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The high volatility of energy costs

The high volatility of energy costs

The International Energy Agency (IEA) has warned that the transition to clean energy is still too slow for what’s necessary to limit climate change catastrophes. There’s the risk of high volatility of fuel prices and consequently of electricity caused by the lack of investments in renewable energy sources.

The uncertainty of government commitments to invest in renewable energy is creating the conditions for an extremely volatile period regarding fuel prices and consequently inflation, from an increase in the prices of all goods that depend on petroleum, its derivatives and gas for their production and for their transport.

Despite the progress made, current government commitments relating to policies for limiting climate change arrive at less than 20% of the roadmap for zero emissions by 2050. The target should be for current technologies, supported by adequate political choices, to fill this gap by 2030. It should be underlined that it is estimated that over 40% of the actions that limit climate changes are also economically viable, and therefore represent a valid economic investment.

The IEC expects at least three things from COP26, the 26th United Nations Climate Change Conference, organised by the United Kingdom and Italy:

  • 1. that the number of countries committed to climate issues increases, for the target of 20% to become much higher and achieved in a shorter time period;
  • 2. given that it is estimated that 90% of the future growth of emissions of CO2 is attributable to emerging countries, during COP26 it will be necessary to reach agreements to finance the necessary investments supporting renewable energy, precisely in those countries which it is feared will be protagonists in the growth of emissions;
  • 3. the political leaders of the large economies, EU, USA, China and India must commit to a clear message: “if the consumption of resources in the old sectors of “dirty”, non-renewable energy continues, there is the risk of heavy financial losses caused by uncertainty”.

The World Energy Outlook underlines the need for more investments in renewable, clean energy. The current strong turbulence in the financial markets is for the most part generated by a solid post-pandemic recovery which is not clearly sustainable, that is, without adequate investments in renewable energy. It appears, moreover, that in government recovery and resilience plans (similar to Italy’s Recovery and Resilience Plan), insufficient actions have been considered to support renewable energy sources.

The rich and developed countries must lead in the promotion of centres of excellence in the research and development of cutting-edge technologies which are aimed at electrification, as well as mobility, energy efficiency and sustainability in order to limit pollution and climate change.

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Reinova and TEC Eurolab together for the new electrification revolution

Reinova and TEC Eurolab together for the new electrification revolution

Reinova (www.reinova.tech), the new centre of excellence dedicated to the development and validation of components for the electric and hybrid  Powertrain, has today formalised an agreement with TEC Eurolab (www.tec-eurolab.com), the centre of excellence for laboratory testing, which has been working on national and international projects for over than thirty years, providing high level technical expertise and technological solutions relating to destructive and non-destructive testing, accompanying customers in the design and validation of materials that meet specific operating needs.

The partnership between the two Emilian companies aims to take the Motor Valley into the world of electrification, becoming a key European centre for the new mobility revolution.

Thanks to their respective expertise, Reinova and TEC Eurolab will support customers in the transition to electric through the use of innovative processes and methods. The companies have set up a collaboration as strategic partners to guarantee an integrated offer, to respond to the demand for innovation in the automotive sector and to facilitate this change with improved quality standards and security.   

TEC Eurolab has worked with some of the biggest names in the automobile industry, including leading Italian companies in the racing world, obtaining, moreover, recognition as the approved supplier of important operators in the aerospace sector, including  GE Aviation, Leonardo Spa, Avio Spa, the Boeing Company and Avio Aero.

Engineer Giuseppe Corcione, Chief Executive Officer of Reinova, with regards to the choice of choosing to collaborate with TEC Eurolab declares: The main reason for which we have decided to initiate this cooperation lies in the scope of the mobility programme that we have sought to carry forward in recent months, that is, the creation of a network of businesses that can contribute to increasing know-how and skills in the territory in the electrification field. The idea was to have access to one of the most innovative technologies that TEC Eurolab offers in the territory – that is, computerized industrial tomography – implementing this technology while exploiting Reinova’s experience: in other words, to bring TEC Eurolab closer to the world of batteries and components and to integrate different areas of expertise with the objective of generating added value in the market in terms of security and reliability. TEC Eurolab’s experience in this field, in fact, combined with our experience in the Powertrain sector can be, precisely, an added value to offer to the market.”

