When electric vehicles like General Motors' (NYSE:GM) Chevy Volt and the Nissan Leaf came on the scene about a decade ago, the biggest challenge for EVs was driving range. GM and others answered that question by including a gasoline motor, but in all-electric mode, there were few vehicles that offered over 100 miles of range as recently as five years ago.
Tesla (NASDAQ:TSLA) knew range was an issue and has always been an industry leader, pushing the range of the Model S past 200 and now 300 miles and easing fears even further with the nationwide Supercharger network. But if two recent developments are true, the range issue may be a thing of the past. Porsche says it is launching a super fast charging EV in 2019, and electric bus company Proterra traveled 1,100 miles on a single charge!
Superchargers are child's play
When Volkswagen (OTC:VWAGY)-owned Porsche announced details of its Mission E this week, it said the EV will work with new 350 kW chargers, which will be able to add about 200 miles of range in just 15 minutes. That's more than twice as fast as Tesla's Supercharger network, which is currently the best network in the industry.
The charging standard behind the 350 kW chargers are backed by major automakers like Ford, BMW, Audi, Prosche, and Daimler. They're planning to build 400 super-fast chargers across Europe, which could be expanded to the U.S. if it's successful. What's clear is that by 2020, there should be thousands of 350 kW charging stalls around the world. And if consumers can charge their vehicles nearly as quickly as the time it takes to fuel a vehicle with gasoline, it will be a game-changing advancement for EVs.
Range is advancing quickly
When the Tesla Model S was launched in 2014, it included 60 kWh and 85 kWh versions that topped out at 265 miles of range. By 2016, it added a 100 kWh version that has as much as 335 miles of range. Porsche's Mission E is said to have over 300 miles of range as well, a level that will likely be a bar every EV has to reach in the future.
Adding range is also no longer cost prohibitive to EV manufacturers, as it was when early EVs were being developed. Between 2010 and 2016, the cost of battery packs fell 80% to $227 per kWh. If momentum continues, by 2020 the cost of battery packs could be near $100 per kWh, enabling even more affordable EVs.
300 miles of range may also just be the start for some forms of transportation. Electric bus maker Proterra just announced that it traveled 1,101.2 miles on a single charge. The test was done under ideal conditions, but it's impressive nonetheless.
Don't expect 1,000 miles of range from a car, but what Proterra's record shows is that the advancements in battery technology have driven new possibilities for driving range. As battery technology advances, it will drive both cost reductions and increased energy density in EVs going forward. Another hurdle to EV adoption appears to be falling away very quickly.
EVs are changing the game
I think it's clear that the next generation of EVs will likely come with much better range and faster charging than EVs have ever had before. As both previous EV obstacles subside, it increases the change consumers will buy an EV in the future. This has wide-ranging impacts beyond automakers to oil companies and even utilities, who have to provide the electricity for EVs around the world.
The battery technology powering EV growth is improving faster than most investors realize, and the disruption that will follow is going to be swift as well. Making sure EV adoption is a tailwind instead of a headwind should be a big consideration for your portfolio going forward.