An energy source that can power everything from
mass transport by land, sea and air to heavy industry, that does no harm to the
environment and is practically limitless sounds like an ecologist’s Utopian
But it’s no dream – and the revolution is already
underway. Its name? Hydrogen – the most abundant element in the universe.
Industrialists the world over say the gas can
become a crucial part of the global energy mix – and faster than many people
might imagine. “I think the real test is when will the man in the street
starts to recognise that hydrogen is part of the energy mix,” Ronnie
Chalmers, vice president of the French industrial gases’ supplier Air Liquide’s
Africa, Middle East and India hub, tells The National. “I think
that will come before 2030, at different places and different times around the
The Hydrogen Council says that by 2030 the gas will
be a significant energy player with millions of hydrogen-powered vehicles on
the road. Launched at the World Economic Forum 2017, in Davos, Hydrogen Council
founders include Air Liquide, Toyota, BMW, Alstom and Airbus, among other big
The council believes the hydrogen sector will carry
similar financial weight to the hydrocarbons industry with revenues worth some
$2.5 trillion annually by 2050 and jobs for more than 30 million people
globally. By comparison, the oil and gas market had total revenues of $1.97tn
worldwide in 2017, according to BusinessWire’s Global Oil & Gas Industry
The council’s view may be a little optimistic,
Robin Mills, the chief executive of the consultancy Qamar Energy, and author of
The Myth of the Oil Crisis, tells The National. “Oil today
is a $2.2tn business, gas say $0.5tn, coal $0.8tn,” he says. “So
$2.5tn for hydrogen looks like a stretch. But it could certainly be a very
The mass implementation of hydrogen as a transport power
source is already taking place. Hydrogen fuel cells power electric forklift
trucks around the world and helps businesses such as Amazon, Ikea and others
increase their production hours and reduce operating costs. The fuel cells do
not need recharging like traditional battery-powered forklifts – hydrogen
powered forklifts can be fully fuelled in under five minutes.
Hydrogen has been used in industry for decades such
as in refining, treating metals and food processing but it is the acceleration
of renewable energy that has spurred the multinationals’ interest – and Air
Liquide sees the UAE as an ideal destination to further the hydrogen cause.
As a pioneer in renewable energy, particularly
solar, the Emirates is committed to developing its green energy economy and, in
part, this is why Air Liquide recently undertook a study in collaboration with
Al Futtaim Toyota – which distributes Toyota’s hydrogen-powered Mirai vehicle
in the UAE – and Khalifa University to look at strategies to grow the hydrogen
This month, the first solar-driven hydrogen
electrolysis facility in the Middle East and North Africa (Mena) region was
inaugurated in Dubai.
Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum, chairman of the
Dubai Supreme Council of Energy and chairman of the Expo 2020 Dubai Higher
Committee, broke ground on the project, a collaboration between Dubai
Electricity and Water Authority, Expo 2020 Dubai and Siemens. It will be built
at Dewa’s outdoor testing facilities in the Research and Development Centre at
the Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Solar Park in Dubai, state media agency WAM
Mr Chalmers adds that the UAE has all the right
ambitions regarding decarbonisation in the economy and “it was easy for us
to say to Al Futtaim, ‘You have the same problem as us, you have the product,
you need somebody to build fuel stations, we need somebody to market the
Speaking at a press event in December to showcase
hydrogen mass transport potential, Saud Abbasi, managing director of Al Futtaim
Toyota, said: “In our next chapter, and in line with the UAE Vision 2021,
we believe that Mirai [hydrogen fuel cell-electric vehicle] and any other FCEV
in the future, once adopted on a large national scale, can actively help the
UAE in its march towards serious climate action thanks to the many practical
benefits it presents such as zero pollutants, zero behavioural change, long
mileage and minimal hydrogen filling time of three to five minutes.”
So far, Al Futtaim in partnership with Air Liquide
has opened a hydrogen station, the first in the Middle East, at Al Badia, Dubai
Festival City. A second station is set to start construction this year in
Masdar City, in collaboration with Adnoc, Masdar and Al Futtaim.
Air Liquide is also pushing the use of renewables
as a source of hydrogen.
“The ultimate goal is to have 100 per cent
green hydrogen – the definition of green hydrogen is that it comes from green
energy. This could be solar, wind, biogas,” says Olivier Boucat, head of
Air Liquide’s H2 Mobility unit.
The company admits it is not at that stage yet.
Today, Air Liquide uses a mix of green and “brown” hydrogen – where
methane sourced from coal or natural gas is processed to release hydrogen –
producing a lot of CO2 as a byproduct.
