Sooner, Not Later

I'm not a fan of blogs so I rarely ever read them. However, the title of a recent blog caught my attention because it seemingly flies in the face of current development and expectations. When the title states “long time coming” and is discussing electric vehicles, the driving public may have little to look forward to when it comes to enjoying the freedom and benefits of not having to buy gas for their cars. The blog, “Why Electric Vehicles Will Be a Long Time Coming,” by Energy Editor Kevin Bullis at MIT Technology Review, says electric vehicles won't be commonplace even by 2050—more than 40 years from now.

This conclusion was reached by a four-person panel at a recent MIT Energy Conference. It wasn't a unanimous decision because the only dissenter, who's involved in helping countries free themselves from oil, stated that electric vehicles not only will be plentiful, but also will be omnipresent by 2050. Interestingly enough, one of the other panelists was from Ford Motor Company.

The panel moderator, Daniel Snow, assistant professor of business administration at Harvard Business School, believes that old technologies continue to be with us for many, many years, and they even improve over time. As noted in his biography, “Many producers of incandescent light bulbs, wood building products, blackboards, 1990s-era computer chips, and gasoline engines continue to prosper.”

In the blog, Professor Snow said that even though electric vehicles have instant torque, no emissions, and better efficiency, conventional vehicles will be around for a long time. He speculated that a gasoline-powered car one day could get 10,000 miles per gallon. Silicon still is the backbone of microelectronics because of the heavy investment in research, he continued, and new technologies such as nanotubes are somewhere off in the future.

Another panel member, John Casesa, an analyst in the automobile industry, predicted that electric vehicles would only top out at 10% of the total vehicles on the road by the year 2059. The representative from Ford Motor Company, John Viera, director, sustainable business strategies, also doesn't think electric vehicles will overtake internal combustion engines in the foreseeable future. Ford is introducing an electric car next year with another one to follow. Cost is a big negative for electric vehicles, noted Mr. Viera, with battery packs adding $12,000 to $15,000 to each car. Eliminating the price of the battery from the cost of the vehicle could be an option, he stated.

I'm not sure this is a really good idea. You'll still be paying for the battery, just not all at once.

However, that's exactly what Sven Thesen, head of sustainable strategy, says about his company's business model: Better Place owns the battery; the driver pays a monthly fee only for the miles driven. It's a similar arrangement when you lease a car—the dealer provides all of the maintenance on the vehicle. Better Place is working with Israel which wants to be oil free by 2020. To that end, the country has instituted a 72% tax on new conventional automobiles and only a 10% tax on electric vehicles.

Forty years is too long a time for electric vehicles to become commonplace on our roadways. In my opinion, we can't afford the wait. Cutting the cord to oil, especially foreign oil, has to happen sooner, not later. I believe the driving public will demand that electric vehicles be abundantly available and reasonably priced, and the automakers need to listen and respond accordingly this time.

Paul Milo
Editorial Director
[email protected]

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