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From Lawns to Flight, the Future is Electric

Alan Rooks
By Alan Rooks Editor in Chief, Manufacturing Engineering

One of the annoyances of living in the suburbs is the incessant whine of gas-powered lawnmowers and leafblowers—particularly the latter. So, when I recently purchased some new lawncare equipment, I went electric to spare myself and the neighbors additional aggravation. So far, it’s been great. I haven’t seen any difference in performance compared to the gas-powered versions; mine are quieter, and I just drop the battery into the charging module when I’m done.

That’s happening on a vastly larger scale in the transportation industry, as cars, trucks, vans, buses and even airplanes go all-electric. And the e-mobility industry, as it’s known, may get a big jolt. President Biden’s $2.25 trillion infrastructure plan includes $174 billion “to win the EV market.” If it makes it into law, this bill will have far-ranging impacts, including these:

  • More than 500,000 vehicle chargers built out across the U.S. by 2030 through incentive programs.
  • EVs that replace 50,000 diesel-powered transit vehicles and 20 percent of the U.S. school bus fleet.
  • Electrified vehicles in the federal fleet, including the U.S. Post Office.
  • A boost to domestic manufacturing of batteries and EVs through incentives for automakers.
  • Incentives to buy EVs.

And while $174 billion is clearly a lot of money, a full global transition to EVs will cost investors a cool $2.5 trillion over 10 years, according to a Bank of America forecast. EV companies raised a cumulative $6.45 billion in January 2021 through special purpose acquisition company (SPAC) mergers, acquisitions and IPOs, according to research data analyzed and published by London-based All that money should power a lot of growth. The global EV market was worth $121.8 billion in 2020 and will grow at a 10.6 percent CAGR to $236.3 billion by 2027, said the report.

Cars and other vehicles are clearly much farther ahead than airplanes in the electrification trend. The main problem is that it takes vastly more power to get a huge plane into the air than to start up and run a land-based vehicle. But Airbus’ all-electric, twin-prop E-Fan aircraft successfully crossed the English Channel in 2015, and its electric vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) demonstrator projects, Vahana and CityAirbus, have completed flight testing programs. And E-Fan X, the successor to E-Fan, is 30-times more powerful than its predecessor.

I don’t have to tell you what this means for the metalworking industry. Automotive is a major market for metalworking companies, and as electric drivetrains take market share from internal combustion ones, the parts market will undergo seismic change. But that means that there are new markets to tap into, as vehicle makers design and manufacture entirely new products. Even bicycle makers are changing. In the Netherlands, e-bikes account for over 68 percent of new bike sales. Maybe I can get one of those and park it next to my electric lawnmower.

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