But it aims to rapidly ramp up its share of green
hydrogen produced by using water electrolysis and renewable sources of
electricity, such as solar in the UAE, which does not emit CO2. In January, Air
Liquide announced it had acquired an 18.6 per cent stake in Canadian company
Hydrogenics Corporation for $20 million, which makes electrolysis hydrogen
production equipment and fuel cells.
Electrolysis works by passing electricity through
water which splits it into hydrogen and oxygen. The hydrogen is collected,
transported and stored either in gas form or as a liquid super-chilled to minus
253°C – which, incidentally, is the form in which it is used to power space
rockets. The oxygen can be used in other industrial processes.
To power a car, for example, the hydrogen runs from
the fuel tank into a fuel cell, where it re-combines with oxygen from the air,
producing energy as electricity, rather than explosive energy as in an internal
combustion engine. The resulting electricity is released in a controlled manner
to power the engine, the same kind of engine an electric battery car uses.
But there is another significant difference between
an electric battery vehicle and an FCEV.
“The heavier the car is the more energy it
consumes,” says Pascal Schvester, Air Liquide’s director of the Middle
East and India Industrial Merchant unit. A high-end electric vehicle (EV) today
needs about 700kg of battery, which is maybe a third of the weight of the
vehicle, he says. “That is something you do not have with a hydrogen fuel
cell car – in which you have, say, 6kg of hydrogen.”
Currently, however, green hydrogen is prohibitively
expensive to produce. But as countries move away from hydrocarbons as a fuel,
economies of scale will bring the price down. “At the moment it’s better
to have a large facility and then transport the hydrogen as a gas but when the
volumes get big enough it will be better to transport as a liquid,” says
“This is happening already in California; we
are just commissioning the first liquid hydrogen plant to provide liquid
hydrogen to a station.”
With construction to start later this year, at a
cost to build of around $150m, the plant will have the capacity to generate
nearly 30 tonnes of hydrogen per day – enough to fuel 35,000 hydrogen-powered
vehicles. The facility is designed to accelerate the deployment of new hydrogen
FCEVs – cars and fleet vehicles such as taxis, trucks and buses and trams, as is
happening in Europe.
However, hydrogen’s cost as a fuel is unlikely to
reach commercial parity with petrol, diesel or electric battery power, although
price is not likely to be the determining factor for its uptake, according to
Mr Mills. “I think hydrogen will always be more expensive than petrol or
diesel, but the reasons for its adoption would be that it’s zero-carbon, clean
at the point of use, and (potentially) indefinitely renewable. The question is
whether it can compete cost-wise with electric vehicles which are improving
“Hydrogen’s at quite an immature stage, so
this really depends on how much support it gets to build scale and bring down
Mr Mills says that the large-scale vehicle sector
is most suited to hydrogen as a transport fuel. “Probably it will have to
find its role in long-distance, heavy-duty transport like trucks, rail,
shipping and perhaps aviation,” he says.
However, the more down-to-earth fleet vehicle
sector is Air Liquide’s main focus in the UAE. “We’re not targeting the
super cars like Jeremy Clarkson might drive on Top Gear,”says
Mr Boucat, but he says “the aeroplane would be the last goal for us”.
Air Liquide’s Mr Schvester also points out that
regarding fleets “you don’t need to have a massive network of hydrogen
filling stations because in this case you are dealing with vehicles that are
commuting from one place to the other on a fixed basis” so fuelling
stations can be centralised.
Globally, Japan is generally seen as the leader so
far in hydrogen take-up. The country’s Basic Hydrogen Strategy, released in
December, 2017, reiterated its commitment to pioneer the world’s first
“Hydrogen Society”. The strategy primarily aims to achieve cost parity of
hydrogen with competing fuels, such as petrol in transport and Liquified
Natural Gas (LNG) in power generation.
“By 2030 Japan will start to import hydrogen
in liquid form to produce energy for various applications in the country,”
says Mr Boucat. “When we reach that point we are at a very large
Last month, South Korea announced a major
investment plan to go the same way. By 2040, the country aims to increase the
cumulative total of fuel cell vehicles to 6.2 million, raise the number of
hydrogen refuelling stations to 1,200 (from just 14 today) and also boost the
supply of power-generating fuel cells.
Through these measures, the government hopes to
create 420,000 jobs and $38.35 billion in value added to the economy each year
China now invests about 100bn yuan a year
(Dh54.09bn) in hydrogen energy, according to Professor Zong Qiang Mao of Tsinghua
University’s Institute of Nuclear and New Energy Technology, who adds that the
country has the capacity to produce about 170,000 FCEVs per year. It’s likely
to become a huge market. “I predict that in about 10 years we will also be
the largest market in the world for hydrogen energy,” Mr Zong told
cH2ange, an organisation dedicated to promoting the hydrogen economy and which
is supported by Air Liquide.
