E-cars that double up as mobile power sources to electric vehicles (EV) incorporating folded e-scooters in the boot as a compliment to the main vehicle, both for last mile connectivity and as a back-up option if the user were to ever be stranded at some point due to low battery in the car.
As the task of thrashing out a consensus on the template for driving in electric mobility for mass market adoption gets underway in India, global carmakers are already pushing the envelope to new frontiers of EV technologies. Japanese carmaker Nissan is marketing the new Leaf electric — now the world’s largest selling electric car model — as not just a mobility provider, but also as a mobile power source by leveraging the car’s 40 kWh (kilo watt hour) battery to plug in and power the owner’s house in the event of an extended outage or if the solar electricity source were to get fully exhausted, or for even wheeling electricity back to the grid if such a market evolves.
Other such as South Korea’s Hyundai are exploring the idea of using e-scooters as a compliment to their vehicles instead of an alternative, by releasing an e-scooter prototype that can be mounted and automatically charged on upcoming Hyundai and Kia vehicles using electricity that is produced while driving. Once the vehicle is parked, the compartments open and the driver is able to quickly transfer from car to the scooter after unfolding the latter.
German carmaker BMW too has unveiled its own electric scooter with a range of about 12 miles, which is on sale at the company’s German dealerships.
For Nissan, its vehicle-to-home (V2H) technology-equipped Leaf could theoretically be an alternative to a home battery system, such as those used in back-up inverters, saving consumers money by storing solar energy for night time use.
In countries where there is time-of-the-day metering of power, the owner of a Leaf can technically make a daily earning by simply charging at off-peak rates overnight and discharging power to the grid during the day.
Analysts estimate that the 40 kWh version of the Leaf offers at least ten times the energy storage capacity of a large-sized home battery. While it is still early days, Nissan Motor India — a unit of the Yokohama-based Japanese carmaker — has indicated that this technology could be “a strong asset” for a new mobility framework in the proposed Smart City projects in India.
Elaborating on the application of its bidirectional vehicle charging system in India, Bruno Grippay, director of Connected Cars and Product Planning–AMI (Africa Middles East and India) Region of Nissan, told The Indian Express that the auto major is working with various governments and private companies to make plugging in as accessible as possible.
“The new Nissan Leaf links drivers, vehicles and communities through the user-friendly systems that share power between electric vehicles and homes, buildings and power grids. One of the most famous projects has been implemented in Hawaii with the local electric company to use hundreds of Leaf as a storage of electricity during low demand period in the day,” Grippay said.
In India, he indicated that Nissan had recently demonstrated V2H technology in the new Leaf by powering live screening of several matches of the Indian cricket team at the 2019 World Cup.
“V2H allows Nissan Leaf owners to charge their cars when power demand from the grid is low, such as night, then use the power to run their homes during peak demand periods. We are welcoming all potential Indian partners who want to experiment (with) this unique V2H technology in their building, infrastructure, grid, vehicle, etc. For instance, it could be a strong asset for a new mobility framework in a Smart city,” according to Grippay.
Analysts predict that consumers are likely to use their cars more as batteries than as vehicles, given that vehicles are parked 90 per cent of the time and that it can be a more efficient asset if it is doing work even when it is parked.
The electric scooter plans of auto majors such as Hyundai offer interesting solutions too. The South Korean carmaker plans to leverage e-scooters as a compliment to their vehicles and this is being promoted as a foldable scooter — which, going by a promo video released by Hyundai, looks like it could nearly fit inside an big handbag — being stored in several potential compartments inside the car.
Once the vehicle is parked, the boot or other compartment can be opened, the scooter unfolded and the driver is able to quickly shift from car to scooter. Hyundai said the idea for adding e-scooters to their vehicles came from research showing that the ‘Last Mile Mobility’ market in the US, Europe and China is projected to grow to $500 Billion by 2030. “This is the vehicle-mounted personal scooter which could be featured in future Hyundai Motor Group vehicles,” according to DongJin Hyun, head of Hyundai Motor Group Robotics Team.
While Hyundai and BMW’s entry into the e-scooter space does mean additional competition in an increasingly crowded market, the prototypes released by both companies appear much smaller than rentable models produced in the United States and Europe by companies such as Bird, Lime, Bolt and Skip.
Despite its small dimensions, Hyundai claims that the device’s 10.5 Ah (ampere hour) lithium battery is powerful enough to help the scooter achieve a top speed of more than 12 miles per hour and traverse 12 miles on a single charge. Hyundai says the “tri-folding” rear-wheel drive scooter weighs just under 8 kg and features a digital display that shows battery status and speed, while its engineers have added suspension to the device’s front wheel for a smoother ride.
The transition from a front-wheel drive, as was the case in the prototype, to rear-wheel drive is key in enhancing safety and stability as it positions weight near the rear, according to the auto manufacturer. Looking at further potential development, Hyundai plans to install a regenerative braking system to increase the scooter’s range by another 7 per cent. Ongoing efforts to provide customers with last mile transportation align with trends highlighted in research data by global consultancy McKinsey & Company, which said that the ‘Last Mile Mobility’ market in the US, Europe, and China is expected to grow to $500 Billion by 2030.
According to McKinsey, “micromobility could theoretically encompass all passenger trips of less than 8 km, which account for as much as 50 to 60 per cent of today’s total passenger miles traveled in China, the European Union, and the US. For example, about 60 per cent of car trips are less than 8 km and could benefit from micromobility solutions, which could also cover roughly 20 per cent of public-transport travel (in addition to closing the first- and last-mile gap) as well as all trips done by private bike, moped, scooter, or walking today”.
Those numbers could work in the Indian context too. According to a Deloitte report of April 2019 on ‘Making Micromobility Work’, sidewalk riding reflects, in part, more fundamental limitations of many cities’ infrastructure, which for decades has prioritised cars at the expense of other modes — a potential impediment in the Indian context too.