The EV-olution is here. . . almost
It’s something we’ve been talking about for a long time now, but the advent of electric vehicles (EVs) finally seems to be almost upon us. After a string of bold statements from influential organisations, it looks quite like the end of the the internal combustion engine. Earlier this month, Swedish automaker Volvo promised that from 2019 all new car models will be hybrids or fully electric. Just one day later, France’s new environment minister Nicolas Hulot announced that the country would ban all petrol and diesel vehicles by 2040. The ball is rolling towards an electric future, pushed by major industrial and governmental powers. Will other organisations share their enthusiasm, and what does mass EV adoption mean for the future of transportation?
Volvo are by no means the only car manufacturers taking EVs seriously. Tesla’s much anticipated Model 3, a battery powered saloon for the mass market, is currently under production. The involvement of key companies has encouraged others to do the same, creating a chain of adoption. When it comes to national initiatives, France has made an important commitment. They aren’t the only ones, though, and they certainly aren’t the most ambitious. Norway and the Netherlands plan to get rid of petrol and diesel vehicles by 2025, whilst Germany and India have discussed similar initiatives for 2030. In the UK, the number of EV registrations in the first half of 2017 was 15 per cent higher than the previous year. The rise of the electric vehicle can be accredited to a number of different factors, not least the environmentally conscious attitudes of the millennial generation. World leaders seem to have accepted the reality of global warming too, despite less than encouraging attitudes in the White House. Technological advancements have also enabled the development of electric alternatives, namely improvements in battery technology. And, due to unrelenting disruption in transportation, companies are well accustomed to adopting and fuelling innovation. In short, it’s now far from easy to dismiss the idea that electric vehicles will be commonplace within our lifetimes.
What is the disruptive potential of mass EV use?
Electric vehicles have a long list of potential benefits, including cost effectiveness and simpler, more durable mechanics. The most touted selling point of EVs, though, is that they are far better for sustainability than non-electric models, reducing global reliance on fossil fuels. They create fewer harmful emissions and less pollution, and also tend to be made from more eco friendly materials. With this in mind, the disruptive impact of EV adoption seems to be largely positive. In order to support electric vehicles, however, serious changes will need to be made to existing infrastructures. Certain roads, for instance, could become on the go charging routes. Making roadways suitable for both combustion engine and battery powered transportation won’t be an easy task. There’s a lengthy transitional period ahead that needs to be planned for. Outside of transport and construction, legacy companies in the oil and gas industry would do well to readjust their focus over the next twenty to thirty years, but it will be a long time before fossil fuel providers become obsolete. It’s also worth noting that cutting out petrol and diesel alone isn’t a fix all. Standard batteries themselves aren’t necessarily renewable, so in order for EVs to encourage clean energy adoption they will need to avoid using finite resources. Even so, swapping fuel for batteries is definitely an important step towards a renewable future.
Despite the daunting structural and societal changes that need to happen before electric vehicles can truly enter the mainstream, the wheels are undoubtedly turning. Now that influential companies and governing bodies have publicly committed themselves to ambitious EV strategies, the race is on to meet and perhaps even beat these deadlines. It looks like EV development has turned an important corner – but it’s certainly not breaking the speed limits.
Will electric vehicles experience mass adoption within the next few decades? Are government plans to ban petrol and diesel vehicles realistic? What other potential barriers stand in the way of EV development? Comment below with your thoughts and experiences.