Carlo's Think Pieces

Reflections of a Filipino in the Netherlands

Electric cars will dominate road in a few years

Posted by butalidnl on 6 September 2009

There is a lot of talk about electric cars these days, but many people believe that the whole thing would blow away once the oil price goes down, or the crisis is over. Government leaders in the US and elsewhere sound as if they have high expectations of electric cars, especially when it comes to reducing greenhouse gas emissions. But, when it comes to concrete policies, or their projections, they are quite modest (realistic?).

Well, I don’t agree with such modesty. I think that the electric car “revolution” will radically change transportation, and make a major contribution to reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Going even further, I would say that by 2020,  up to 80% of new cars sold outside the US would either by hybrid or electric. (the US is generally more wasteful than other countries, so perhaps only 30% would be hybrid or electric there by 2020)

High Oil Price
The price of oil and oil products is bound to go higher in the future. Right now, while we are in the midst of a deep recession, the price of oil is able to maintain itself at more than US$ 70/barrel. While this may be low when it is compared to the US$ 140/barrel it achieved last year, this is still quite high historically. And after the recession is over, the price is sure to go up again, most probably beyond the highs of last year.

With the high price of oil, many people will opt for cars that either use a lot less oil, or even no oil at all. Thus, the choice will go more and more for either hybrids or plug-in electric cars.

Pollution Control
The world is more conscious of global warming, and many countries are taking steps to lessen their greenhouse gas emissions. This will mean stricter rules for CO2 emissions. There would also be more measures taken by cities to reduce other emissions, from other gases to fine particles, and even the level of noise produced.  All these would be good for electric cars, which do not produce these kinds of pollution.  Of course, this would mean that the pollution is transferred to where the power is produced e.g. power plants; but these are either easier to control or are outside the city. At the same time, there should be some increase in alternative energy sources for electricity to partially compensate for the increase in electricity demand.

Technological Breakthroughs
Although there are still technical problems connected with electric cars e.g. the limited range a car can go on a full charge, these are most likely to be solved in the next couple of years.  In addition, competition will drive technical innovations, resulting in cars which are competitively priced and easy to use.  When this happens, why would people choose the old-style internal combustion engine cars when the new electric cars gives a better performance at the same price?

These factors, taken together, would make it almost ridiculous not to by either a hybrid or an electric vehicle by 2020.

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