Germany in September opened its 50th hydrogen
filling station. With the ramp-up of the number of fuel cell vehicles, another
300 hydrogen refuelling stations are planned over the next two or three years.
In Paris, the Societe du Taxi Electrique Parisien
has a total of 100 hydrogen-powered vehicles in its fleet, and is aiming to
have 600 such vehicles by 2020. In the UK, meanwhile, the government announced
last year police cars and taxis will be among nearly 200 new hydrogen powered
vehicles as part of a project that has won £8.8m (Dh42.4m) in funding from the
Department for Transport to increase the number of hydrogen cars on the roads.
Air Liquide believes such developments are just the
“I think within a few years we’ll see more [hydrogen-powered] trains, taxis, buses and trucks and the man in the street will think, ‘ah yes, it’s just another hydrogen vehicle,'” says Mr Chalmers.
“We got used to LNG trucks, we’re getting used
to EVs and next will be hydrogen.”
According to Bloomberg, by 2040, 54% of all new car sales will be for Electric (EVs). Millions of them will then take a good portion out of oil demand and remove millions of barrels of transport fuel every day. It adds that the most significant factor in the EV surge is what’s under the hood, i.e. lithium-ion batteries.
An International Monetary Fund blog post by Christian Bogmans and Lama Kiyasseh dated August 13, 2018, reveals some basics on the sought out Electric Vehicle (EV).
Electric car charging station in Berlin, Germany: prices for lithium and cobalt—key ingredients in rechargeable batteries—are rising due limited supply and growing demand for electric cars (photo: Jens Kalaene/Newscom)
The surge in demand for electric cars has been fueled in part by the falling costs of lithium-ion batteries—driven by technological progress—which power everything from electric cars to smartphones.
Lithium and cobalt are critical components in batteries for electric cars. The rapid growth in the demand for rechargeable batteries has now driven up these raw material prices, and given rise to concerns about potential cobalt and lithium scarcities that could slow the rollout of electric vehicles.
The price of cobalt is expected to remain high due to limited supply and growing demand.
The price of lithium carbonate increased by more than 30 percent in 2017. Even more staggering is the upswing in the price of cobalt, which has risen by 150 percent between September 2016 and July 2018. And as shown in our Chart of the Week from the April World Economic Outlook, cobalt price booms are not without historical precedent.
Unlike lithium, the price of cobalt is expected to remain high due to limited supply and growing demand. In 2016, more than 50 percent of the global supply of cobalt came from the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
Cobalt prices have also been volatile due to insecure supply chains. The chart also shows that since 1915 there have been four price boom episodes. Those during 1978–81 and 1995–96 elicited sharp responses: world production grew by 54.1 and 36.1 percent in 1983 and 1995, respectively, significantly higher than the 50-year average of 4.8 percent. The uptick in prices since 2016 and futures prices for 2018–19 suggest that history may be repeating itself and production could yet again accelerate, at least temporarily. Indeed, cobalt prices have come down somewhat in recent months, following strong production increases in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and reduced demand from China.
Several developments could, however, limit this price volatility. These include increased recycling of cobalt and new primary production mining techniques.
Perhaps most important, battery technology is continuing to improve and could bring the surge in cobalt prices to a halt. One of the leading alternatives to the lithium-ion battery concept—the solid-state battery—would mean smaller and more-energy-dense batteries that do not need cobalt.
Continued research and innovation in this area could spur further progress in the development of electric vehicles and portable electronics.
All the GCC’s media reported recently that the UAE’s latest mass transport dream system being undertaken by the Hyperloop Transportation Technologies informing that progress of the current work ongoing in Toulouse, France, is quite substantive and not far from completion. This is about engineering and fabrication of a set of tubes, that will make the core element in this new mode of transport of both people and freight. These steel tubes with an interior diameter of 4 meter, once linearly assembled above and below ground into a sort of giant pipeline would allow passenger capsules and shipping containers to travel along it in record time.
Meanwhile, the UAE that is adopting this technology is also reported to reflect on the quality of life of its citizens and will still be trying to further enhance their happiness levels.
“50 percent of government transactions on the federal level will be conducted using blockchain technology by 2021.”
Blockchain would seem to be the new buzzword as put by Sheikh Mohammed himself who added saying that the adoption of blockchain would allow the government not only to face future challenges but also to contribute in saving unnecessary expenditure.
