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Electric Scooters and the Opportunity for Reducing Emissions

( 05/14/2020 ) Written by: Sujeesh Nair

Electric vehicles (EVs) capture an increasing share of the automobile market each year. In developing countries, however, there remain some roadblocks to replacing gasoline-powered engines with electric motors. 

Consumers in many developing nations have demonstrated willingness—even enthusiasm—for purchasing EVs. But the high price of cars, limited locations for battery charging and infeasibility of financing are proving to be barriers. Part of the solution for worldwide EV adoption will be to manufacture and sell EVs of every size—not just cars and SUVs. Many countries, particularly China and India, already represent a robust market for electric two-wheel vehicles (more commonly known as scooters). Scooters are cheaper to buy and to operate; they are space-saving and easy to park; and their small size and agility make them ideal for navigating tight urban centers. But like other internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles, scooters are responsible for a significant amount of air pollution. According to a Quartz article, “about 20% of the CO₂ emissions and 30% of particulate emissions in India are due to two-wheelers.”

Expanding the Availability of Electric Scooters

A Bloomberg Quint article described the electric vehicle market as a pyramid, with the base being low-speed vehicles such as electric scooters. This represents a big opportunity for reducing carbon emissions through the use of electric scooters, but so far that opportunity has not been fully leveraged. A program in India, Faster Adoption and Manufacturing of (Hybrid and) Electric Vehicles (FAME) was improving EV adoption rates. But with the rollout of FAME II in April 2019, momentum stalled. FAME II’s focus on higher speed vehicles has been blamed. The Bloomberg article points out that under FAME I, scooters with a top speed of up to 25 km/hour had qualified for incentives. Under FAME II, in order to qualify for incentives, scooters must have a minimum range of 80 km per charge and minimum top speed of 40 kmph.

Scooters, however, are engineered for low speeds. Low-speed scooters are the most practical, most affordable, and therefore the most common, with 95 percent of electric scooters in India being low speed, according to the same Bloomberg article. As of January 2020, one major electric vehicle manufacturer had put a hold on EV investment, hoping for alterations to the FAME II policy.

Overcoming Battery Limitations

As with electric cars, improving battery technology will help facilitate electric scooter adoption. With their small size and limited cargo capacity, scooters can function using much smaller batteries than cars require. Nevertheless, battery function—which has a direct bearing on an EV’s driving range—must be optimized in order to make the technology practicable.

A crucial element of battery pack design is the effective management of heat generated during the battery’s charge and discharge cycles. Battery manufacturers use thermal interface materials (TIMs) to displace the air and fill in the gaps between the battery pack and its cooling plates. These substrates have microscopic peaks and valleys that create roughness, entrap air and prevent ideal contact. Cutting-edge technology uses liquid-dispense, cure-in-place gap fillers for thermal management. Electric scooter designs that support the use of gap fillers and potting materials can contribute to battery health—which translates into improved battery lifespan and in-service performance.

Thermal management is especially critical for batteries facing high ambient temperatures as part of their normal operating conditions. In hot climates, such as many regions in India, outside air is too warm to contribute to battery cooling, so it is important to achieve maximum conductivity within the battery assembly.

Replacing ICE scooters with electric scooters could have a big impact on a country’s CO2 emissions and overall pollution levels, considering how ubiquitous scooters are. While there are some hurdles to the adoption of electric scooters, technical improvements—such as in battery performance—should help grow the market. Contact a member of our team to find out how our gap fillers and other thermal management materials can benefit your EV design.

Sujeesh Nair

Sr. Market Analyst at LORD Corporation and works with the India sales & marketing function to explore new business opportunities.

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