The electric car industry has perhaps had the most false dawns of any innovative industry in living memory. This is an industry which is well over 100 years old but it is only over the last few years that it has approached anywhere near the mass market. Critics will point towards the cost of producing batteries able to push range capacity well into the hundreds of miles as well as scepticism from some areas of the motoring public.
However, if you take a step back and look at the developments of late you will see an industry on the verge of the mass market, technological advances arriving much sooner than many had expected as well as enormous investment from governments around the world.
China and the US
Chinese and US investment in the electric car market has been enormous over the last few years with the US government recently announcing a multibillion dollar investment in electric car battery technology. While the US government has a strategy of investing in the industry indirectly via loans and tax breaks the Chinese authorities tend to be more direct in their funding of associated companies. This has created a very interesting situation for the electric vehicle sector because these two powerhouses are now vying for the number one position in the electric car market.
There is no way that these two governments would contemplate backtracking on their own electric car sectors. While many would suggest this support has been very slow in emerging the fact is money talks and the US and the Chinese governments have invested billions of dollars into the industry.
The technology associated with electric vehicles today is very different to that of just a few years ago. While the likes of Tesla have been at the forefront of these developments, the biggest names in the automobile industry are now on board. Collectively these companies in their own right have already invested billions of dollars and committed themselves to even greater investment in the medium to long term.
Initially the electric car battery sector had been left behind, as had the recharging sector, but we have seen significant progress in these two areas over the last couple of years. Electric vehicle battery technology has improved dramatically and there are a number of new technologies developing behind the scenes. Even though the vast majority of fossil fuel car drivers today will travel less than 100 miles per day it seems they will not be comfortable until electric vehicles can double or treble this range per charge. It would be wrong to suggest we are anywhere near even 200 miles per full charge as standard but the 100 mile barrier has certainly been left behind.
In the short term you could argue that the self-fulfilling prophecy whereby the price of oil has fallen because of falling demand could slow the development of the electric car industry. However, the fact is that while we have many years of fossil fuels left this is a resource which has a limited lifespan. Governments around the world have for many years now been looking towards green power and the introduction of electric vehicles is part of this overall policy.
Public sector support
Interestingly more and more local authorities around the world are looking towards electric vehicles to reduce harmful emissions and also reduce running costs in the longer term. This is a vital element of the electric car industry and is often overlooked because governments telling us what to do are very different from governments showing us what to do. The introduction of more and more electric vehicles in the public sector will make the technology more visible and less mysterious. Numerous surveys show that only those who have yet to drive an electric vehicle have any real concerns about the technology and the range capacity.
If governments such as those in the UK hit their targets we could see the sale of new electric vehicles outnumbering sales of internal combustion engine vehicles as early as 2027. Indeed there are high hopes that by 2040 all new vehicles sold in the UK will be powered by electric. These are ambitious targets but would seem to indicate that governments around the world are serious about the electric vehicle revolution and have now gone too far to turn back.