The EV Revolution: PART 1

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2017 will be known as the year that the Electric Vehicle (EV) revolution became mainstream. Until very recently EV’s have been the preserve of middle class. Across Europe the Americas and Asia, EV sales are starting to rocket as technology and infrastructure work together to make it perfectly normal to have an electric motor in your drivetrain, and soon, for EVs to be as typical in traffic as a Ford is today. This week and next we will look at the EV market from consumer level to government, and show you that the time has come where EVs are about to be the norm.

Like a bat out of hell…

Almost every argument against EVs has been shattered recently. The first is that they are ‘slow and ugly’. As I sat down to write this blog, an email came in from the New Atlas technology site that had the headline: Video: Lucid hits 235 mph in electric sedan prototype. The article opened by saying, “Electric cars are known for their lightning-quick acceleration, but their top speeds tend to leave something to be desired when compared to their ICE-driven counterparts. With up to 1,000 hp worth of electric motors to work with, Lucid Motors … recently removed the speed limiter on its Air Alpha Speed Car before sending it ripping around the racing oval at 235 mph (378 km/h)”. The time has come where you don’t need a gas guzzling Ferrari to drive at more than 200mph as an EV can outrun most supercars on the road today!

Major automakers dive in

Until only a few months ago it seems, just a few car companies were taking EVs seriously. The range of the current BMW i3, at just over 125 miles, may suit your commuter but that’s just about it. Tesla? If you have $90,000 to spend on a car you would have just about the only car to compete in terms of range with a fossil fuel powered (ICE) car.

Late last year BMW announced that all its models will have an EV drivetrain option by 2020. Yup – that means that the second favourite car marque will belch fresh air as it cuts you up on a roundabout.

Volvo has also announced that all its new cars from 2019 are to have an electric drivetrain of sorts. The Guardian newspaper stated, “Between 2019 and 2021, the firm will introduce five 100% electric models, and ensure the rest of its conventional petrol and diesel range has a hybrid engine of some form. It is the first major manufacturer to make such a bold move.”

We will discuss national governments’ plans in next week’s article but the general push by them toward removing ICE vehicles from the road to reduce pollution in cities has forced nearly every car manufacturer that sells into Europe to start building new EV drivetrains. As with Volvo, most of them will start with hybrids but there are very good EVs on the road today. Just look at the Hyundai Ioniq, with its everyday car looks and a range of (realistically) around 140 miles per charge.

We can’t look at EVs without mentioning Tesla. The Tesla Model S blew my socks off when I test drove it. While this car is roughly half the cost of the average home in the UK, the EV automotive giant has just started delivering the $35,000 Model 3 in the US after years of preparation. 400,000 of them have been reserved by customers worldwide and plans to make 20,000 of them a month by this by December.

Commercial vehicles too?

While major cities around the world crack down on car use, there has been a surge in light commercial vehicle (LCV) traffic as white vans deliver goods bought online due to the e-commerce revolution. London saw an 8% rise in LCVs driving in the Congestion Charge zone between 2012 and 2015 even as car use plummeted. Delivery vehicles drive 8 million miles around London every day, pumping out pollution as they do. Delivery and logistics companies around the world are moving quickly to remove ICE vans from the roads before they are pushed.

The word ‘Transit’ is associated with white vans as ‘Hoover’ is to vacuum cleaners. Ford has begun a research project into EV LCV van use in London, by putting 20 of them on the city’s roads to see how they will work in a live inner city environment. While the firm had to withdraw the EV Focus from the salesroom due to extremely poor sales, it has announced that it will launch 13 new EV and hybrid vehicles, including the EV Transit Connect range of LCVs, in the next few years.

DHL is one of the largest logistics companies in the world. Last year it bought the electric scooter company StreetScooter with the idea of making its own delivery vehicles to get parcels to customers in inner cities. To monetise the investment, it is now selling StreetScooter delivery bikes to other courier companies. DHL is also working with Ford, using the StreetScooter drivetrain on the Transit chassis to develop an efficient LCV for delivery companies around the world.

Even US companies are getting stuck in. The logistics giant UPS has recently announced that amongst other things, 40% of its ground fuel will be low carbon and alternative fuel types by 2025 with a global target of reducing its CO2e emissions by 12% by 2025. While DHL are far further along the green mile than UPS, it is a sign that everyone is starting to take sustainability seriously.

One thing we won’t see very soon is long distance trucks turning to EVs. While the likes of Daimler-Benz, Charge and Scania are building urban delivery vehicles for the world’s roads, battery technology is such that they would be too heavy for the road if they had a range of much beyond 150 miles between charges as things stand. We will look at technology in the next article.

Governments, infrastructure and technology…

So the EV revolution has begun. This has been pushed by governments around the world that want to reduce congestion and pollution. The infrastructure such as EV charging points is being put in place to make it happen, and trillions of dollars of investment is being made in driving the technology to drive more efficiency and range into EVs. These will be covered in next week’s blog.

While you’re waiting for next week’s article, why not test drive an EV through our website?

By Richard Shrubb

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