Will Electric Vehicles Really Dominate our Roads by 2040?

Governments are setting targets but there are barriers

France just revealed plans to ban all petrol and diesel cars by 2040, Volvo plans to build only electric and hybrid vehicles after 2019, and a host of prominent automakers are throwing themselves into electric alternatives. By 2025, it’s predicted that between 40 and 70 million EVs will be deployed. But are these expectations reasonable? The current attitude towards electric vehicles presents a classic example of Amara’s Law – EV enthusiasts are excited about the initial creation of functional electric transport, but they don’t perhaps consider the major changes needed to facilitate them. Considering the R&D push by numerous major automotive and tech companies, it’s clearly not product development which is the problem. So, what obstacles do EVs have to face, and can they overcome them in the next twenty years?

The roadblocks to EVs
As shown by countless companies, fully electric vehicles are perfectly possible. Unfortunately, there are still some killer roadblocks to EV adoption. Even though EVs themselves are functional, powering them is not exactly easy. One of the most debilitating technological issues surrounds battery capabilities. Without better batteries, charging will continue to take hours. Israeli startup StoreDot has created a FlashBattery which could charge an EV in five minutes, but they’ll have their work cut out if they’re going to provide charging for tens of millions of cars. In the same vein, EVs will place extreme demand on electricity generation. Although they are less polluting than petrol and diesel alternatives, the electricity they will use won’t necessarily be renewable. If EVs are to be truly sustainable, clean energy solutions need a lot more attention. Applying smart energy solutions to EV deployment has already led to electric motorways which could disrupt the entire infrastructure of major roads. All this is without considering the extensive rules that will govern electric vehicle use. Regulations have already complicated autonomous vehicle development, and they’re bound to do the same for EVs.

Disrupted infrastructure
If EVs are going to work, they need to be supported by a complementary infrastructure. At first, this will involve making use of existing services and systems. For example, in London, streetlamps are being converted into overnight charging points. They won’t be able to cater for all EV users, but they’ll help to get the wheels turning. In future, EV adoption could necessitate changes in the physical layout of roads and car parks. Gas stations will begin to offer electricity as well as petrol and diesel. EVs won’t just affect the incumbent automotive infrastructure though. Urban centres will need to be modified to accommodate EVs, and we’re not just talking streetlamps. The energy sector will undoubtedly face disruption too, as demand for electricity could encourage solar energy use. Increasing energy requirements will also give battery developers even more initiative to make the best batteries. EVs demonstrate that disruption isn’t always a result of technological advancement – sometimes it’s necessary before the advancements can take place.

Electric vehicles may have been given the green light, but getting them up and running is far from simple. Battery technology, traditional road infrastructure and insufficient electricity generation must all undergo considerable disruption before mass EV use is plausible. Even so, in light of impressive market growth and corporate investment in the sector, there’s no reason why EVs can’t overcome these issues. No doubt this will take years, but luckily that’s exactly what we have. Ultimately, electric vehicles could well be commonplace by 2040 – but the routes they travel will never look the same again.

Will EVs experience mass adoption by 2040? Which other obstacles stand in the way? What is the most important, or difficult, challenge? Comment below with your thoughts and opinions.