TElectric cars are on the rise in popularity, but there’s another metric that’s also heading north alarmingly: how much they weigh.
While nearly every modern car is heavier than what it replaces as customers demand increased space and advanced safety equipment, nowhere is that weight felt more acutely than in the world of EVs.
For example, it is not uncommon for an electric car to be 35% heavier than conventional petrol models.
Larger battery packs and multiple electric motors are the key drivers behind weight gain, with many electric SUVs weighing so much that automakers often have to re-engineer them with more complex, and heavier, crash structures. Is.
Heavy cars also bring many other problems. They are less efficient, wear tires and other wearable components such as brake pads and suspension bushings more quickly, deteriorate roads at higher speeds, and some safety organizations have raised concerns that if they are lighter, traditional If they collide with cars, there is a fear of damage from them. .
The good news is that weight gain can stop quickly. Volvo is a carmaker keen to reduce the weight of its future models and the company’s global boss, Jim Rowan, said: The wheels There are several ways to start shedding kilos.
“The thing that electric cars hate more than anything else is weight, high CD [poor aerodynamics] And bigger tires that have more rolling resistance,” Rowan said. “So we’re constantly trying to measure how can you correct the geometry without seeing a wedge? How do you remove weight from the vehicle and reduce the rolling resistance of the vehicle itself?
“Right now we’re managing to offset the extra weight through better aero and battery chemistry but it’s something that’s a constant battle for us,” he added.
Rowan touted Volvo’s lithium iron phosphate (LFP) batteries as a positive step as an alternative to traditional lithium-ion units, but said the real downside would come from increased use of composite materials.
More advanced active safety systems and manufacturing processes will also play a role, with Rowan hinting that they could allow automakers to shave valuable kilos off the model’s crash structure.
“LFP is a really good technology and it’s also very affordable, because you get rid of the cobalt and you get rid of the magnesium so it’s also a better choice environmentally,” Rowan said. “And when we really get to more varied, more sophisticated and advanced safety systems like LIDAR and radar and the certainty of a crash becomes less severe because you can intervene to the point where you can slow the car down, here Even if there is still an effect, it is slow.
“We’re also putting a lot of aluminum into our cars now, which is more expensive, but it weighs less, so that’s an advantage. And we just put in megacasting. [a manufacturing process of casting large components in a single piece] Some of our newer models also have a lot of weight savings.
“But I think it will be a combination of a little better battery chemistry, a little better airflow and better use of composite materials to reduce weight.”
Another key contributor to weight reduction – and lower prices for electric cars – will be a move towards fitting EVs with smaller battery packs. Batteries that offer longer ranges are currently the preference for many consumers but, according to Rowan, infrastructure improvements to make charging faster and easier will soon see manufacturers offering models with multiple battery sizes.
“As soon as you put the infrastructure in place, range is no longer an issue,” he said. “What we’re seeing now is that you don’t want to put 100kWh batteries in a lot of cars. You want to put in 50kWh or 30kWh. As long as you’re comfortable enough you can charge at home for short trips. There are and reasonable infrastructure why would you add more cost and weight? This is the next step.
“So what you’ll see, as the infrastructure develops more efficiently, is that we and other companies will offer a 35-kilowatt option, a 50 or 60 or 70 version. And if you’re someone who wants it very “If you use more, you’ll still get your 100 or 110kWh battery, but that will be one of the choices people can make to trade off price and weight.”