Engineer Marco Moscatti, Chief Executive Officer of TEC Eurolab: TEC Eurolab has always pursued technological evolution and contributes to the development and control of new materials, production processes and technologies. The opportunity and challenge of electrification, towards a new sustainable mobility, must be taken up as an industrial district, bringing together the expertise of each company. We have found an innovative partner in Reinova, with vertical expertise on the electric powertrain, and we are enthusiastic to launch this collaboration contributing both our material analysis skills and specific technologies unique on the market, such as 6 MeV LINAC tomography for non-destructive 3D control of complex assemblies like lithium batteries.”

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The heart of an electric vehicle: the battery pack

The heart of an electric vehicle: the battery pack

Even today, when it comes to conventional cars, their heart is undoubtedly the internal combustion engine. For decades, Ferrari’s V12 engine has been the dream for all car enthusiasts, but also the world benchmark for technological innovation in the Motor Valley, in terms of extreme performance, lightness and energy efficiency.

Today we are experiencing a major paradigm shift: batteries are definitely the most important and critical part of electric cars. In fact, they are the part that most characterises their use, as well as differentiating their absolute performance, but also the user’s relationship with the important infrastructure for charging the batteries themselves.

Geopolitics of future mobility

Speaking of geopolitics, whoever dominates the market of batteries, or rather the cells that compose them, for application in electric vehicles, including the extraction and processing of the raw materials needed to produce them, will strategically control world mobility, as has been the case for decades by oil-producing countries. Conversely, batteries can already be recharged today with photovoltaic, hydroelectric and wind energy on a zero-kilometre basis.

The electric engine

After decades of electromechanical and mechatronic research, electric engine technology for any application is fairly well established, widespread and mature, and can be found almost anywhere in the world. Electric car engines are produced by many specialised manufacturers, although Europe is still a world leader and Italy is firmly established as one of the leading countries in electrical engineering.

Ultrafast charging of battery packs

Liquid electrolyte lithium-ion batteries are the most common type on cars available today, almost everywhere in the world. The latest European innovations, with extreme recharging voltages of up to 850V and 350kW of power, make it possible for today’s battery packs equipped with the latest generation lithium-ion cells, already in production and on sale, achieve a range of about 100 km in just 5 minutes of ultrafast charging. These charging performances can now be achieved on cars with the latest charging technology, which in concrete terms is already a remarkable achievement. This allows road enjoyment very close to that of cars that use conventional fossil fuels, such as petrol and diesel, i.e. with refuelling times, all in all, very similar to those of natural gas methane.

Italy has already installed several latest-generation charging stations, for example, Emilia Romagna has them in Modena, Carpi, Piacenza and Forlì. The overall numbers say that there are about 1,000 fast, public charging points in Italy, which can recharge with DC technology, from 50 kW of power, 400V. In just 2 years, the number of charging stations in Italy has more than doubled and the number of points with ultrafast technology is growing considerably.

Chemistry of battery pack cells

Internally, the lithium ion cell that makes up today’s most common battery packs is immersed in a liquid or gel chemical compound that serves as an electrolyte. Today this is lithium salt dissolved in a mixture of organic solvents, which provides the media for transporting the lithium ions because it is capable of conducting electricity. The most valuable component of today’s batteries is cobalt, which is used for the electrodes, and one of the biggest challenges for manufacturers is to reduce its use and even eliminate it in the next few years. Tesla has already announced several times that within two years it will be producing its cars with batteries consisting of cobalt-free or cobalt-light cells, in order to reduce costs but also to limit dependence on rare mineral sources.

An ongoing challenge to reduce costs and use of rare materials

It’s not entirely clear what the next cell chemistry will be, whether it will be low cobalt or no cobalt, but it is expected that in the next few years, thanks to technological research, the cost of batteries will be significantly lowered, also due to the use of readily available raw materials such as sea salt and sodium chloride.

What are electric car batteries made of?

Battery packs are made up of many cells. The battery cells are very similar in appearance and size to the common household “stylus” batteries used in many common applications.

Reuse of lithium-ion rechargeable cells

When disassembled from electric cars, the compactness and versatility of the individual battery packs allow them to be easily reused in less demanding applications, such as domestic electricity storage, combined with photovoltaic panels or, more banally, in household appliances, such as torches, emergency lights, scooters and e-bikes and however, in any application where a rechargeable battery is needed, even a small one.

