A Review on Electric Vehicles: Technologies and Challenges
- Zero emissions: this type of vehicles neither emit tailpipe pollutants, CO2, nor nitrogen dioxide (NO2). Also, the manufacture processes tend to be more respectful with the environment, although battery manufacturing adversely affects carbon footprint.
- Simplicity: the number of Electric Vehicle (EV) engine elements is smaller, which leads to a much cheaper maintenance. The engines are simpler and more compact, they do not need a cooling circuit, and neither is necessary for incorporating gearshift, clutch, or elements that reduce the engine noise.
- Reliability: having less, and more simple, components makes this type of vehicles have fewer breakdowns. In addition, EVs do not suffer of the inherent wear and tear produced by engine explosions, vibrations, or fuel corrosion.
- Cost: the maintenance cost of the vehicle and the cost of the electricity required is much lower in comparison to maintenance and fuel costs of traditional combustion vehicles. The energy cost per kilometer is significantly lower in EVs than in traditional vehicles, as shown in Figure 1.
- Comfort: traveling in EVs is more comfortable, due to the absence of vibrations or engine noise .
- Efficiency: EVs are more efficient than traditional vehicles. However, the overall well to wheel (WTW) efficiency will also depend on the power plant efficiency. For instance, total WTW efficiency of gasoline vehicles ranges from 11% to 27%, whereas diesel vehicles range from 25% to 37% . By contrast, EVs fed by a natural gas power plant show a WTW efficiency that ranges from 13% to 31%, whereas EVs fed by renewable energy show an overall efficiency up to 70%.
- Accessibility: this type of vehicle allows for access to urban areas that are not allowed to other combustion vehicles (e.g., low emissions zones). EVs do not suffer from the same traffic restrictions in large cities, especially at high peaks of contamination level. Interestingly, there was a recent OECD study that suggests that, at least in terms of Particulate Matter (PM) emissions, EVs will unfortunately not improve the air quality situation .
- Charging time: full charging the battery pack can take 4 to 8 h. Even a “fast charge” to 80% capacity can take 30 min. For example, Tesla superchargers can charge the Model S up to 50% in only 20 min, or 80% in half an hour .
- Battery cost: large battery packs are expensive.
- Bulk and weight: battery packs are heavy and take up considerable vehicle space. It is assumed that the batteries of this type of vehicles have an approximate weight of 200 kg , which can vary, depending on the battery capacity.
2. Existing EV-Related Surveys
3. Electric Vehicles
3.1. Electric VEHICLES Taxonomy
- Battery Electric Vehicles (BEVs): vehicles 100% are propelled by electric power. BEVs do not have an internal combustion engine and they do not use any kind of liquid fuel. BEVs normally use large packs of batteries in order to give the vehicle an acceptable autonomy. A typical BEV will reach from 160 to 250 km, although some of them can travel as far as 500 km with just one charge. An example of this type of vehicle is the Nissan Leaf , which is 100% electric and it currently provides a 62 kWh battery that allows users to have an autonomy of 360 km.
- Plug-In Hybrid Electric Vehicles (PHEVs): hybrid vehicles are propelled by a conventional combustible engine and an electric engine charged by a pluggable external electric source. PHEVs can store enough electricity from the grid to significantly reduce their fuel consumption in regular driving conditions. The Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV  provides a 12 kWh battery, which allows it to drive around 50 km just with the electric engine. However, it is also noteworthy that PHEVs fuel consumption is higher than indicated by car manufacturers .
- Hybrid Electric Vehicles (HEVs): hybrid vehicles are propelled by a combination of a conventional internal combustion engine and an electric engine. The difference with regard to PHEVs is that HEVs cannot be plugged to the grid. In fact, the battery that provides energy to the electric engine is charged thanks to the power generated by the vehicle’s combustion engine. In modern models, the batteries can also be charged thanks to the energy generated during braking, turning the kinetic energy into electric energy. The Toyota Prius, in its hybrid model (4th generation), provided a 1.3 kWh battery that theoretically allowed it an autonomy as far as 25 km in its all-electric mode .
