I believe in 10 years, the majority of cars on the road will be electric cars. My 7 reasons for this belief are:
- Operational costs – Electric cars are significantly less cost to operate than IC powered cars. Depending on the car, typically this can save approximately $200/month in gas. If you can charge at your office, or at other publicly available charging stations, these savings be even larger. Although battery electric cars are significantly more desirable at higher gas prices, the savings are still significant even at $2/gallon gas prices.
- Performance – Electric motors are much more efficient in areas that matter to drivers. They are very high torque, which provides instant powerful acceleration immediately on request. IC engines (especially turbocharged engines) require RPM’s to be in the 2500-3500RPM range before reaching maximum torque. Tesla has recently introduced their P85D all-wheel drive model that goes 0-60 in 3.1 seconds…as fast as or faster than many supercars available today 0-60MPH. Tesla’s almost always beat supercars off of the line, but eventually IC supercars can accelerate faster after 60MPH is reached. In real world every day driving, Battery Electric cars feel significantly faster than their IC counterparts at a much lower cost.
- Environment – although I am not going to pontificate on the effects of climate change (or even if climate change issues exist). I will, however, repeat Elon Musk’s (CEO Tesla) argument which resonated with me. Ultimately Oil/carbon based fuels are limited resources – they will run out. If there is even a slight probability of the destructive climate change scientists are predicting, why take the risk of burning carbon based fuel still remaining? Isn’t it better to simply switch to battery electric cars ASAP? In addition, if solar panels and low cost electricity storage become a reality, your car can be essentially fueled for free (assuming the capital investment of the panels/batteries) at your house with absolutely no carbon footprint. This is a HUGE win in my book, and just makes sense.
- Longevity – Electric cars should last significantly longer than IC cars for the following reasons:
- IC engines are complex and prone to breakdown – Electric motors can last a LONG time. Electric motors are simple, and the drivetrains required to run them are also simple (eg no transmission) with very few moving parts. IC engines are mechanically complex with many potential areas of failure. Although current Lithium Ion batteries in EV’s can lose effectiveness over time, batteries can be easily swapped out with more effective battery technology. For example, Tesla recently offered a battery upgrade for their initial roadster car that upgrades the range to 400 miles (originally 245). IC engines have a useful life of anywhere from 150 – 200k miles. Even if the engine is rebuilt, transmissions, axles, etc still need to be replaced…making the car effectively worthless once the drivetrain is shot. A Tesla battery swap takes less than 10 minutes at a service center vs an engine rebuilt is a costly and time consuming overhaul. Batteries also degrade gradually over time vs IC engines simply break and stop working usually at a most inopportune time.
- Over the air software updates – Although there is nothing stopping IC automakers from doing this, software is at the core of electric cars. Computers control electric current flow to the engines, battery management, heating/cooling, etc. These are all areas that can be controlled and optimized through software. Tesla has upgraded battery longevity, performance, and features of the car through over the air updates…extending the useful life of Battery Electric cars much more than their IC counterparts.
- Lower maintenance costs – because electric cars have very few moving parts, they are not as prone to breakdown. For example, due to regenerative braking on electric cars that charge the batteries, brake pads last significantly longer than their IC counterparts. In addition, IC cars require oil changes, anti-freeze flushing, transmission oil changes, spark plugs, water pumps, belts, hoses, and other routine maintenance. Battery electric cars have none of these complexities. Taking in a pure electric vehicle go in for service much less frequently than IC cars. In addition, because Tesla’s are always connected to HQ, problems can be remotely diagnosed long before IC powered cars are diagnosed because of the constant connectivity.
- Battery costs dropping like a rock – Electricity storage today is still in it’s infancy vs IC engines are very mature technology. The cost savings in electricity storage are going to drop dramatically in the next 5-10 years to a point that the costs of producing a Battery Electric Vehicle’s (BEV) will be significantly less than an IC engines. The business case for BEV is simply going to get better and better over time while business case for the IC engine will only deteriorate.
- Usage patterns – I do not believe fuel cell’s, hybrid cars, or any other non-BEV will be anywhere as successful as BEV’s over time. Converting any Carbon based fuel to Hydrogen, or even electricity to hydrogen makes any sense at all. Hydrogen is highly combustible, and the conversion efficiencies simply are not there to make Hydrogen work from a business case perspective. And even if you could overcome this, there is still the issue of building out hydrogen fueling stations. Electricity is ubiquitous. It is in our homes, it is at our place of work, it is where we shop, and it is now on the highways we travel on. Electricity is already everywhere we already are. For local commuting, I simply plug in my car when I am at home, and everywhere I go I start with a full tank. As long as I can get over 200 miles of range, I have no concerns about local travel with a BEV. Once Tesla superchargers are widespread (they are rapidly getting there today), and once electricity range > 500 miles, driving between cities becomes a non-issue. Range anxiety will become a complete non-issue in less than a couple of years.