Continuous innovation

As for future innovations, solid-state batteries are seen as the next solution for electric cars, as they have a higher energy density (i.e. they are lighter for the same amount of kWh stored) than current cells using a gel electrolyte. Solid-state batteries will provide more stability at different temperatures, more safety in the event of overheating, and will guarantee longer driving distances for the same weight.

Application of batteries in electric vehicles

Current battery packs require a temperature-controlled environment to ensure their durability and efficiency. Car manufacturers will therefore increasingly need laboratories capable of technically testing and validating batteries and their components, simulating critical issues and thus speeding up the time it takes to put them into production, guaranteeing their quality and safety, which is useful for innovation in sustainable mobility. The Motor Valley now has the opportunity to become an area of excellence for the development and production of new solutions for electric vehicles, and Reinova is at the forefront of the transition to electric vehicles.

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REINOVA innovation at ECOMONDO KEY ENERGY 2021

REINOVA innovation at ECOMONDO KEY ENERGY 2021

Reinova is among the protagonists of Ecomondo Key Energy (Hall D7, stand 066), the reference event in Europe for the ecological transition and the new models of circular and regenerative economy, scheduled in Rimini from 26 to 29 October 2021.

Reinova, the new center of excellence, dedicated to the development and validation of components for the electric and hybrid powertrain for sustainable mobility, brings its technological and innovative contribution to the showcase of Ecomondo Key Energy.

In a context of great transformations affecting the transport sector, the Emilian company, led by CEO Giuseppe Corcione, is at the forefront of this ecological transition that in the last year has seen a sudden acceleration. In this regard, Reinova has been invited Wednesday, October 27th (11am-1pm) to participate in the work of the Conference “E-Valley, la transizione elettrica nella Terra dei motori” (E-Valley, the electric transition in the Land of Motors), an important opportunity to reflect on the future of the Emilian Motor Valley in the light of the electric transition. Giuseppe Corcione, who will be speaking at the event organized by Vaielettrico.it and the MOTUS-E Association, says: “We are living in a historical moment of great changes and the automotive sector, which it would be more correct to rename mobility, is not to be outdone, indeed it is at the center of these transformations. The Motor Valley itself is changing skin, adapting to new needs and new markets and has already been renamed “Electric Valley”, in fact we are convinced that the new mobility revolution is in electrification and in Reinova we want to lead it with innovative ideas, creativity and efficiency. We believe that the new mobility is a User-Centric concept, where products and transport services must be able to respond to the needs, habits and preferences of consumers. In order to support it, it is essential to have a vision and a clear industrial policy that promotes certain, rapid and constant funds for the next 5 years to support technological innovation in the world of power electronics, software, battery development and hydrogen, as well as support for higher education and job placement for new professionals“.

For more information visit us at our STAND 066 Hall D7.

To stay up-to-date on Reinova’s upcoming news, we invite you to follow our Linkedin page or visit the website.

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Renewable energy sources: the ecological hydroelectric energy

Renewable energy sources: the ecological hydroelectric energy

Italy has been a world leader in the production of hydroelectric energy for over a century. Hydroelectric energy, already used starting from 1882, can provide a decisive boost to the energy transition and to decarbonisation, making it possible to manage the fluctuations in production from other renewable sources of electricity, especially wind and photovoltaic-generated power, decidedly more unstable.

The electric storage capacity of reservoirs is a sort of substitute for batteries, accumulating energy and making it available when necessary, especially during peaks in demand. In addition, pumped-storage hydroelectric plants are perfect accumulators, veritable “water-based electric batteries”. These plants, in fact, use two reservoirs, one upstream and one downstream: the water, accumulated in the upper lake, is sent into the turbines to produce electricity during times of peak demand. Water is, then newly pumped upstream from the lower reservoir, accumulating, therefore, during times of energy overproduction, that is, when the renewable resources can benefit from the sun and the wind and, therefore, when there’s a lot of energy available in the network.   

A pumped-storage hydroelectric plant is a perfect ecological battery that always uses the same water. Yield is higher than 80%; for every kilowatt of electricity that it uses to pump water back upstream, it emits 0.8 KW into the network, losing only 20% to re-pump upstream.

In the future, it will be increasingly necessary to accumulate large quantities of energy because we will also increasingly need to obtain electricity from renewable energy sources with the aim of replacing plants that use fossil fuels. Solar and wind energy are volatile, changeable sources, which can’t be forced to produce electricity when the network requests it; it is, therefore, extremely important to have systems like pumped-storage hydroelectric plants in order to be able to store large quantities of energy available and keep the electricity network stable – providing energy when requested – without polluting and without being dependent on weather conditions.   