- Fuel Cell Electric Vehicles (FCEVs): these vehicles are provided with an electric engine that uses a mix of compressed hydrogen and oxygen obtained from the air, having water as the only waste resulting from this process. Although these kinds of vehicles are considered to present “zero emissions”, it is worth highlighting that, although there is green hydrogen, most of the used hydrogen is extracted from natural gas. The Hyundai Nexo FCEV  is an example of this type of vehicles, being able to travel 650 km without refueling.
- Extended-range EVs (ER-EVs): these vehicles are very similar to those ones in the BEV category. However, the ER-EVs are also provided with a supplementary combustion engine, which charges the batteries of the vehicle if needed. This type of engine, unlike those provided by PHEVs and HEVs, is only used for charging, so that it is not connected to the wheels of the vehicle. An example of this type of vehicles is the BMW i3 , which has a 42.2 kWh battery that results in a 260 km autonomy in electric mode, and users can benefit an additional 130 km from the extended-range mode.
3.2. Subsidies and Market Position
4.1. Characteristics of the Batteries
- Capacity. The storage difficulty and cost is one of the main problems of electric power. Currently, this results in the allocation of great amounts of money in the development of new batteries with higher efficiency and reliability, thus improving batteries’ storage capacity.The battery capacity represents the maximum amount of energy that can be extracted from the battery under certain specified conditions. This unit can be expressed in ampere hour (Ah) or in watt hour (Wh), although the latter one is more commonly used by electric vehicles. When considering that, in EVs, the capacity of their batteries is a critical aspect, since it has a direct impact in the vehicles’ autonomy, the emergence of new technologies that enables the storage of a greater energy quantity in the shortest possible time will be a decisive factor in the success of this kind of vehicles. Table 2 shows data that are related to the battery capacities of EVs. As shown, the capacity of batteries is continuously growing and vehicles with more that 100 kWh batteries are expected very soon.
- Charge state. Refers to the battery level with regard to its 100% capacity.
- Energy Density. Obtaining the highest energy density possible is another important aspect in the development of batteries, in other words, that with equal size and weight a battery is able to accumulate a higher energy quantity. The energy density of batteries is measured as the energy that a battery is able to supply per unit volume (Wh/L).
- Specific energy. The energy that a battery is able to provide per unit mass (Wh/kg). Some authors also refer to this feature as energy density, and it can be specified in Wh/L or Wh/kg.
- Specific power. The power that a battery can supply per unit of weight (W/kg).
- Charge cycles. A load cycle is completed when the battery has been used or loaded 100%.
- Lifespan. Another aspect to consider is the batteries lifespan, which is measured in the number of charging cycles that a battery can hold. The goal is to obtain batteries that can endure a greater number of loading and unloading cycles.
- Internal resistance. The components of the batteries are not 100% perfect conductors, which means that they offer a certain resistance to the transmission of electricity. During the charging process, some energy is dispelled in the form of heat (namely, thermal loss). The generated heat per unit of time is equal to the lost power in the resistance, so the internal resistance will have a greater impact in high power charges . Thus, more energy will be lost during quick charging processes when compared to slow ones.Therefore, it is highly important that batteries can support quick charging and higher temperatures induced due to the internal resistance. In addition, the decrease of this resistance can reduce the charging time that is required, which is one of the most important drawbacks of this type of vehicles today.
- Efficacy. It is the percentage of power that is offered by the battery in relation to the energy charged.
