The rise of the electric vehicle is inevitable now as China and the EU have created strict regulations to achieve a more environmentally friendly way to drive. Out of more than 5.1 million electric cars on the roads globally, nearly 2 million cars were sold in China, Europe and the US last year. PwC Autofacts predicts that 55% of all new vehicle sales will be fully electrified vehicles by 2030.
The leading electric vehicle builders have been BYD, Beijing Electric Vehicles, Tesla and Nissan. Together, they manufactured around 560,000 of the world’s electric cars. Still this is less than 1% of the around 1 billion cars existing in the world today. As up until now the rapid introduction of electric vehicles has still been slowed down by car manufacturers, and the limitation of battery capacities.
According to a study by Prescient & Strategic Intelligence, the global production capacity of lithium-ion batteries is expected to reach $107 billion by 2024, which means an average 22% growth per year from now onwards. The company expects China to produce more than 60% of the world’s lithium-ion battery capacity by 2020, with CATL from China as the worldwide leader.
But regardless of who makes them, many more lithium batteries will be transported around the world in the coming years. This has an impact on the automotive supply chain, just like the electric vehicles themselves.
A challenging logistics process: The lithium battery transport
The lithium battery transport poses a problem for the supply chain as these batteries are dangerous goods. Among other things the high risk of damage after thermal leakage and weight (between 30 and 900 kilograms) present a significant security risk during storage and transport. In the event of damage, improper construction or assembly, the chemical content of these batteries can catch fire and then, to make life a little harder, the fire cannot be extinguished by normal means.
This results in various regulations for the transport of batteries. It is therefore important for companies to work with all their transport partners to ensure that lithium battery supplies are compliant throughout the entire supply chain. For almost every supply chain, this is a challenging transition. Certain transport documents, packaging, permits, labels and certifications are only a small excerpt of those challenges.
Another major challenge: The transport of EVs
The transportation of lithium batteries is not the only logistical challenge. The vehicle supply chain is already complex, and electric motors represent an additional hurdle for logistics managers to overcome. In addition to the rapidly rising demand, it is also important to consider how to guarantee smooth transport processes throughout the complete automotive supply chain. Some important questions, that have to be answered by automotive logistics service providers and vehicle yard managers, are:
• How many charging points are necessary?
• Is fast or slow charging more efficient?
• Where should the charging points be set up?
• When should the cars be charged?
• Until what level should the cars be charged?
• How can the charging stop at a certain level (for example 60%)?
• Is there enough charging capacity during peak times?
• How should the drive in/drive out process at charging points be organized?
Yard management software can help to reduce the complexity
This list of questions must be answered in order to take the battery status into account in logistics processes. One way to find the answer is software. In many cases the intelligent systems already calculate the routes, means of transport and yard movements of the vehicles in order to create processes that are as efficient, time- and resource-saving as possible. For example, “battery charging” could be included in this calculation as a further parameter in the software in order to handle it as efficiently as possible. Simulation methods could be used to consider in advance where and how many charging stations should be available.
From experience, the existing charge in EV batteries typically varies between 10-60% when they arrive at the terminal – with 60% charge being the maximum allowed by shipping companies to minimize the risk of fire. This status also must be considered during the planning stage in order to create processes that run as smoothly as possible.
Another trend in the automotive industry is the connected car. These vehicles could give signals when the batteries become lower. However, several car brands´ batteries only give signals when they are driving, and not when in standstill mode. In such a case, one person still has to start the engine and see how high the battery level is. This also needs to be taken into consideration when planning.
Many car manufacturers and service providers are now considering using an intelligent yard management solution, so that when a car enters the yard, the amount of battery charge can be reported, and a rule can be applied based on how much battery charge a single car can lose per day. If the number of vehicles is small, a manual process can support this. With increasing vehicle volumes, which the aforementioned predictions suggest, an efficiently structured systematic approach is required.
There are risks involved in storing and transporting lithium batteries and solutions are required before volumes increase sharply. Battery charging should be intelligently integrated into the car’s entire supply chain. It is also important that investments in new assistive technology continue, if the predicted upturn in the introduction of EVs is to take place.
Have you already thought through all the consequences of electric cars in your terminal? When is it time to make your terminal electric vehicle proof?
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