Future of electric vehicles, becoming carbon-free discussed at 2020 SAE WCX Digital Summit

eBikes screenshot from Frank Jamerson Ph.D.'s presentation at the SAE WCX Digital Summit

DETROIT — The 2020 SAE World Congress Experience (WCX) would normally be held in April at the TCF Center in downtown Detroit. However, due to COVID-19, it was moved online last week and was renamed the WCX Digital Summit.

The WCX Digital Summit features three days of live presentations from experts in the fields of connectivity, emission, environment, occupant protection, design, manufacturing, powertrain and propulsion.

Frank Jamerson, Ph.D., of the Electric Battery Bicycle Company, discussed “History and Prospects for Electric Vehicles and Electric Bikes: Pathway to Sustainable Carbon Free E.” He previously worked at General Motors for 35 years assisting in the EV1 production electric car.

“The electric transportation revolution began with the 1993 introduction of the electric bike in Japan,” Jamerson said. “Yamaha introduced the power assist system eBike. It was an instant hit. China became dominant in eBikes. The first production electric vehicle was introduced by General Motors in 1996.  Lithium ion battery technology jumpstarted the current EV era around 2010. Here are some early electrics including the 1914 Detroit Electric owned by Henry Ford and Thomas Edison. In 1909, the Race Pacer was an early eBike. The invention of the transistor at Bell Labs in 1947 led to the computer revolution. The invention of the rare earth magnet at GM Research Labs in 1982 made motors lighter and smaller. These are the top enablers of the modern EV.”

Screenshot from Frank Jamerson, Ph.D.’s presentation at the SAE WCX Digital Summit

In 1969, General Motors hosted its Progress of Power Show with government officials and media demonstrated EVs and hybrids with advanced batteries like Nickel-Zinc. Other vehicles shown included a fuel cell van to evaluate options to reduce exhaust emissions.

“The winner was the catalytic converter for an ICE (internal combustion engine). Today, the catalytic converter continues to be a significant contributor to cleaner air in cities worldwide.”

GM entered the 1987 World Solar Challenge, a 2,000-mile race across Australia with solar powered EVs. The GM Sunraycer won the race. The project manager Howard Wilson, Vice President of Hughes Aircraft, owned by GM at the time. He asked GM to build an electric vehicle using Sunraycer technology with a large lead acid battery pack to achieve 100 mile range. This led to the first production electric vehicle, the EV1 leased by Saturn in California in Arizona. A total of 800 customers purchased the EV1 from 1996 to 1999.

Screenshot from Frank Jamerson, Ph.D.’s presentation at the SAE WCX Digital Summit

“Most automakers today offer EVs from the Chevy Bolt to the BMW i3 to the Tesla. Sales worldwide were 2 million in 2018 same for 2019. Sales for the USA and Europe were 2 percent of the vehicle market. China sales were 4 percent. While incentives are eliminated in 2020 but may be resume with a weak market. The California 2018 EV mandate of 5 percent was met but will be at 25 percent of market soon. It may be unreachable. Bloomberg projects EV sales will grow to 50 percent of market by 2040. Highly unlikely in my opinion.”

Hundreds of companies offer eBikes worldwide. China’s yearly sales are around 30 million with 300 million on the road. Stepping up from a pedal bike to an eBike was affordable for the wealthy China public. USA sales are only 300,000, less than 1 percent of the recreational bike market. Now, China commuters use them daily.

“China’s scooter-style eBikes are popular with ladies who ride with feet on the platform and use the throttle drive. GM introduced  the Ariv folder in Europe as a last-mile commuter from car to train station. Bosch offers mid-motor drive to OEMs. California-based Pedego has 100 stores selling Pedego eBikes exclusively. The world loves eBikes but not so much in the USA.”

Jamerson doesn’t believe that there is a link between CO2 and Earth’s temperature.

“Mankind-made carbon dioxide climate change allows state governments to mandate EV Sales. The 2009 EPA findings calling CO2 a pollutant. Really? CO2 photosynthesis of plants produces food for mankind. It is a very beneficial gas. The more CO2 increased food production over $3 trillion in these past 40 years. Oceans absorb and release 90 gigatons annually. [If] CO2 drops below 150 parts per million plant life and thus mankind, that means you and me, would no longer exist. We need more CO2 to produce more food to feed future larger populations. Carbon dioxide is very obviously not a pollutant for sure.”