4.2. The Cornerstones: Cost, Capacity, and Charging Time
4.3. Different Components and Battery Types
- Lead-acid batteries (Pb-PbO2). These batteries were invented in 1859 and are the oldest kind of rechargeable battery. Although this kind of battery is very common in conventional vehicles, it has also been used in electric vehicles. It has very low specific energy and energy density ratios. The battery is formed by a sulfuric acid deposit and a group of lead plates. During the initial loading process, the lead sulfate is reduced to metal in the negative plates, while, in the positives, lead oxide is formed (PbO2). The GM EV1 and the Toyota RAV4 EV, are examples of vehicles that used this kind of batteries.
- Nickel-cadmium batteries (Ni-Cd). This technology was used in the 90s, as these batteries have a greater energy density , but they present high memory effect, low lifespan, and cadmium is a very expensive and polluting element. For these reasons, nickel-cadmium batteries are currently being substituted by nickel-metal-hydride (NiMH) batteries.
- Nickel-metal-hydride batteries (Ni-MH). In this type of batteries, an alloy that stores hydrogen is used for negative electrodes instead of cadmium (Cd) . Although they present a higher level of self discharge than those of nickel-cadmium, these batteries are used by many hybrid vehicles, such as the Toyota Prius and the second version of the GM EV1. The Toyota RAV4 EV, apart from having a lead-acid version, also had another with nickel-metal-hydride.
- Zinc-bromine batteries (Zn-Br2). These kinds of batteries use a zinc-bromine solution stored in two tanks, and in which bromide turns into bromine in the positive electrode. This technology was used by a prototype, called ”T-Star”, in 1993 .
- Sodium chloride and nickel batteries (NA-NiCl). Also being referred to as Zebra, they are very similar to sodium sulfur batteries. Their advantage is that they can offer up to 30% more energy in low temperatures, although its optimum operating range is between 260 °C and 300 °C. These kinds of batteries are ideal for its use in electric vehicles . The disappeared Modec company used them in 2006.
- Sodium sulfur batteries (Na-S), which contain sodium liquid (Na) and sulfur (S). This type of battery has a high energy density, high loading and unloading efficiency (89–92%), and a long life cycle. In addition, their advantage is that these materials have a very low cost. However, they can reach functioning temperatures of between 300 and 350 °C . This type of batteries is used in the Ford Ecostar, the model that was launched in 1992–1993.
- Lithium-ion batteries (Li-Ion). These batteries employ, as electrolyte, a lithium salt that provides the necessary ions for the reversible electrochemical reaction that takes place between the cathode and anode. Lithium-ion batteries have the advantages of the lightness of their components, their high loading capacity, their internal resistance, as well as their high loading and unloading cycles. In addition, they present a reduced memory effect.
5. Charging of Electric Vehicles
- AC Level 1. Standard electrical outlet that provides voltage in AC of 120 V offering a maximum intensity of 16 A, which serves a maximum power of 1.9 kW.
- AC Level 2. Standard electrical outlet with 240 V AC and a maximum intensity of 80 A, so it offers a maximum power of 19.2 kW.
- DC Level 1. External charger that by inserting a maximum voltage of 500 V DC with a maximum intensity of 80 A, it provides a maximum power of 40 kW.
- DC Level 2. External charger that, by inserting a maximum voltage of 500 V DC with a maximum intensity of 200 A, provides a maximum power of 100 kW.
5.1. Charging Modes
- Mode 1 (Slow charging). It is defined as a domestic charging mode, with a maximum intensity of 16 A, and it uses a standard single-phase or three-phase power outlet with phase(s), neutral, and protective earth conductors. This mode is the most used in our homes.
- Mode 2 (Semi-fast charging). This mode can be used at home or in public areas, its defined maximum intensity is of 32 A, and, similar to the previous mode, it uses standardized power outlets with phase(s), neutral, and protective earth conductors.
- Mode 3 (Fast charging). It provides an intensity between 32 and 250 A. This charging mode requires the use of an EV Supply Equipment (EVSE), a specific power supply for charging electric vehicles. This device (i.e., the EVSE) provides communication with the vehicles, monitors the charging process, incorporates protection systems, and stops the energy flow when the connection to the vehicle is not detected.
