The world is on a tight schedule to cut carbon emissions. Greater focus has been put on the transport sector, given that car travel accounts for about 12 percent of the global carbon footprint.
As a result, countries are collaborating to switch to electric vehicles and plug-in hybrids. For example, the UK has proposed a ban on diesel and gasoline engine vehicles -- a move that will see about 18 million EV and hybrids on the roads by 2030.
The country, along with others, is trying to align with the Paris climate agreement that car emissions will drop by 37.5 percent by 2030.
However, this target faces significant challenges.
From component shortages to lack of skilled personnel, predicted lithium-ion scarcity, lack of global standards and on-street charging. There are significant shortcomings that will affect the powering up of EVs.
First, the question of whether there will be enough charging stations/points by 2030 to take care of the growing numbers of EVs. The UK's Climate Change Committee states that 1,170 charging stations will be needed for every 100 km by 2030.
At the current growth rate, only a quarter of the expected total number of public charging stations will be realized by 2032.
The sluggish creation of charging points is partly due to a global shortage of essential EV charger components and also precious metals, such as lithium.
As a result, even existing charging points are not entirely reliable.
The UK government plans to plug the gap supported by 1.3 billion pounds to build a worldwide-recognized EV charging infrastructure.
In 2021, Germany set the bar high after providing 5.5 billion euros funding for the construction of electric vehicle charging infrastructure.
The French government had also announced it was launching funding worth 100 million euros to support the building of fast EV charging stations.
Indeed, the French government is working together with some large companies to build a network that will guarantee electric mobility with 7 million EV charging stations.
The shortage in electronic components stems from coronavirus supply chain issues, which saw a break of just-in-time purchasing with manufacturers buying up 12 months' worth of stock, therefore adding further supply chain pressure. Positively, as governments lift lockdowns, there is hope that pre-pandemic production levels will return.
There are also concerns over the number of skilled technicians necessary to maintain charging stations and EVs. According to a June 2021 report issued by the Institute of the Motor Industry, just 6.5 percent of the entire automotive industry's workforce in the UK was EV-ready by the end of 2020. Only 13,000 to 20,000 technicians could serve the country's 380,000 electric and hybrid vehicles.
This is a global problem -- a team member at a manufacturer of gasoline and diesel engines noted that Spain lacks the skills to handle EV repairs. The mechanic highlighted that although EVs are here -- most are still under warranty.
On the charging side, skilled technicians will be critical to success. Chargers aren't manned in the same way that fuel stations are, as there's nobody there to actually monitor them.
Drivers will rely on error messages thrown up by the system to alert maintenance teams of any issues, such as cables incorrectly placed in the holders for the charging points; low quality holders where charging hoses simply fall out, leaving them vulnerable to breakage or flooding; and failing contactors.
The UK is working to ensure the skills challenge doesn't come between its transition to EV goals. The Warwick Manufacturing Group (WMG), the High-Value Manufacturing Catapult, and The Faraday Institution have set up a new skills framework.
The framework focuses on helping the transport and utility sectors up-skill and re-skill their workers to meet the new demands.
Individuals interested in the electric revolution can train and become technicians. Employers will also have the tools, funding, and confidence to train, retrain, and develop new talent via apprenticeships.
Even as governments explore approaches to ensure enough charging stations, there are still concerns over how and where electric vehicle owners will charge their cars. The government expects most of the charging to occur at home, which means that public streets will require updates to support EV charging.
Distribution network operators are confident that they can support the vehicles, but there are certain obstacles - for example, the output limits in substations, local distribution boards and domestic wiring inconsistencies.
In Italy, energy groups are fostering collaboration and interoperability of systems to support EV charging across the country.
Eni and Enel agreed to allow EV owners to charge their vehicles using the companies' infrastructure. The interoperability of their charging infrastructure enables EV owners to use their charging stations from their smartphones, using Eni, Enel X, and Be Charge Apps.
An approach to the challenges associated with EV energy demands could be smart charging.
The UK government's EV Energy Taskforce recommends that all future EV chargers be "smart." Also known as "intelligent charging," it uses chargers which can be programmed to charge EVs during off peak times, for example. This flexible approach to energy use is a solution to balancing future EV charging demands.
The path to EVs dominating our roads is well on its way. However, the pandemic has slowed progress on a number of fronts.
Currently, shortages in components and skilled personnel are the tip of the iceberg. Grid challenges, while manageable today, need some consideration to ensure that, where possible, drivers can charge at home.
The wholescale introduction of EVs and their supporting infrastructure is a multifaceted and complex undertaking. A successful rollout by 2030 can only be achieved through sufficiently funded government programs, innovation and collaboration.