideration for an automotive industry increasingly advertising the environmental credentials of EVs. The ability to create an end-to-end logistics operation that has replaced diesel batteries with lithium-ion, reinforces the overall commitment to better, more efficient operations that also reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Of course, with the automotive industry also facing a global downturn in overall consumer demand, environmental benefits can never be considered in isolation. However, as the survey revealed, the logistics market is also poised to explore the additional efficiency provided by battery innovation, with 38% confirming improvements in battery technology are making lithium-ion trucks more attractive.
This is, indeed, a virtuous circle. It is consumer demand for EVs that has driven lithium-ion innovation; and it is that innovation that the automotive industry can now harness to drive greater logistics efficiency. For example, the introduction of better power management technology is reducing battery charging time and enabling opportunity charging, which is enabling more efficient operations. A forklift truck can now operate for an entire shift, avoiding the time wasted as operatives swap batteries. Furthermore, with lithium-ion powered truck options that are now able to lift up to 9 tonnes at a load centre of 900 mm, and suitable for both indoor and outdoor use, this technology can be more widely deployed throughout the supply chain.
The rise in EV awareness and ownership is transforming the dynamics of the automotive industry – creating new consumer expectations and demands for greater efficiency. The industry needs to embrace the rapid improvements in forklift battery technology, including battery management, to achieve the key goals of enhanced environmental performance and better efficiency.