- Mode 4 (Ultra-fast charging). Published in the IEC-62196-3, it defines a direct connection of the EV to the DC supply network with a power intensity of up to 400 A and a maximum voltage of 1000 V, which provides a maximum charging power up to 400 kW. These modes also require an external charger that provides communication between the vehicle and the charging point, as well as protection and control.
- They are sealed solutions (not affected by water or humidity).
- They carry a mechanic or electronic blockage.
- They enable communication with the vehicle.
- Electricity is not supplied until the blockage system is not activated.
- While the blockage system is activated, the vehicle cannot be set in motion, so that a vehicle cannot leave while plugged.
- Some connectors are able to charge in three-phase mode.
- AC pins, two pins to provide power to the vehicle (phase and neutral).
- Ground connection, a security measure, which connects the electrical system to the ground.
- Proximity detection, which avoids the vehicle to move while plugged.
- Pilot Control, which allows communication with the vehicle.
- Type 1 (SAE-J1772-2009) Yazaki. With the aim of finding a standardized connector, the Type 1 AC charging, apart from being included in the SAE-J1772 standard, was also included in the IEC-62196-2. In fact, this connector is commonly found in charging equipments for EVs in North America and Japan , and it is used by a great amount of vehicles, such as the Nissan Leaf, the Chevrolet Volt, the Toyota Prius Prime, the Mitsubishi i-MiEV, the Ford Focus Electric, the Tesla Roadster, and the Tesla Model S. This connector can be observed in Figure 7a.
- Type 2 (VDE-AR-E 2623-2-2) Mennekes. It was originally designed to be used in the industrial sector, so it was not specifically designed for EVs (see Figure 7c). In single-phase it is limited up to 230 V, but, in three-phase, is able to hold high voltages and intensities. This connector has 7 pins, i.e., four for the power (in three-phase mode), one ground connection, and two pins to communicate with the vehicle (blockage and communications). An example of a vehicle that uses this connector is the Renault Zoe, which can be charged with the Mennekes connector up to 43 kWh.
- Type 3 (EV Plug Alliance connector) Scame. Single-phase and three-phase connector, designed by the EV Plug Alliance in 2010. It supplies 230 V/400 V and from 16 to 63 A . France and Italy suggested the use of this connector for their vehicles (see Figure 7e), but, due to the poor acceptance, the production of Type 3 connectors has been finally abandoned.
- Type 4 (EVS G105-1993) CHAdeMO. Promoted by TEPCO (Tokyo Electric Power Company), it is commonly found in the EVs charging equipment in Japan, although it is also used in Europe and USA (see Figure 7f).CHAdeMO is designed to supply fast charges in DC. In its first versions, it held up to 400 V, starting the charge with up to 200 A. Nowadays, CHAdeMO chargers have already been designed with 150 kW power, and they aim to reach 350 kW . This connector has ten pins, two for DC power supply, one for ground connection, and seven pins for communicating with the network.On the 8th of February of 2018, there existed 7133 CHAdeMO charging points in Japan, 6022 in Europe, and 2290 in the USA . In fact, it is added to numerous vehicles, such as in the Nissan Leaf, the Nissan e-NV200, the Mitsubishi i-MiEV, and the KIA Soul EV.
6. Power Control and Energy Management
Thermal Management and Power Electronics
7. Challenges of the Research and Open Opportunities
7.1. New Challenges and Technologies in Batteries for EVs
- Lithium iron phosphate (LiFePO4). This kind of battery presents an energy density of approximately 220 Wh/L, a great durability (they are able to withstand between 2000 and 10,000 cycles) and tolerate high temperatures.However, although this type of battery is starting to be tested in EVs , it still can be found in an early stage of research and development. MIT researchers have managed to reduce its weight and they have developed a prototype-cell that can be completely charged in just 10–20 s, a reduced time if we compare it with the necessary 6 min. for standard battery cells .
