Nearly six months ago I spent nearly half an hour on the loo. “Woah, hold it there Chris. I’m not sure I want to hear what you’re going to say next.”
Ok, let me alleviate your fears. I was actually on the loo in an apartment in Barcelona. My girlfriend and I were on a little weekend break. It’s safe to say that she was getting a little bit worried about what I was doing in there for so long. In fact I was reading this wait but why article. Little did I know that when I started reading the post, I would be reading a short novella. In the end I didn’t finish it one sitting (sorry, I couldn’t resist 😉 ), but it was an excellent read and clarified so many misconceptions I had about electric vehicles, the entire industry and naturally about the advantages of electric cars. I was hooked.
Fast forward 2 months and this time I was sat on a couch in wintery cape town on a family holiday. My uncle had brought a copy of Elon Musk’s biography with him which my cousin had given him.
I demolished it in a few days (in between sightseeing). I was convinced. Electric cars are the future. The future of medium distance trips (bicycles dominate the short distance trip, maybe that should be my next post?). In fact they’ve been the future since the invention of the automobile. Except it took one very clever Henry Ford to make sure the combustion engine became the dominant car engine of the 20th century and beyond.
So let me show you why I believe it’s crucial we need to change our ways and drive (sorry again) forward the electric propulsion system.
This point is kind of self-explanatory, but I’ll mention it anyway as it’s very important. There are quite a few places in the world where humans are drilling for oil. By far most of our oil comes from the middle east. The countries of the middle east make up 33% of the top 20 oil producing countries. And we all know which self-proclaimed state is sitting on a vast treasure trove of crude oil. Guess how they finance themselves? Yup, via selling oil at below market prices. And guess who consumes that oil? It ends up in the tanks of people who are actually trying to fight the regime (Kurds, Jordanians, Iranians and Turkish poeple). This article shows how interconnected the whole region is in its trade and how ISIS is profiting from it. Moreover, bombing won’t help as if you bomb the refineries or oil sites that support the trade within the occupied territory, you’re at risk of cutting off money that is used to support the livelihoods of many thousands of civilians. Destroying the entire infrastructure may radicalise them.
What a conundrum that is. But the solution is easy:
Decrease the demand for oil and the regime will have to target something less lucrative to finance their fighters. Widespread use of electric vehicles will cut a huge dent into the demand of oil.
Oops, this point is also kind of self-explanatory. It’s been in and out of the media for decades now, so I’m sure you are well aware of the fact that the world has been growing warmer over the last century or so. Whether you think climate change is man-made or not is irrelevant. What matters is that less Co2 in the atmosphere will at the very least slow the pace of climate change. The transport sector is a large chunk of global emissions (14.3% according to these 2005 figures), so cutting the transport emissions by employing electric vehicles will cut the Co2 bill without a doubt.
Ok ok, I hear your thinking. “But Chris. The emissions will just be moved from being output by vehicles towards increased output from power plants. After all, this is where the EVs get their juice from.”
And I agree with you. This is actually a good thing. By focusing the emissions output to one type of source (power plants), we can a) get more accurate measurements, b) focus all of our energy towards making these outputs more sustainable and renewable in the long-term. Instead, the system we have now has inefficiencies at the power plant level as well as at the vehicle level. Combustion engines are notoriously inefficient compared to EVs when comparing the conversion of energy used into actual mileage travelled.
And as an aside, an EV world is actually promoting the individual vs large corporations. Many homeowners have already installed solar power panels on their roofs. Driving an EV car will make them more independent from the big corporations. They will be able to fill up their own tanks… ahem… batteries I mean. Horray!
This is a small point, but as a frequent pedestrian and cyclist, I notice it a lot. The air in city centres is very dirty. Yes, you may argue that a lot of that bad air comes from planes flying overhead (especially in London), but you have to admit that a dirty combustion engine powered truck driving past also pollutes the air. EVs just don’t produce this type of exhaust in cities. In fact, they don’t produce any exhaust. An EV city will be healthier for everyone. And who knows we might see costs in healthcare plummet because fewer people are ill and need medical attention. Cost savings and happier people? I think we are on to a winner.
“Alrighty Chris. You make an interesting point. So what is holding us back? Why aren’t EV cars more widespread?” Great, I think there are three things holding us back:
Battery life / Reach of EV cars
Currently, the reach of EVs is not far enough to be able to beat the combustion engine. Battery technology is making gigantic leaps every couple of years, but currently the max range you can get on any commercially available EV is a mere 270miles per charge. You then need to recharge your battery for a few hours before you can continue on normal charging stations. Not really the most convenient for long trips. And let’s not go into the price tag for that car either.
Over the last few years, superchargers have come onto the market which enable faster charging times. Depending on the make of the car, you could have a fully charged car within 30 minutes using a supercharger. This undoubtedly increases the attractivity of EVs and I can see the charging time reducing further in the near to midterm.
EV charging points
If you drive to work in an EV, drive to a shopping street/centre or meet a friend for lunch in town, a coin flip will give you better odds of finding a charging point for your EV. There just aren’t enough of these points. Pod point (a service company partnering with businesses to offer charging points) has got this handy map. In London, a city of 8.5mio people, there are only 198 charging stations. The company does highlight that 85% of charging is done at home. But it’s clear we’ll need a lot more charging points if people are going to be switching over from combustion engines. That’s only London, I shudder to think what rural areas look like.
Yep, you guessed it. Probably the biggest obstacle is changing the way we think. The truth is every adult alive today has grown up with combustion engines and that’s what we know. EVs seem scary and new. We are not familiar with how they work. It’ll take a lot of effort for people to become comfortable with these flashy futuristic transportation vehicles. This may come with time, but I think it’ll be quicker to stick the benefits of using EVs right under people’s noses.
Hopefully this has given you something to think about. If you have the time, I would definitely recommend reading the Wait but why post. The Musk biography is good too (but I prefer the post, it’s free and very detailed 😉 ). Happy Friday!