Instead, he argues that global temperature is controlled by natural variations in solar irradiance.

“This has very significant implications for the auto industry. ICE vehicles do not cause global warming so there is no need to mandate replacing ICEs with EVs. Let the customer decide what to buy. People buy the vehicles they want, it’s a free market choice. Gasoline automobiles replaced the horse and buggy and early EVs which the ladies love. Denmark dropped EV subsidies and sales went to zero. The subsidies were renewed. U.S. government and state subsidies help EV sales but they go away when carmaker EV sales reach 200,000 units. Now true at GM and Tesla.”

“When these subsidies vanish, EV sales will plateau at 10 percent of vehicle sales, my estimate. If EV subsidies are extended, EV sales will plateau at 25 percent. The cost to taxpayers will be huge $1 trillion over 20 years. Achieving 100 percent EV sales in this century is unlikely.”

How do we become totally carbon-free?

“Mankind can use ICE vehicles for 200 or more years until fossil fuel runs out. In my judgment, EVs, EBs and AVs will be niche vehicles as the customer prefers the cost-efficient ICE. eBike sales could reach 100 million units annually by 2050. I propose a pathway to sustainable energy and transportation will be required when fossil fuels run out. For those still concerned about CO2, will know energy and transportation no longer make CO2. The idea is to transition to nuclear electricity and hydrogen fuel cell EVs. The FCEV will have a 5-minute refuel time in contrast to hours to recharge battery EVs, a plus for customers.”

The challenge will be to develop and implement efficient and cost effective technology and infrastructure four key elements of this pathway:

  1. Nuclear reactors designed to run 24/7 for 100 plus years
  2. Hydrogen production from water electrolysis
  3. Hydrogen fuel stations and infrastructure nationwide
  4. Hydrogen fuel cell power units

“Water is an abundant resource for Hydrogen and like Uranium from seawater will never runout for the life of planet Earth. The future will be rewarding and sunny. Bundle up if colder. A Russian scientist predicts a Little Ice Age by 2060.”

Screenshot from Dr. Mihai Dorobantu’s presentation at the SAE WCX Digital Summit

Dr. Mihai Dorobantu is the director of Technology Planning and Government Affairs at Eaton Vehicle Group. He discussed “Diesel vs Electrification or Both.”

“Our regulatory landscape is changing very fast forcing us to rethink the diesel powertrain and also pull electrical powertrains as well, Dorobantu said. “Second, As we embrace systems thinking and deeper integration, we find that the classical CO2 and NOx tradeoff no longer holds. Today, it is possible to simultaneously reduce NOx and CO2. Third, the industry is realizing that in the heavy duty battery electrical vehicle applications, two- and four-speed transmissions are becoming essential to downsize the powertrain to achieve acceptable performance and downsize batteries. Finally, the reuse of a small number of smart components to achieve multiple functions is the key to keeping in check the cost and complexity of both EVs and diesel powertrains.”

NOx stands for Nitrogen Oxides Abatement and Reduction. It is decribed as the catalytic reaction of the ammonia across the Selective Catalytic Reducer (SCR) which reduces the emission of NOx by converting it into basic atmosphere elements (nitrogen, oxygen, and water). 

“Eaton has experience in the EV arena mainly due to our commercial hybrid product line. We introduced the two-speed transmission for battery electric vehicles that downsize the powertrain by 50 percent while increasing available torque. Last year, we introduced a four-speed option that additionally optimizes motor efficiency. This is critical for braking at lower speeds and keeping the generator at maximum power mode. It results in a net 20 percent improvement of the electrical efficiency of the drive. It really translates into extra range or smaller batteries.” 

While the SAE WCX Digital Summit was very informative, I can’t wait for the SAE WCX to return to the TCF Center in Detroit next year.

For more information about the SAE WCX Digital Summit, visit https://www.sae.org/attend/virtual-events/wcx-digital-summit.

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