- Magnesium-ion (Mg-Ion). These batteries change the use of lithium over magnesium, succeeding in storing more than double the charge and increasing its stability. It is expected that this type of battery can have a 6.2 kWh/L energy density , which would imply 8.5 times more than the best lithium batteries, which are currently able to apply up to 0.735 kWh/L. Organizations, such as the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E), Toyota, or NASA, are investigating this type of battery [97,98].
- Lithium-metal. In these batteries, graphite-anode is replaced by a fine lithium-metal layer. This kind of battery is able to store double of the power than a traditional lithium battery . SolidEnergy Systems, a MIT startup, have already started to deploy this type of batteries in drones, and it is expected that they can be included in EVs . Lithium-metal batteries have a high Coulombic efficiency (above 99.1%), withstanding more than 6000 charging cycles, and, after 1000 cycles they maintain an average Coulombic efficiency of 98.4% .
- Lithium-air (Li-air). This kind of battery needs a constant supply of oxygen to conduct the reaction with the lithium. They were initially proposed in the 70s, although it was not until recently that have started to be developed and improved. It is expected that its specific energy reaches around 12 kWh/kg (almost 45 times the current of lithium), which would imply being at the same level as the fuel .
- Aluminum-air. Batteries that are developed with this technology produce electricity from the reaction of oxygen with aluminum. Their main advantage is that this type of battery reaches very large energy densities, attaining 6.2 kWh/L , which allows obtaining a high autonomies (up to 1600 km) . The price of this kind of battery is decreasing, currently positioning in 300 €/kWh , and their advantage is that they are recyclable.
- Sodium-air (Na2O2). The company BASF created a Sodium-air battery with an energy density of 4.5 kWh/L . In electric vehicles, this type of battery can multiply the autonomy of the current lithium batteries at least thirteen times . A great advantage of this type of batteries is that sodium is the sixth more abundant element in our planet .
- Graphene. Graphene is a material that is formed by pure carbon, which has a high thermal conductivity and it is extremely light (a one square meter blade weighs 0.77 mg) . One of the major assets of graphene-based batteries is that they barely heat, enabling fast or ultra-fast charges without significant power losses due to heat.Graphenano, a Spanish company, has created a graphene battery that, added to a GTA Spano vehicle (900 hp), has been able to travel 800 km . In a high power plug, this battery could be charged in only 5 min. This kind of battery is in an early phase of development, although there exist prototypes of graphene batteries with a specific power of 1 kWh/kg, and it is expected to reach 6.4 kWh/kg soon .
7.2. Improvements in the Charging Process
7.3. Communications and AI in Electric Vehicles
7.4. Eco Charge and Sustainability
Conflicts of Interest
|AC/DC||Alternating Current/Direct Current|
|ANNs||Artificial Neural Networks|
|BEVs||Battery Electric Vehicles|
|BESs||Battery Exchange Stations|
|BMS||Battery Management System|
|BSSs||Battery Swap Stations|
|CCS||Combined Charging System|
|CHAdeMO||CHArge de MOve|
