Electrification of Transportation: A Review of Emerging Technologies


November 24, 2022


5 Min read

By: Mohamad Elsawi & Grace Selinger

The number of countries committed to phasing out internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles continues to rise, with forty countries pledging to phase out ICE vehicles completely by 2025. With over 1.5 billion ICE vehicles globally, achieving this goal is a monumental challenge.

Specifically, we are faced with:

• Supplying the rare earth metals required to manufacture zero-emissions vehicles (ZEVs)

• Meeting the electricity demand required to support ZEV and grid connections

• Developing grid technology and making space for ZEV charging infrastructure

In this post we will explore the innovations being discussed in the industry to make this vast goal into reality.

Redesigned Automotive Batteries

Companies are racing to develop improved and differentiated electric car batteries to overcome the shortcoming of lithium-ion batteries. China’s CATL, the world’s largest battery maker, is working on sodium-ion batteries while TESLA is working on a lithium-ion battery that does not use cobalt as a cathode. Other companies such as QuantumScape, SES, SolidPower, and Toyota Motor are developing solid-state batteries.

Technologies are also being developed that will completely reshape the conventional vehicle battery, such as, structural component batteries and carbon nanotube electrodes. Structural component batteries are unique as they integrate the battery into the chassis of the vehicle. Using carbon fiber as the negative electrode, the batteries can be used to reinforce structural components to simultaneously improve vehicle safety and battery density. As implied by the name, carbon nanotube batteries consist of vertically aligned carbon nanotubes that can boost battery power ten times over current lithium-ion battery packs.

The future of battery technology looks promising with the potential to help meet the net-zero goals set worldwide by 2050.

Advanced Charging Infrastructure

As ZEVs become the new standard of transportation for many around the world, there needs to be a grid infrastructure that can match the increased charging demand. Charging stations currently range from low-cost Level One chargers to high-cost Direct Current Fast Charging (“DCFC”). With every passing year, these chargers have improved in efficiency and output causing a steady decline in range anxiety. With more ZEVs poised to enter the market, numerous opportunities present themselves to make this grid infrastructure possible.

Innovative Grid Technologies

A potential solution to the increase in peak demand is vehicle-to-grid (“V2G”) charging. If idle vehicles were connected to charging stations, utilities could access the unused power from car batteries to supply additional energy to the grid during times of peak demand. Investing in bidirectional charging stations sooner rather than later could be a key aspect in accomplishing phasing out ICE vehicles by 2050. With bidirectional charging, other charging solutions such as vehicle-to-home (“V2H”) and vehicle-to-vehicle (“V2V”) are also possible. In the event of an emergency, V2H charging can power your home in the event of an outage, while V2V charging can charge a friend’s vehicle that has ran out of charge on the road. This technology could be particularly useful in rural areas where charging stations may be scarce.

Ultimately, the sooner we advance our charging infrastructure, batteries, and grid technologies, the sooner we can reliably meet the demand of an electrified society. Phasing out ICE vehicles is a crucial step towards achieving overall sustainability of our society.