The local system of hydroelectric plants in Ligonchio, in the Municipality of Ventasso (Province of Reggio Emilia), in operation since 1922, exploits, instead, another intelligent system: a series of artificial reservoirs, situated at different heights and powered by the same water. The mechanical energy sources are various local streams, the largest of which is Torrente Ozola, which flows south of Mount Cusna with a total hydroelectric production of as much as 50 Megawatts. This has been made possible thanks also to the addition of the latest station downstream, which starting operating in 2017.

In the Ligonchio stations, hydroelectric energy is produced with a series of water height changes that move various types of turbines and which exploit thanks to technology the different speeds and force of the water deposited in the various reservoirs.

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The energy efficiency of completely electric vehicles

The energy efficiency of completely electric vehicles

Most studies of electric vehicles underline their ecological benefits and zero emissions, at least where they are used, with huge immediate advantages for improving the quality of life in cities.

City centres are the perfect place for the circulation of electric vehicles, especially if of small dimensions, used also for last-mile logistics and for waste collection.

Higher quality of life: zero emissions and silence in residential centres

It should be emphasized that a completely electric vehicle (BEV) does not emit exhaust gas where it runs, and is also quite silent, and therefore very suitable for the city, without causing heavy environmental impact, caused by noise, which is responsible for serious pathologies.

Electric lorries and trucks are considered the future for the collection of waste and for last-mile commercial deliveries, which often occur at night, when most people are sleeping and need as much quiet as possible.

Indirect emissions of electric vehicles linked to the production of energy

We have already referred to how renewable energy sources, also in Italy, increasingly  contribute to meeting energy demand, also with new technologies, and therefore not only hydroelectric energy, which has always been a very important source in Italy. The storage of energy with batteries makes it possible to balance peak production periods of renewable and sustainable energy sources with falls in production, as they are often directly dependent upon climatic conditions. Photovoltaic and wind energy will increasingly accompany the development of electric mobility, which will then really become zero-emission. With regards to photovoltaic energy, it’s possible, already today, to talk of 0 km home production and consumption, given that a system on a roof of the garage or in the driveway or in the place of work can recharge electric cars.

Reduction of indirect emissions thanks to the efficiency of electric vehicles

When electric car batteries recharge, they contribute, albeit indirectly, to emissions of CO2 and other polluting and harmful gases emitted by thermoelectric power stations which use fossil fuels for the production of electricity.

The production of thermoelectric energy in Italy accounts for around 53% of the total and derives mainly from the efficient combustion of natural gas in modern and flexible power plants. The electrical energy is then transported by the efficient distribution network to the BEV charger, with an efficiency estimated to be around 95%. Electrification benefits from an important factor: in the electric vehicle every unit of energy, every Watt received from the charging infrastructure is used in an extremely efficient way:

• The battery charging system has an efficiency estimated at around 95%.
• Once charged, it is estimated that the batteries are able to use around 95% of the energy received for charging.
• The conversion and control system, the so-called DC/AC form of direct electric current coming from the battery, transformed into alternating current, useful for application in electric traction motors, has an efficiency estimated at around 95%.
• Electric motors, finally, transform 95% of the absorbed electrical energy into mechanical energy applied to the wheels for vehicle traction.

It’s possible to estimate that a BEV converts as much as around 82% of electrical energy received from the electrical power supply into mechanical energy for traction. This is the so-called “tank to wheel” analysis.

It is estimated that internal combustion engines, such as diesel, petrol and LPG, with a comparative “tank to wheel”, calculation methodology, have losses, especially thermal, of around 70%. Only 30% of the energy present and available in the fuel, therefore, is effectively used for the traction of the endothermic vehicle.

It can readily be affirmed that an electric vehicle uses the energy it receives much better for moving, polluting, therefore, much less compared to traditional vehicles running on an ICE engine, even if the energy source of the BEV is only thermoelectric, that is, from gas.