|CPT||Capacitive Power Transfer|
|ER-EV||Extended-range Electric Vehicle|
|FCEV||Fuel Cell Electric Vehicle|
|HEV||Hybrid Electric Vehicle|
|IEC||International Electrotechnical Commission|
|IoE||Internet of Energy|
|IoEVs||Internet of Electric Vehicles|
|IPT||Inductive Power Transfer|
|LiFePO4||Lithium iron phosphate|
|NA-NiCl||Sodium chloride and nickel|
|PHEV||Plug-In Hybrid Electric Vehicle|
|PSO||Particle Swarm Optimization|
|SAE||Society of Automotive Engineers|
|WPT||Wireless Power Transfer|
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|Volkswagen Jetta citySTROMer||1985||17.3|
|Fiat Panda Elettra||1990||9|
|General Motors EV1||1996||16.5|
|General Motors EV1||1999||18.7|
|General Motors EV1||2000||26.4|
|Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG E-Drive||2010||60|
|Tata Indica Vista EV||2010||26.5|
|Volvo C30 EV||2010||24|
|Volvo V70 PHEV||2010||11.3|
|Ford Focus Electric||2011||23|
|Mia electric||2011||8, 12|
|Renault Fluence Z.E||2011||22|
|Chevrolet Spark EV||2012||21.3|
|Ford Focus Electric||2012||23|
|Tesla Model S||2012||40, 60, 85|
|Renault Fluence Z.E||2014||22|
|Chevrolet Spark EV||2015||19|
|Mercedes Clase B ED||2015||28|
|Tesla Model S||2015||70, 90|
|Kia Soul EV||2016||27|
|Tesla Model 3||2016||50, 75|
|Tesla Model X||2016||90, 100|
|Ford Focus Electric||2017||33.5|
|Honda Clarity EV||2017||25.5|
|Tesla Model S||2017||75, 100|
|Kia Soul EV||2018||30|
|Renault ZOE 2||2018||60|
|Renault ZOE 2 rs||2018||100|
|Tesla Model 3||2018||70, 90|
|Volvo 40 series||2019||100|
|Hyundai Kona e||2020||64|
|Mini Cooper SE||2020||32.6|
|Ford Mustang Mach-E||2021||99|
|Working Temperature (°C)||−20–45||0–50||0–50||20–40||300–350||300–350||−20–60|
|Specific Energy (Wh/kg)||30–60||60–80||60–120||75–140||160||130||100–275|
|Energy Density (Wh/L)||60–100||60–150||100–300||60–70||110–120||120–130||200–735|
|Specific Power (W/kg)||75–100||120–150||250–1000||80–100||150–200||150–290||350–3000|
|Cell Voltage (V)||2.1||1.35||1.35||1.79||2.58||2.08||3.6|
|Charge Method||Volts||Maximum Current|
|AC Level 1||120 V AC||16 A||1.9 kW|
|AC Level 2||240 V AC||80 A||19.2 kW|
|DC Level 1||200 to 500 V DC maximum||80 A||40 kW|
|DC Level 2||200 to 500 V DC maximum||200 A||100 kW|
|Mode 1||AC Single||16 A||230–240 V||3.8 kW||No|
|AC Three||480 V||7.6 kW|
|Mode 2||AC Single||32 A||230–240 V||7.6 kW||No|
|AC Three||480 V||15.3 kW|
|Mode 3||AC Single||32–250 A||230–240 V||60 kW||Yes|
|AC Three||480 V||120 kW|
|Mode 4||DC||250–400 A||600–1000 V||400 kW||Yes|
|AC Charging||GB/T-20234.2-2015||250 V||10 A||27.7 kW|
|440 V||16 A|
|DC Charging||GB/T-20234.3-2015||750–1000 V||80 A||250 kW|
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Sanguesa, J.A.; Torres-Sanz, V.; Garrido, P.; Martinez, F.J.; Marquez-Barja, J.M. A Review on Electric Vehicles: Technologies and Challenges. Smart Cities 2021, 4, 372-404. https://doi.org/10.3390/smartcities4010022
Sanguesa JA, Torres-Sanz V, Garrido P, Martinez FJ, Marquez-Barja JM. A Review on Electric Vehicles: Technologies and Challenges. Smart Cities. 2021; 4(1):372-404. https://doi.org/10.3390/smartcities4010022Chicago/Turabian Style
Sanguesa, Julio A., Vicente Torres-Sanz, Piedad Garrido, Francisco J. Martinez, and Johann M. Marquez-Barja. 2021. "A Review on Electric Vehicles: Technologies and Challenges" Smart Cities 4, no. 1: 372-404. https://doi.org/10.3390/smartcities4010022