Is it true as National Geographic reports that the petrol engine may be like the horse and buggy a century ago: doomed to a rapid demise? With car manufacturers investing a great deal of research and development budget into electric cars, we thought we would investigate the factors driving this trend and what it may mean for renewable energy.
Researchers show that 90% of all passenger vehicles in the US, Canada and Europe could be electric by 2040. If this trend is correct, then CO2 emissions can be cut by 3.2 billion tons a year. Government commitments to reduce emissions are pushing the car makers to invest in the development of electric cars. The UK, the Netherlands and France have promised to ban the sale of fossil fuel-burning cars and vans by 2040. With Germany being hard hit by the Volkswagen “Dieselgate” scandal of 2015 and more recently the revelations that Volkswagen, Daimler and BMW also funded experiments in which monkeys and humans breathed in car fumes for hours at a time, it can be expected to also adopt a similar ban soon.
If electric vehicles are more energy efficient and help reduce harmful emissions from being expelled into the atmosphere, why are not all new cars purchased today electric? Well, the reality is that unless you have somewhere to park your electric vehicle that’s close to an electrical supply, you won’t be able to charge it. You also need to plan as it takes much longer to charge an electric vehicle than it does to fill up a car with fuel. Currently electric vehicles can do around 120 to 150 miles without having to be charged but that is a lot less than the average car will do on a tank of fuel.
These current limitations for electric cars are having a positive effect on the renewable energy sector in general though. The automotive industry is helping drive development into improving battery technology and both Tesla and Nissan have solutions also for home energy storage. The infrastructure for charging is being extended and additional investment is being made in generating electricity via renewable methods such as solar. This means we can expect to see better and cheaper batteries and solar panels come to market as a result.
Longer term, there are still some issues to be addressed such as a potential lack of lithium or cobalt, that are used to make up the batteries. The supply of these raw materials may limit the number of electric vehicles than can be produced, unless other solutions are found. Today it seems the most eco friendly transport choice is to walk or ride a push bike.