Now, we’ll turn to the distribution of fuels and electricity; admitting that the same fuel is used for generating electricity or for powering an internal combustion engine, the loss for the transport transformation and distribution of electricity is, nevertheless, estimated to be only 5%. If, on the other hand, we consider transporting the same amount of fuel to the petrol station, there are estimated losses of 66%, and therefore the efficiency of the same fuel is only 44%, which then falls further to a miserable 13% of useful energy to the wheel starting from the same source. These are the so-called “Well-to-Wheels” analyses, from the deposit to the wheel, highlighting why electric mobility is to be considered as ecological, favourable for the environment also due to the much more efficient use of the energy available, even if the energy is entirely produced from fossil fuels.

It should be said very clearly that electric vehicles require energy and raw materials for the production of the batteries which can, in any case, already today be disassembled and reused in less demanding applications than for BEVs.

New opportunities for the automotive components industry

The thermal management, heating and air-conditioning of the vehicle interior but also of the batteries, which must always operate between 20°C and 50°C, can strongly influence the autonomy of BEVs and on the general efficiency of the vehicle system. Given that autonomy is a central aspect for autonomous electric vehicles and could be considered a weakness, the average consumer, used to endothermic engines, expects an autonomy of hundreds of kilometres of any BEV on the market.

The first new heat pumps have appeared for the Thermal Management of electric vehicles (* see the Glossary below), a technology intended for the automotive sector, precisely to avoid dissipating precious electrical energy, applied only for the heating of the batteries and the people transported. In inefficient vehicles with ICE endothermic motors, thermal energy is abundant and is around 70% wasted; it’s therefore easy to heat the interior with the cooling liquid of the diesel or petrol motor. This innovative technology will also create important opportunities for specialised companies that decide to produce new dedicated components for so-called HVAC systems for thermal management.

Conclusions

The development and production of new, modern components for BEVs, dedicated above all to thermal management, today represents a great opportunity for growth and a challenge for the entire automotive components supply chain.

Supplier companies of automobile parts have benefitted over the years from the low efficiency of ICE engines and the easy supply of fuel, remaining blocked at traditional solutions, without real innovations, lacking motivation for technological development. 

Now is the moment for a recovery in research and development, also through external consultant laboratories, in automotive companies specialised in the production of a series of technical solutions for automotive applications.

GLOSSARY

BEV – Battery Electric Vehicle, a fully electric battery powered vehicle.

ICE – Internal Combustion Engine

DC – Direct Current, continuous current, also coming from a battery;

AC – Alternating Current, alternate current, coming from an alternator;

Thermal Management – the complex system for the management of air-conditioning, cooling, both of batteries but also of the vehicle interior. Efficient heat pumps are often used in the new BEV vehicles.

HVAC – Heating Ventilation Air Conditioning. (*) Heat Pump – also called thermo pump, is a thermal device for vehicles able to extract and transfer thermal energy using the compression of a gas. In the field of air-conditioning or the Thermal Management of modern vehicles, the term Heat Pump specifically refers to an innovative air-conditioner with a reversible valve, which changes the direction of the flow of cooling fluid and thus makes it possible to add or remove heat to/from the interior or the series of batteries, depending on the temperature required by the system. The function of the Heat Pumps on BEVs is independent from the movement of the vehicle, so can be easily used when the vehicle is parked, for pre-heating or cooling, also from remote, with a smartphone, but especially for the automatic air-conditioning of the (especially rapid) series of batteries for recharging, which need a very precise temperature range, between 20°C and 50°C. There are already BEVs that if set up with in recharge mode, prepare the temperature of the batteries in advance, making the recharge more efficient and rapid.

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Climate emergency and international agreements for the fight against pollution

Climate emergency and international agreements for the fight against pollution

The International Energy Agency, IEA, has warned that the transition towards clean energy is still too slow to meet the need to limit catastrophic climate changes.

There’s the risk of high volatility in the prices of fuels and consequently of electricity provoked by the lack of investments in renewable energy sources.

The uncertainty of government commitments to invest in renewable energy is creating the conditions for an extremely volatile period regarding the prices of fuels and of consequent inflation, with an increase in the prices of all assets that require petroleum and its derivatives and gas, for production and transport.

Despite the progress made, current government commitments on policies to reduce climate change are 20% below the level necessary for achieving zero emissions in 2050.

The goal should be that current technologies, supported by adequate political choices, fill the gap by 2030. 

It should be underlined that it is estimated that over 40% of actions that reduce climate change are also economically advantageous and therefore represent a genuine economic investment.

