Will the Electric Car Take Centre Stage After 100 Years of Testing?

From: Andy Scarre
January 15th, 2014 | 0 Comments

If you picked up a paper and read a quote that said “The electric motor car has long been seen as ideal as it’s greener, cleaner and far more economical than gasoline powered cars” you’d think that it was very apt for 2014, yet surprisingly, it was first published by the New York Times back in 1911. Four years later in 1915 the Washington post wrote that “In the foreseeable future electric car prices will continue to drop until they are within the affordability of the average family.” With this in mind and given the huge advances in technology over the past 100 years, you have to wonder why most of us are still driving around in cars that use fossil fuels.

According to recent research carried out by American car manufacturing giant Ford, there are over 270,000 electric vehicles on the roads worldwide. Yet for many people the electric vehicle is still seen as unusual. However, when the company polled over 6,000 Europeans and asked them what the biggest problem the world faces today, 54% of respondents revealed ‘climate change’ as an answer. Whilst this may not be a surprise in itself, what is surprising is that although 72% agreed that electric vehicles are better for the environment, only 23% were willing to change their vehicle to become more eco-friendly.

So Why is This?

One reason has to be the cost. Taking the standard five door Ford Focus as an example, the book price for an average on-the-road model is around £23,500. Whereas, if you wanted to purchase the electric version, then be prepared to part with up to £10,000 more. Ford justify this by stating that “The cost of electric vehicles are related in part to the costs of modern battery technology and when these costs come down, then so too should the price of an EV.” Clearly then this is a case of the chicken and egg scenario.

In order to bring down the prices of electric vehicles, larger volumes of orders need to be placed and as already pointed out, there needs to be a definitive shift in opinion in order to increase that demand. This in itself is undoubtedly a monumental task. The other real issue has to be range. Even Ford with all their technology can only develop a car that manages just 100 miles and a top speed of 85 MPH before enduring a 6-8 hour top up session. Add to this the issues of having to find a convenient charging point and it’s easy to see how this is far from ideal.

People Still Need Convincing

One of BMW’s advertising campaigns for its latest I3 model states “The time to go electric is now!” However as we’ve been continually told this for over 100 years, it’s really hard to know whether to believe it or not and herein lies the problem. Despite the fact that we know that they’re better for the planet, will save us money in the long run, and will eventually become cheaper when it comes to car insurance, many people are still not convinced that they should be paying over £10,000 more for a vehicle with technology that is, still in its infancy. With companies now offering great deals on car insurance will the electric car take off?

However There May Be Hope

A report by the inter-governmental panel on climate change stated that the “For global economies to continue at the rate they are now, they must be de-carbonised. It’s a monumental challenge but one which has to be undertaken sooner rather than later,” This said, many governments are starting to take action. As a result the UK government have made a bold statement saying that “By the year 2040, every new car coming off the production line should either be hybrid or EV.” Clearly hybrid vehicles such as the much publicised Toyota Prius already play an immediate role in this, but if de-carbonisation is going to happen, then EV’s are set to carry out an even greater part in the climate change puzzle. So after more than 100 years of waiting maybe now is the time for the engineers and technologists to step up to the plate and deliver a EV that’s going to win over the opinions of the masses once and for all.