How Shared Mobility Will Change EV and Battery Design

Ridesharing could affect the size, capacity, and chemistry of future electric vehicle batteries.

Charles Murray

August 20, 2018

4 Min Read
How Shared Mobility Will Change EV and Battery Design

Automotive engineers and battery makers will need to consider how use-cases will drive the design of their products in the age of shared mobility, an expert will tell attendees at the upcoming Battery Show.

“People are going to do what’s easiest and most convenient for them,” Don Tappan, vice president of the venture capital firm, Braemer Energy Ventures, told Design News. “For a long time, that meant having their own car and driving it. But what’s easiest and most convenient now is to have options. And carmakers need to be thoughtful about that.”

Don Tappan of Braemer Energy Ventures: “If you want to have a big battery that can solve 99.9% of your use cases, it can get very expensive and your battery capacity can be under-utilized.” (Image source: Braemer Energy Ventures)

The dawn of ridesharing companies, such as Lyft, Uber, Maven, and others, will change the way consumers in the future think about their vehicles, Tappan said. And if manufacturers are prepared for that change, it could affect the size, capacity, and chemistry of future electric vehicle batteries as well as hybridization, intelligence, and even the crashworthiness of those vehicles.

In the future, there will be a wide spectrum of use-cases, ranging from those who drive 50 miles into the city to work every day using their own car to those who live in the city and walk to their offices, using ridesharing services to fill the occasional need for a car. And within that spectrum lies a range of powertrain and ownership models that will serve the needs of consumers, Tappan said. As a result, automakers will need to be aware that some use-cases may require EVs with big batteries, while others call for medium-size batteries and still others need small batteries combined with internal combustion engines.

Shared mobility will play a big role in the future because it will serve to fill in the gaps between different types of vehicles. For example, owners who have a short daily commute and a charge station at the office may need an EV with only a small- or medium-sized battery. If they take longer trips on weekends, they could use ridesharing or rental cars, he added. “So instead of the electric vehicle having to be everything to everyone, it can be one thing to one person on one day, and one thing to another person on another day,” Tappan said.

Battery capacity could also be closely linked with charging infrastructure. For example, Uber drivers who use their cars 14 hours a day could need bigger batteries if charging opportunities are unavailable or smaller batteries if fast-charge stations are abundant in their area, Tappan said.

Consumers, too, will need to think about their most cost-effective options. “The point is, big batteries are expensive,” Tappan told us. "If you want to have a big battery that will solve 99.9% of your use-cases, it can get very expensive and your battery capacity can be under-utilized. Whereas, if you only need to solve 75% of your use cases, you may be able to get by with a smaller, less-expensive battery.”

Shared mobility may be a key to that 75% scenario, Tappan said. “If the sharing is done properly and with the right infrastructure, then sharing may be easier than owning,” he added.


As ridesharing grows, it will profoundly affect the design choices that are now facing engineers. And those choices will become clearer with time—especially as shared mobility data becomes more available. “When you have millions of vehicles, it changes the world,” Tappan said. “So you need to take that real-world feedback and apply it to next-generation vehicles. That way, you can keep the designs moving in parallel with consumer demands.”

Don Tappan will discuss shared mobility and how it affects design in a session called EVs and Hybrids in a New Mobility Future on September 11 in Novi, MI.  

Senior technical editor Chuck Murray has been writing about technology for 34 years. He joined Design News in 1987, and has covered electronics, automation, fluid power, and auto.

About the Author(s)

Charles Murray

Charles Murray is a former Design News editor and author of the book, Long Hard Road: The Lithium-Ion Battery and the Electric Car, published by Purdue University Press. He previously served as a DN editor from 1987 to 2000, then returned to the magazine as a senior editor in 2005. A former editor with Semiconductor International and later with EE Times, he has followed the auto industry’s adoption of electric vehicle technology since 1988 and has written extensively about embedded processing and medical electronics. He was a winner of the Jesse H. Neal Award for his story, “The Making of a Medical Miracle,” about implantable defibrillators. He is also the author of the book, The Supermen: The Story of Seymour Cray and the Technical Wizards Behind the Supercomputer, published by John Wiley & Sons in 1997. Murray’s electronics coverage has frequently appeared in the Chicago Tribune and in Popular Science. He holds a BS in engineering from the University of Illinois at Chicago.

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