Will you drive an electric car…Yes you will

who killed electric carI was living in Marin County in 2006 when the documentary “Who killed the electric car” came out and was a big hit with many of our neighbors.  That was not so much the case in our house.  With both my wife Athena and I working in the energy industry while living in the center of the universe for liberal thinking this was hardly the first disconnect between us and the rest of the street.

This was a golden time for environmentally related documentaries.  Anyone know what other famous environmental flick hit theaters that year?  None other than “An Inconvenient Truth” from the inventor of the internet himself Al Gore.

I bring up these two documentaries because they both highlight the somewhat surprising truth about electric cars, both now and in the future.  First of all I don’t know who killed the electric car, but apparently they didn’t yet know about zombies and The Walking Dead.  Nope no head shot there, because the electric car is back, way back, and just like those lovable zombies they are spreading like mad.

2012 Ford Focus ElectricDon’t believe me, think the unaffordable Telsa is the only game in town?  Hardly.  Every automaker is now pursuing electric cars, most with a fairly broad reaching plan of models that will cover not just small compacts but every type of auto they make.  For one of the best reviews of electrification visit Ford’s website on “Electrification: A Closer Look.”

Gasoline demand in the US peaked in 2007, it has declined every year since, and we are just getting started.  The fuel economy of our gasoline cars is set to more than double in the next 10 years.  On top of that even Exxon is predicting electric cars will be 50% of the fleet in the next 30 years.  So is gasoline dead, nope, it too will be zombie like for many decades to come, because a whole lot of those electric cars are still going to fill up on good old petrol.

What?  Didn’t you just say we’d be driving electric cars?  Yes, but I didn’t say how you would be obtaining the electricity.  Most will plug in, but many will also generate those electrons onboard.  Yes some will use fuel cells, some will use natural gas in some form, but a whole lot of them will still use gasoline to power a generator that will keep those batteries, flywheels, or capacitors full of energy for long range driving.

3 comments

  1. Doug, Thanks for brief update and great links. You say, “The fuel economy of our gasoline cars is set to more than double in the next 10 years.” Will that make it harder for electrics/hybrids to compete or will selling price and mpg be comparable making it more a matter of preference? Merry Christmas, Jim Rardin, TouchStar

    1. Jim, I think it will indeed raise the bar on pure electrics. What I don’t think it will slow down much is the “electrification” of the drive train. Which is to say I think you’ll have electric motors driving the wheels regardless of the fuel preference. Think about the flexibility that provides a global automaker where they may need to use natural gas on one market, propane in another, diesel in europe, gasoline in the US, etc. If the OEM’s can modularize and abstract the power plant from the drive train then they can produce one electric drive train with fewer moving parts, higher efficiency, and lower weight, and then just drop in what ever power plant to make the juice that makes the most sense for that local market.

      If you haven’t driven a Tesla, go test drive one just for fun, not saying buy one as that is a whole lot of money for a car, but just to experience the thrust of the thing. Once you feel the results of an entirely flat torque curve that provides 100% of the torque instantly you’ll realize that the driving experience provided by eliminating the directly connected drive train and using electric motors is something many will want regardless of where the actual electricity to drive those motors comes from.

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