The IEA expects at least the following three things from COP26, the 26th United Nations Conference on Climate Change, organized by Italy and the United Kingdom:

1. the number of countries making a commitment for the climate to increase, because the 20% objective has become much higher and has to be achieved in a shorter period;

2. given that it is estimated that 90% if the future growth of CO2 emissions will be attributed to emerging countries, during COP26 it will be vital to seek agreements to finance the necessary investments to support renewable energy precisely in these countries which it is feared will be leaders in the growth of emissions;

3. the political leaders of the large economies, the EU, the USA, China and India, must commit to a clear communication: “if they continue to spend resources in the old sectors of “dirty”, non-renewable energy, they risk heavy financial losses, provoked by uncertainty”.

Nel World Energy Outlook has underlined the need for more investments in clean renewable energy. The current strong turbulence in the financial markets is for the most part generated by a strong post-pandemic recovery which is not clearly sustainable, that is, without adequate investments in renewable energy. It appears, moreover, that there are not sufficient actions to support renewable energy sources.

Reinova has predicted these problems for some time and works daily to transform them into opportunities. The company can boast a centre of excellence, unique in Italy, in the research and development of innovative technologies aimed at the electrification of mobility and energy efficiency and sustainability, to limit pollution and climate change.

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Could the Chip shortage crisis be an opportunity for a new mobility?

Could the Chip shortage crisis be an opportunity for a new mobility?

The pandemic crisis is really bringing out the problems in the global supply chain, unimaginable up to a few months ago. The so-called “Chip shortage” has literally brought large car makers to their knees, stopping assembly lines, most of all for the lack of electronic components and batteries coming from the Far East. Stellantis and Volkswagen have even had to suspend production in a number of factories.

The concentration of supplies of strategic components, which in the event of interruption can cause very costly line stoppages, in the hands of few and distant consumer electronics giants, can no longer be tolerated by the European and North American markets, especially in the automotive sector.

A coordinated Community development plan in the European Union is essential for the future competitiveness of the entire supply chain, but all individual companies will have to draw up new internal strategic plans that provide for equivalent and replaceable supplies for all vehicle parts and industrial products in order to avoid supply problems that could cause losses of business opportunities, customers and turnover.

The loss of the sale of durable goods is seen strategically as a dangerous threat because it opens up potential purchase alternatives: if a customer needs a certain car which has an excessive delivery time, they will often be forced to turn to competing brands, that is, the second or third choice, opening up unexpected competition scenarios with the loss of brand loyalty in which investments have been made for years in order to consolidate the commercial partnership with customers.

In Europe alone, the damage is considerable: the Chip shortage has caused a reduction in the production of a million vehicles in 2021 compared to 2020.  

The automotive sector is particularly under pressure because, on account of the volumes purchased and the quality of the chip, its demand is considered as low, of secondary importance, by the large chip producers.  With respect to the global shortage of microprocessors which also hits electronics, information technology, telephony, computers, videogame consoles and robotics, the automotive industry arrives last for the giant chip producers. In the priority of deliveries, therefore, the microprocessor producers give precedence to high-value supplies, such as those for the telephone industry, given that they are continuously researching expensive, increasingly miniaturised chips with advanced functions for smartphones, as opposed to those used on automobiles, which are simpler and low cost.

CONCLUSIONS

The Chip shortage is a crisis which will protract over time and the industry, therefore, must make appropriate strategic choices, with more suppliers able to respond with different and alternative solutions, for example, the traditional analogic instrumentation reused by certain car makers instead of the current digital dashboards.

A company’s R&D capacity to react to market demand with a short time-to-market, and the speed and effectiveness of the validation of new automotive components, will be fundamental for the future to guarantee the availability of alternative components for existing customers, but also to favour the commercial penetration of new markets.

The European Union must do its part, setting up appropriate policies for the chip sector, incentivising the reshoring of production, which will allow Europe to have its own internal production at least within 5 years. Unfortunately, the extremely complicated electronics industry requires very long set-up times for production plants and is characterized by uncertain profitability, at least in the early years, and is also conditioned by the minimum production thresholds. Europe must become more autonomous and less dependent on distant productions, focused on other customers and markets. The EU must take responsibility to rebalance the global competitive scenario, as a new sectorial operator with respect to the current giants: the United States, China and Asia in general, and Taiwan first and foremost.

