There has been a lot of hype in recent times surrounding the future of electric vehicles (EVs). These have been heavily touted as the environmentally friendly alternative to conventional vehicles, with promises of zero CO2 emissions and a general fuel economy that have already begun to shape up the trends towards these vehicles. Unfortunately, many of these futuristic EV dreams appear to be little more than wishful thinking or marketing ploys, and it is time for those involved in EV development to come clean about the potential environmental impacts of the EV revolution.
As it stands, there are currently over 130,000 existing electric vehicles on the road and almost 15,000 approved public charging points installed around the UK. The success of the roll out of low carbon electric transportation will largely depend upon whether consumers are able to take responsibility for their own recharging habits and move towards a more sustainable lifestyle. The potential benefits to society of EVs make this an opportunity not to be missed. Many drivers have already long forgotten their own gas guzzling car as far as the long term impact on carbon emissions goes, so any opportunity to change could spell huge benefits for all concerned.
However, the push for drivers to embrace electric cars in bigger numbers may backfire if the public quickly concludes that these vehicles do not work in the way envisaged. In fact, the prospects do not look good at the current rate of technological advancements and developments within the EV business model. For EVs to continue developing into a cost effective business solution in the foreseeable future, significant progress has to be made in terms of efficiency, reliability, and deployment. If current trends are anything to go by then it appears that future EVs will be constrained both in terms of size and speed. While the general concept of an EV is relatively simple, the fundamental design and power train components are still relatively complex and will require some level of forward compatibility with existing infrastructure in order to be viable in most communities.
Despite this, there is scope for positive evolution within the EV business model. If manufacturers can successfully manage to scale down their production facilities to a size where they are no longer restricted by laws and regulations dictating the maximum number of charging points (PPR), then the future of EVs looks strong. However, even if PPRs are no longer a mandatory target, the limited floor space required for mass production of plug-in hybrids and other vehicles means that manufacturers will have to reduce prices to improve profitability and lower the costs of production. While this might imply that future electric vehicles will have smaller batteries or be manufactured using cheaper and less efficient materials, it also means that consumers will be offered a much better value for money.
However, the lack of an obvious route for profit improvement means that electric vehicles will not be able to provide the broad range of benefits that had been hoped for. One such benefit is improved fuel economy. Electric vehicles may have a higher initial cost of ownership, but overall their annual fuel costs will be much lower than that of standard internal combustion engine driven vehicles. In addition, a future of electric vehicles will see them becoming much more “plug friendly” as EV owners will be able to use electricity to power their own cars and make use of battery recharging to power other electrical devices.
Even with these positive developments however, it is doubtful that electric vehicles will ever reach the dizzying heights of the once seemingly visionary predictions made during the 1980s. As detailed in detail in some of the early EV technical literature, initial designs focused on small battery packs that could be mounted on the roof of vans and cars. Future vehicles will most likely continue to refine the design of the vehicle and storage media, but the basic idea remains the same: a future of electric vehicles will be smaller in size and less bulky, allowing for mass production that will dramatically bring down the cost of these vehicles. With so many technological improvements in today’s vehicles however, this dream of a future without any combustion engine looks far fetched. The sheer complexity of today’s electric vehicle design, coupled with advances in autonomous vehicle operation, makes it very likely that we will never see the breakthroughs envisioned in EV Technical literature of the past.