Despite Fires, Sales Setbacks, and Short-sighted Skeptics, It Will Be An EV World
One of the more 'interesting' aspects of being the editor here at EVWorld.com is tracking the constant stream of stories about electric cars, the good, the indifferent, and the downright negative. Some days, as John Denver sang, are diamonds and some days stones when it comes to reporting the still very nascent electric-drive vehicle industry. Today, as I sit here by the Pacific, with Catalina Island hazily off in the distance, is one of those days where if you're looking for some direction as to the fate of electric cars, you'd come away with the distinct impression that they're one their last legs; President Obama's great misty million electric car dream seems to be evaporating in the harsh sunlight of reality, at least if you believe the Washington Post or Reuters news service.
Okay, so John Broder didn't have a good day test driving the Model S Tesla loaned him for his winter jaunt up busy I-95. Obviously, New Jersey in February isn't California in September. No real surprise there. Cold weather reduces the available energy from any chemical battery: be it lead or lithium. Conversely, summer in Phoenix does no favors to beast nor battery as some Nissan LEAF drivers in the Valley of the Sun discovered last year.
Yes, electric vehicles have been around a long time; longer, in fact, than internal combustion engine versions, which I touch on during my keynote speech here in Los Angeles tomorrow at the Interbike Electric Bicycle Media Event being held at Terranea Resort, hence my view of the Pacific. And, yes, batteries have always been the limiting factor, and likely will be for the next decade or more.
But critics who think electric cars are a technological dead-end completely miss the point, which is, we have no choice, folks. For a host of reasons from the environment to national economics, it's the internal combustion engine that is doomed to eventual extinction, not the electric car. In fact, I would argue that even cars as we know them -- ICE-age or electric, Toyota or Tesla -- will someday be supplanted by less intrusive forms of personal mobility, at least within the bounds of the burgeoning megacities of the world, where 60 percent of humanity will reside within the next 20 years.
If you're fortunate - or unfortunate, depending on the acumen and foresight of your community and its planning department - to live out in suburbia in that not-all-too-distant future, a car -- any car -- is likely to be more a luxury than the necessity it is today. Already in places like San Francisco, city planners are reducing per tenant parking space requirements on new apartment/condo developments in recognition of the need to limit private car ownership.
In the place of the private car, we already see shared car programs like Zipcar, Autolib, and Car2Go. And when a car is overkill for shorter length journeys, bike-share programs are multiplying. In Amsterdam, electric scooters now serve as quick, convenient taxis. In San Francisco, you now can short-term rent similar electric scooters for inner-urban trips.
Even the shape of vehicles is evolving: look at the Hiriko folding car being developed in Spain or GM's ENV personal transport pod; the goal is to reduce both their physical and emissions footprint. Both are electric.
It may take another half-century for mankind to transition away from cars and trucks as we currently know them, but before that happens, electric drive will have become the norm in propulsion systems. So far, one carmaker gets it: smart with its trio of electric mobility options: the SmartED, the smart ebike and soon the smart electric scooter. Others will follow or join the ranks of Hudson, Studebacker, Packard, Oldsmobile....
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