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The advent of electric mobility: the new frontiers of the market

The advent of electric mobility: the new frontiers of the market

According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), in order to achieve the challenging targets for reducing climate-altering CO2 emissions, eliminating the impact by 2030, it will be necessary for 60% of car sales to be completely electric (BEV): this will imply a significant change in the market forecasts made until now and, therefore, a considerable increase in the demand for batteries but also of components (electric or not) dedicated to the architecture of the entire vehicle.

Until now the real productive capacity of the so-called giga-factory has never reached the expected levels, for various reasons. It is feared, therefore, that the proposed 80 battery-producing factories in Europe will not reach the expected production in 2036.

The European electric and electrified vehicles market has experienced surprising growth rates so far, also due to a very uncertain traditional market: many buyers are shifting to the acquisition of electrified vehicles that will increasingly benefit from exemptions from city access limits and blockages of traffic, especially during periods of high pollution.

The risk that the supply of batteries becomes, in the next few years, a bottleneck in the production of electric and electrified vehicles is real, but the entire industry supply and sub-supply chain of new complementary components needs to adapt in time, with the development of advanced 48V, 400V and 800V solutions, just to give some examples. With the increase in new market opportunities, it will be necessary to develop advanced technologies rapidly, also with reference to validation and introduction onto the market. 

New solutions will also be necessary for improving the performances and the autonomy of electric vehicles, not only directly with electric components dedicated to traction and the batteries, but also with regards to parallel developments of components to make the vehicles ever lighter, and therefore more efficient and high-performing.  

It’s important to take into consideration a sector underpinning the further development of the electric and plug-in vehicles market: equipment and components for charging infrastructures. All the parties dedicated to the refuelling of stationary vehicles traditionally belonged to the Oil & Gas sector, that is, with little complementarity with the automotive sector. Today the recharging infrastructure sub-sector, extremely important for electric mobility, forms increasingly part of the expanded automotive sector: the number of charging stations will have to grow exponentially, because they will have to be present in almost every garage or car park, also private; their intrinsic technology will, however, also have to grow hand in hand, with new battery technologies making them faster, more intelligent and adapted to the evolved demand. The possibility of recharging services sold together with the vehicle, adding further value and possible business to the vehicle sales sector, also appears to be a very interesting prospect. A sector that will need to adapt, with considerable development opportunities, is that of design studios specialised in service and recharging stations, which will have to create appropriate lay-outs to further improve the efficiency and management of spaces, also possibly incorporating photovoltaic energy roofs.   

GLOSSARY

BEV – a completely battery-operated electric vehicle (BEV = Battery Electric Vehicle).

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Italy is one of the European countries with the highest pollution levels

Italy is one of the European countries with the highest pollution levels

INTRODUCTION

From 2021 all Euro 5 and Euro 6 automobiles with endothermic engines (diesel, petrol, LPG and methane etc.) currently on sale in European Union countries will have sophisticated filtering systems and technologies aimed at eliminating the most harmful polluting compounds contained in the exhaust gases. The series of modern anti-pollution devices with which endothermic engines are fitted, plus the ever-stricter EU regulations on limiting harmful and climate-altering emissions, together with a new collective environmental awareness are, in any case, leading the automobile market towards complete decarbonization (in the medium-term, expected to be between 5 and 10 years). The current tendency is clearly towards zero-emission, completely electric BEV-type vehicles.

Means of transport in general cannot be considered as the only source of air pollution. Nevertheless, particularly in residential centres with a lot of traffic and congestion, the obsolescence of the vehicles, especially diesel, of pre-Euro 4 standard registered up to 2010, produce considerable emissions, especially the dangerous PM 10 and PM 2.5 particles.

Especially in the city, the concentration of old-generation vehicles on the road and the quantity of people that live and work there, means that, today, there is great concern about public health and therefore attention is increasingly being focused on the use of electric, zero-emission vehicles, whether private cars or public transport to avoid the emission of polluting and climate-altering gas emissions, but also irritating noise pollution that affects people’s quality of life.

THE CONSEQUENCES OF AIR POLLUTION

In a single year there are 52,300 premature deaths in Italy associated with exposure to fine particles (PM 2.5). There’s a war going on! The European Environmental Agency’s figures are clear: many Italian cities are still suffering from harmful pollution, which shortens life expectancy, provoking premature death and very serious diseases. The two Italian cities at the top of the table for premature deaths linked to pollution are Brescia and Bergamo, but also Vicenza, Saronno and Verona are among the first eleven in the whole of Europe.

