Will electric cars catch on? Why hasn’t it caught on yet? These are some of the questions a lot of people might ask every day. Electric cars might not be the only viable solution for sustainable mobility, but will surely be one of them. And no critics suggest that the failure of Fisker Automotive or Coda were enough to say that electric vehicles will not catch on. Difficulties arise in any sector, including the automobile industry itself. In recent years some brands had to be negotiated to ensure their survival.
Also, saying that the consumer is not willing to trade the car combustion for an electric one is not enough to prove the failure of the EV. Of course, if you ask customers if they would like to continue driving cars powered by fossil fuels, the answer will probably be yes. But, do consumers really know what they want? If they did, no one would invest fortunes on research. Companies would just ask them what they want and everything would be solved.
Will the solution arise when the industry come up with a new product made under consumers demand? It is possible, but most of the time what happens is that a businessman believes in his own vision or in a project that is presented to him. So, saying that a survey revealed that customers prefer a car with internal combustion engines rather than the electric ones doesn’t mean much. Now, if people drive internal combustion cars for over 100 years, how can we expect them to change to electric cars overnight? Furthermore, the human being is not very conducive to change.
We must take into account that we inhabit a world completely different from that one inhabited by our parents and grandparents. Until 1960 people were riding on donkeys. A major scientific and technological development only occurred in the last 50 years.
We live in a world of almost 7 billion people and it is estimated that the population will grow to approximately 9 billion people in 2030. There are over one billion vehicles on the roads worldwide and there will be around 1.2 billion within ten or fifteen years. This is enough to drive more than 120 times around the earth, if placed in queue.
All this generates a lot of pollution. The world fleet emits around 2.8 billion tones of CO2. The cars and trucks powered by fossil fuels amount to about 25% of CO2 emissions in the world. If we intend to deliver the planet to our heirs in equal or better condition than we received it, we have to get focused to solve this problem in a concerted effort. However, we are throwing all the garbage we produce (and there isn’t little) in the backyard of our house and we think this is standard.
It is in this context that we must reflect on the hybrid and electric cars. Toyota alone has sold more than 5 million hybrid vehicles and Nissan has sold over 50,000 electric ones. In a short time they already represent around 3% of the market share and this percentage grows a little more every month.
Moreover, the fastest growing markets are currently the BRICs, where the stimuli in EVs are incipient. China, the largest car market in the world, is taking steps to achieve the goal of having 500,000 electric and hybrid cars on the streets by 2015 and 2 million by 2020. India also already has EV public policies. Automakers, governments and energy companies are working to expand the penetration of EVs in the country.
Brazil has not yet regulated the EV, but there are some state government initiatives along with automakers and electrical energy dealers, as in the partnership with Nissan in the case of taxis in São Paulo, in Rio de Janeiro with Mitsubishi and Nissan, in the case buses in Paraná with Volvo, among others. There are five projects pending in the legislature, and in a short time Brazil will be defined with public policy and it will be also encouraging the production of EV.
In line with the global expansion of government actions, the electric vehicle technology is being developed. The Tesla car, for example, has a range of 160 miles and the car battery can be partially charged in 15 minutes. The company’s shares on the stock exchange are up and Tesla reported profit in the first quarter of 2013.
This might not be the ideal, because the Tesla car is still too expensive, but there is no denying that it is a great evolution compared with the first electric models from this century. The question is how long it takes to change a paradigm (cars powered by internal combustion) of more than 100 years.
The reached conclusion is that the electric vehicle industry needs to invest more, the population needs to be better informed about EVs and government should be (or should continue to be) consistently supportive, because only then it will get an electric mobility scale. In fact, denying a solution that has low-cost for operation and maintenance, provides efficient energy, which greatly reduces air pollution and is technologically feasible does not make sense, does it?