Should We All Be Driving Electric Cars?

It is very easy for me to say that we should all be driving electric cars right now. I have a Nissan Leaf and so I can see the benefits, advantages and disadvantages every day. From my side of the fence, the side of the EV (electric vehicle), there is no discussion, no argument, no doubt that electric cars are the way forward. But to someone over there, on the other side, on the side of the ICE (internal combustion engine), the side I was on just a few months ago, things look very different indeed.
On the side of the ICE, the side that almost everyone is on right now, it is kinda comfy. People on this side feel like they have a long-standing friend in fossil fuels. It is the side of over 150 years of history, the side of familiarity, the side of safety. There is a well established knowledge of the way of things. We know what to expect and what we can and cannot do. Looking back things seem steady and stable. There are few innovations here. Things seem to have always been this way and they have worked just fine. Why would I want to be on the other side?The trouble is that almost everyone on this side is looking backwards. They cannot see the troubles up ahead. Occasionally someone will glance around and look forward but more often than not they don’t like what they see so they turn back and feel safer looking backwards at the easy times we have had in the past.Now on the other side of the fence is the world of electric vehicles. It is a world of the new and of unknowns and uncertainty but it is also a world of forward looking and forward thinking. People on this side look forward only glancing back to remind themselves of why they climbed the fence and crossed over asking themselves why they didn’t do it sooner. Crossing that fence is a one way trip though. Once across there is no going back. Why would you want to? This side is brighter and cleaner, cheaper, easier, less wasteful and better for the environment. From this side it seems incredible that anyone would want to be on the ICE side of the fence.

I look at these two worlds on either side of the fence and I wonder… what is stopping people making that climb to cross over?

Well, it is true that as of today the cost of making that crossover is quite high. The most forward thinking will see that over a number of years the EV is cheaper but the cost to make the jump, the initial purchase price, is still high. Not everyone can afford to buy in. Any new technology is always expensive when it first arrives but it hardly ever stays that way. Already there are EVs on the horizon that are half the price of those available today and I am sure that it won’t be long before EVs are of similar prices to ICE cars today.

Range is also a big issue for many. It is true to say that the batteries in the current batch of EVs is too small to allow for all journeys we want to make. But this area has big changes coming. Battery technology is one of the fastest moving areas right now. It is very likely that in a year or two batteries will be double the capacity and half the price. Already the next wave of family EVs will have a range nearly double that of today. It won’t be long before the range is up to that f current ICEs.

So where can I charge my EV? There aren’t many charging points are there? This is true. Charging infrastructure is in its infancy. But isn’t it also true that in the early days of the petrol car that was also true then… there were no petrol stations. It takes time to build an infrastructure. Give it a bit of time and you will have places to charge everywhere just as petrol stations are everywhere today. The biggest benefit here though is that you have a charging station at home and that is where most of your charging will be done anyway.

The combination of short range and lack of charging infrastructure makes it difficult to use most EVs for longer trips. It needs an increase in range (battery capacity) and a developed charging infrastructure before EVs are viable for routing long trips in the same way as ICEs.

So, should we all be driving EVs?

Eventually the answer is a definite yes but right now that just isn’t sensible for most. For most of us an EV would satisfy the vast majority of the car trips we do (80%+ under 10 miles) and for most of us an EV would satisfy our daily requirements (80%+ do less than 30 miles a day) but what about the other 20%? If you only have one car then right now it cannot be an EV without you needing to make special arrangements for that 20%. It is possible though… hire car, public transport etc. Realistically speaking, that won’t be acceptable to most people.

I see plug in hybrids as the answer to these issues. Plug in hybrids are cars that can be an electric vehicle for the shorter journeys but also have a petrol engine to allow for those longer trips. They can be used in EV mode without using petrol at all though and that is the important difference between a plug in hybrid such as the Chevrolet Volt/Vauxhall Ampera and existing hybrids such as the Toyota Prius and the Lexus CT200h.

It is true that hybrids are not as efficient when being used as an electric car as a 100% electric car such as the Nissan Leaf or Mitsubishi i-Miev. But it is a stepping stone, a movement in the right direction. It can suit everyone. It can be used solely as an EV for those shorter trips. It can be used with the petrol engine running for those longer trips. Overall though the mileage figures are still very good even when compared to the very best ICE out today so although a compromise it is still ecologically sound. This is the car that will transform our way of thinking. This is the car that will turn our heads around and start us all looking forward again and let us see the benefits of the EV side of the fence. It will allow more and more people to make that leap to full EV when they realise that it can work for them.

It is certain that petrol and diesel cars will be around for decades to come but more and more people will turn around and start to want to climb the fence and get to the EV side. The plug in hybrid might be their ladder.

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