No doubt have we started to see the focus on electric cars. The petroleum engine has been the most popular engine in use for over a century but now new technologies have emerged and made it possible for the electric motor to overtake this position. It is all thanks to the battery. The new technologies will change the battery as we know it today and ultimately save the world for climate change.
During the 19th century, the electric motor first came to the market. It was however quickly outrun by the petroleum engines, which has been the main type of propulsion until this day and age. But the electric engine has been living on in smaller vehicles, such as electric scooters, and lager ones, like electric trains. The rapid expansion and further knowledge of batteries and other technologies have now made it theoretically possible to implement it everywhere, and I mean everywhere.
Let’s first discuss some benefits with the electric vehicle over a petroleum based. An electric motor reacts fast, is more effective and mechanically simpler. In a petrol engine, 55% of the energy is lost as heat, whiles in an electric motor have a 90% energy conversion efficiency.
New technologies let the electric vehicles to retrieve lost energy while braking, effectively re-using lost energy which otherwise would have been lost in a traditional car. Of course, these are only the individual benefits. Overall, the progressive restriction on fossil fuels and a gradual implementation of electric vehicles will have positive environmental impacts. Statistically, 23% of the global greenhouse gases came from the transport sector, which 95% accounts from the petroleum engine (Eurostat). Our reliance on petroleum fuel makes consumers vulnerable to economic shifts and price changes. An electric vehicle has no direct environmental impacts when driving, only production and how the electricity was generated influences how environmentally friendly the vehicle becomes. Further advancements in renewable fuels will prove that the electric vehicle will continue to become environmental than ever before.
Technologies improve and so will the electric car. Today there are roughly 2 000 000 electric cars on the roads, and the number is expected to grow exponentially. The International Energy Agency projects in their 2017 report that within 10 years, there will be between 40 – 70 million electric vehicles. According to the experience curve (a model which compares the effectiveness and investment) the more electric cars we produce, the further the prices will go down. This is due to higher competition, larger supply, further advancements in technologies and production, batteries become cheaper (I will get to this soon) etc and with government support, everyone will be able to afford an electric car. We will therefore within a few years see the price of the electric car decrease to traditional car prices. We have seen in Norway, a leading country with the highest electric car share per capita in the world, that governmental support has really made the electric car punch a hole in the petrol car market.
What many of you are thinking now is this: well this is all great and stuff, but I have heard rumors that the electric cars, especially the batteries, are really bad for the environment. Yes, short-term effects of the production car have shown that it is less environmentally friendly than the traditional petrol car. It is mainly the production of the battery that has a large impact on the greenhouse gas emissions. But, the long-term effects speak differently. According to a model called “well-to-wheel” (an analysis that shows the total environmental impact of a car, from production to scrap) the electric car substitutes for its higher production emissions within 6 – 16 months of regular driving (Union of Concerned Scientists). A lot has to do with how the electricity is produced; the “well-to-wheel” analysis varies depending on how the electricity is produced- if an old coal power plant or a new wind turbine produced the electricity. In general, an electric vehicle will become twice as environmentally friendly as a standard petrol-powered car, if the electricity is produced through renewable ways, such as hydropower.
According to Bloomberg, when the global supply of batteries double, battery prices decline by 19%, furthermore every year the energy density of the batteries increase. This is a good indication that electric cars will become cheaper in the future. New developments will allow any vehicle type to be converted to an electric. Tesla has recently introduced their Semi truck. Experts say, if Tesla is successful with their truck, its battery will truly revolutionize the transport industry. At the same time, Airbus is also experimenting with hybrid airplanes, expected to already test fly in 2020. The future is looking bright, and governments are taking measures accordingly.
Within a few decades countries such as France, Germany and China will only allow electric-powered vehicles, says The Economist. Ferdinand Dudenhöffer, head of The Center of Automotive Research in Gelsenkirchen University of Applied Sciences in Germany, states that within 2025, all cars sold in Europe will be electric or hybrid.
I personally believe that implementation of electric vehicles in the transport sector will save humankind from climate change. It is projected that at least 20% of all transport vehicles should be electrically driven within 2030, to meet the Paris Agreement, if global warming is to be limited to 2°C or less. Countries have the power to influence the trend of the electric car, by, for example, giving special privileges to electric car drivers. We as consumers should also think extra before deciding to settle for the more comfortable choice – the fossil fuel car that has ultimately destroyed and created the world we live in.