The future of EVs: Innovations, challenges, and the role of software development

Milan Deket Categories: Business Insights Date 25-Jul-2023 6 minutes to read
The Future Of Evs Innovations, Challenges, And The Role Of Software Development News

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    “Electric cars are just fundamentally better. I think that’s where the future is going to go, but it’s only going to go there if the big car companies make risky decisions to do electric vehicles.” These words come from Elon Musk, CEO and Product Architect at Tesla, the largest EV manufacturer in the world. And indeed, the future of automotive sustainability lies mainly in electric cars.

    Even though Tesla is the best-known player in the automotive and clean energy market, other companies are catching up. The number of EV cars has been increasing exponentially in the past few years. The forecast is that there will be 14,3 million EVs sold by the end of 2023, which is a 36% growth compared to 2022.

    The industry is developing quickly but there is room for process improvement. Such improvement will save time and money for the customers while at the same time speeding and optimizing production, and cutting costs for the manufacturers.

    EV drivers face two key challenges

    There are two key problems faced by EV drivers. The first one relates to the reliability of EV charging infrastructure.

    A study conducted by a group of researchers from the University of California found that 25% of public EV chargers were unusable. The reasons varied from unresponsive screens and payment system failures to broken connectors and network errors.

    Charging stations require regular maintenance to ensure that they are functioning properly. So, what are the consequences of bad EV charging stations? Let’s look at the main ones.

    1. A limited range is the primary concern of potential customers and it impacts user adoption rates

    2. Long waiting times at the charging stations cause frustration for the drivers

    3. Inefficient charging

      • Charging at the wrong time when the electricity grid is at peak can lead to slower charging times
      • Charging stations can be too far so the drivers have to spend a lot of time and energy to get to it
      • Not all EV cables and adapters are compatible with all EV charging stations
      • Charging a battery in bad weather conditions, too hot or too cold, can lead to inefficient charging like slower charging speeds and decreased efficiency.

    The second problem lies in the inconsistency of customer experience. There is no uniform way of charging across all the countries, so that’s a hardware issue. This shouldn’t come as a surprise given the fact that Europe has different sockets than Asia or the U.S., so even charging regular electric appliances is impossible without an adapter.

    However, not being able to use your hair dryer doesn’t have the same implications as getting stuck on the road without the ability to charge your EV. Depending on the model of their EV, drivers might have trouble finding compatible charging stations along their planned routes.

    Besides hardware, issues may occur with payment methods. Some charging stations require the driver to download an app and then make the payment, but it might not properly install on the smartphone. Other stations rely on the membership model or require card-only payments, but then problems with the terminal might happen.

    What are the solutions brought to us by technology?

    So, what can EV manufacturers do to address the above-mentioned problems? They can improve their product and customer experience by developing new software. How can they achieve that? By partnering up with experienced IT companies.

    At Vega IT, we have a lot of relevant experience, so here are a few areas where we could help to drive this forward:

    1. Charging stations management (web and mobile app, as well as software running at the charging station)

      • Tracking usage
      • Monitoring charging speed
      • Tracking maintenance issues
      • Real-time updates on station availability
      • Booking a charging station

    2. Payment processing (mobile app and software running at the charging station)

      • Charging stations have payment implemented however, there are some issues. Some manufacturers install their own implementation of payment processor, or some specific version of it which can cause delay and frustration for users when trying to make payment. It’s easier for the manufacturer, but not for the end user. Manufacturer can have their own card with some kind of credit, or their own mobile app through which users can pay for the charging. They have to give more payment options for users that are more conventional type of payment, like visa/master/amex credit and debit cards, and of course apple and google pay.
      • By adjusting the charging rate or timing of EV charging based on real-time grid conditions, the software can help balance the load on the grid. For example, during periods of high demand or limited renewable energy generation, the price for charging can be increased in order to reduce the load and prioritize more critical places. Also, during periods of low demand or abundant renewable energy generation, charging prices can be decreased since renewable energy is cheaper.

    3. Route planning (mobile apps and vehicle infotainment systems)

      • EV drivers must plan their routes carefully to ensure they have enough charge to reach their destination. The software can help drivers find the most efficient route by taking into account factors like.
        • Traffic
        • Charging station locations
        • Available charging speeds
      • Reserve a charging station in advance

    4. Predictive analytics and forecasting (AI, data analysis, engineering)

      • The software can analyze historical charging data and predict future charging patterns, allowing grid operators to anticipate and plan for periods of high demand. This can help ensure that the grid has adequate capacity and resources to handle increased EV charging loads.
      • Help set up new charging stations by using AI and data analysis to find perfect locations based on:
        • Other charging stations
        • Weather
        • Number of EVs in the region
        • Types of EVs

    5. Smart grid integration (embedded software)

      • EVs can be used to help balance the grid by charging during off-peak hours when electricity is less expensive. The software can be used to integrate with the smart grid, allowing charging stations to charge EVs at the most efficient times.

    Controversy surrounding EV industry

    Despite the fact that EVs have a smaller carbon footprint than traditional cars running on gas, the industry, its manufacturing practices, and sourcing have sparked fierce debates around the world. In 2019, Kumi Naidoo, Amnesty International’s Secretary General challenged market leaders to create the first ethical battery:

    “Finding effective solutions to the climate crisis is an absolute imperative, and electric cars have an important role to play in this. But without radical changes, the batteries which power green vehicles will continue to be tainted by human rights abuses.”

    Each year 125,000 tonnes of cobalt is mined and 60% of it goes to battery manufacturing. The majority of it (around 70%) comes from the Democratic Republic of Congo. Some workers are denied basic human rights, but they are also increasingly suffering from chronic lung diseases due to inhaling cobalt dust.

    This practice could potentially be stopped or minimized if governments around the world agreed to pressure manufacturers to report on their supply chains.

    The environmental impact of producing batteries is also an issue. China, South Korea, and Japan are the leading countries in manufacturing lithium batteries, but they are still heavily reliant on coal and other polluters as sources of power. This means that calculating the environmental impact is not quite simple and straightforward.

    Then there’s recycling. For lithium-ion batteries, recycling rates are worryingly low (in the US, this number is around 5%) - despite the fact that environmental experts say these metals and materials can be reused.

    Final thoughts

    A lot has been done so far when it comes to bringing green energy to the transportation sector. Companies across the globe should act and take their part in making this world a greener and healthier place to live in. We should all aim for the net zero by 2030 goal.

    However, this means that we need to think through all manufacturing phases - from mining materials to the actual way EVs are produced - and the consequences on the environment. Improving the way cars are charged, how electrical energy is distributed, and creating a frictionless customer experience are all important pieces of the puzzle.

    If you need a reliable partner that’s equally passionate about green solutions as you are, then you’re in luck: Vega IT can help you develop software that will enable smart charging station management, route planning for drivers, balance the grid, and more. Get in touch with us today, we’re always happy to hear from you!

    Milan Deket Our Team
    Milan Deket Partner & Director, Delivery
    Engineer and Tech lead with nearly a decade of experience. Startup enthusiast. Passionate about building systems that help clients' businesses grow and succeed.