As further examples, let’s take the two cities closest to home: Modena and Reggio Emilia. The scenario is worrying: deaths per year number respectively 139 and 115, numbers that could be avoided if the PM 2.5 levels respected the air health limits.

The Italian cities where nitrogen dioxide and relative NOx pollution is most present are Turin (the absolute third in Europe, with 34 deaths per year) and the Milan metropolitan area, which grieves as many as 103 deaths per year. Modena is at 79th place, Reggio Emilia at 77th (there don’t seem to be direct deaths recorded caused by excesses of NO2 gas; nevertheless, there are around 110 people in Modena and 77 people in Reggio Emilia who would not be dead, every year, if the level of NO2 was the same as the least polluted European city, Reykjavik, in Iceland!).

Origin of the particles

The origin of PM 2.5 and PM 10 particles can be natural: the particles expelled during volcanic eruptions, the products of burning wood during fires, and vegetable pollens dispersed in the air during spring, for example. The natural causes are not, however, cause for concern: concern for people’s health relates to the particles provoked by the use of fossil fuels for automotive transport and heating. Electrification will, therefore, be increasingly necessary for mobility and for the air-conditioning of city buildings, together with improvements in energy efficiency, in order to reduce polluting gas emissions to a maximum and also, to a certain extent, also climate-altering emissions.

Health hazard of particle pollution

The IARC (International Agency for Research on Cancer) has put all substances constituting atmospheric pollutants in Group 1 of its classification together with the worst carcinogenic agents in circulation. The fine PM 2.5 particle, in particular, is dangerous because it penetrates the human organism through the respiratory system: the smaller the dimension of the particle, the easier is access into the organism, arriving at the bronchi and alveoli with regards to the finest particle, smaller, therefore, than 2.5 µm. The impact of the particles on human health is seen in a greater occurrence of tumours, especially those of the lungs, but also of the colon and the intestine.

Health hazard of nitrogen dioxide, NO2

Nitrogen dioxide, NO2, is a typical air pollutant, originating principally from road traffic. Diesel and LPG engines emit more NO2 than petrol engines. NO2 has a pungent small and can cause eye, nose or throat irritation and therefore also coughing. Harmful alterations of the respiratory functions can occur in sensitive people, such as children, asthmatics or people suffering from chronic bronchitis. In Euro 5 and Euro 6 diesel engines there’s a considerable reduction in NO2 thanks to technological exhaust gas treatment devices, such as EGR, Exhaust Gas Recirculation, but the total elimination of pollutants is still today very difficult and problematic!

CONCLUSIONS

All vehicles with diesel engines, due to the limits linked to their nature in relation to  practical, dynamic driving contexts, especially urban ones, characterised by sudden and variable accelerations, have high NO2 emissions, albeit limited by technical gas treatment devices.

Other types of ICE engines, such as petrol engines, have high CO2 emissions deriving from inefficiency in the combustion cycle. Furthermore, noise emissions, harmful to the health, especially in cities, are not to be ignored.

Emissions of PM 2.5 and PM 10 particles have been significantly limited with the Euro 5 and Euro 6 standards, by anti-particle filters (FAP), which filter the particle pollutant when the car moves around in the city, and eliminates it, at high temperatures, at higher speeds.

Electric vehicles, therefore, besides the journey comfort and the absence of noise emissions, are to be considered, thanks to the zero emission of gases, as the future of future city mobility, but it is hoped that they can also be the solution for public transport and last mile logistics.

GLOSSARY

BEV – a completely battery-operated electric vehicle (BEV = Battery Electric Vehicle).

PM 2.5 – the acronym that means Particulate Matter ≤ 2.5 µm, is the particulate matter dispersed in the air, the series of solid and liquid atmospheric particles suspended in the air. The term PM2.5 identifies the particles of an aerodynamic diameter less than or equal to 2.5 µm, a fraction of the aerodynamic dimensions of the PM10 and contained in it.

PM 10 – the acronym that means Particulate Matter ≤ 10 µm, is the particulate matter dispersed in the air, the series of solid and liquid atmospheric particles suspended in the air. The term PM 10 identifies the particles of an aerodynamic diameter less than or equal to 10 µm.

NOx – identifies generically the nitrogen oxides NO, NO2, NO3, … which are emitted as sub-products during combustion.

ICE – Internal Combustion Engine.

Climate-altering gases – gases that cause the greenhouse gas effect, that is, climate warming and alteration.