Another notable novelty is that of Dubai trialling the use of digital number plates that can alert authorities if there is an accident. We reproduce this article ofJessica Miley for Interesting Engineering of April 11th, 2018.
Dubai Set to Test Digital Number Plates on Cars in the City / Pexels
Dubai is set to launch digital number plates as part of a trial that will also see cars fitted with GPS and transmitters. The trialed number plates will also be able to alert emergency services if the car is in an accident.
Dubai is determined to become a global leader in technology and is implementing a range of trials to test emerging technologies in everyday use. Drivers lucky to trial the digital number plates will receive a range of benefits.
The number plates not only enable police or ambulance to find the car if there has been any sort of accident, the plates can also monitor traffic conditions and communicate that to other drivers.
Digital number plates can make parking a breeze
The digital number plates can also be linked to the individual’s bank account so that all parking and fines are automatically deducted. Sultan Abdullah al-Marzouqi, the head of the Vehicle Licensing Department at Dubai’s Roads and Transport Authority (RTA), says the plates will make life smoother and easier for drivers in Dubai.
The small digital panel can also update with a message if necessary to alert or warn other drivers about changing conditions. The trial period will see the plates put the test in Dubai’s hot dry climate.
The trial will start next month and end in November when a decision will be made about the ongoing use of the plates. Details of the cost of the possible plate rollout are not yet known. Sultan Abdullah says the financial details will only be able to be determined once the trial ends.
Critics of the plates question how much knowledge about an individual’s whereabouts the government should have. If every car is fitted with the plates, then the location of every person connected to the government is basically known by the authorities at all times.
Dubai wants to be a leader in emerging technologies particularly related to transport. The 3-million person city hopes to have self-driving cars accounting for s a quarter of journeys by 2030.
Police force could enforce from the air
Dubai city authorities have announced their desire to use drone taxis in the city as the possible method to overcome heavy traffic congestion. They are also planning a Hyperloop system between downtown Dubai and the United Arab Emirates capital Abu Dhabi.
The Hyperloop would cut the 120km journey between the two cities down to just 12 minutes.
The rapidly growing city also announced it is investigating the possible use of flying hoverbike drones for its police force. The Dubai police force has outlined plans to add a bunch of the Russian designed Hoversurf Scorpion 3 to the team for both manned and unmanned missions.
The force made the announcement at GITEX, the largest technology expo in the Gulf region. The futuristic devices can fly with a pilot at up to 70kmh and in their unmanned mode can reach top speeds of 100 kmh. Unfortunately, the hoverbikes only have a range of about 20-25 minutes and the batteries take about three hours to fully charge.
There is, in view of the high number of tabled demands, an urgency to review the current Algerian industrial policy. It concerns all those car assembly plants.
The automotive sector is experiencing restructuring, mergers and relocations of large groups, with high production capacities. In the face of all these global changes, what is the profitability threshold for all the Algerian car assembly mini-projects?
The national fleet is 8.4 million of vehicles in 2016, of which more than 65% are tourist vehicles according to the Ministry of Transport giving an average of 1 vehicle for 7 citizens in 2016 against 5.7 for 2015 and 4.75 for 2014. About 53% of this park has an average age of less than 10 years, while 37% are over 20 years old. More exactly according to the ONS, the official statistical body cited by the Algerian Press Service, the national fleet had 5,986,181 vehicles at end 2016, compared with 5,683,156 vehicles at end 2015, up 5.33%, corresponding to an increase of 303,025 units. According to the Ministry of Energy, by end of 2016, Algeria would use nearly 15 million tons of road fuels of which more than 350,000 tons of LPG. There are also several questions to which any coherent economic policy must respond in order to avoid the failure of many of the manufacturers who would have in the meantime reaped huge profits to the detriment of the Treasury.
Car assembly plants set within global changes
So, what is the future when according to some analysts, the size of the Chinese car market, not to mention India, if one remains in the current consumption model, should be multiplied by ten. The experts from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) provided the picture of a World park of 2.9 billion passenger cars by 2050; this vision starting from the assumption of an increase in household income especially from emerging countries especially those with large populations such as Russia, India or China.
So about 77.83 million cars should have been sold in 2017, against 74.38 million in 2016 according to international estimates. Meanwhile, world production of cars in 2015 was 90.68 billion of which
China: 24,503,326 vehicles (+ 3.3%), –
United States: 12,100,095 vehicles (+ 3.8%), –
Japan: 9,278,238 Vehicles (-5.1%), –
Germany: 6,033,164 vehicles (+ 2.1%), –
South Korea: 4,555,957 vehicles (+ 0.7%), –
India: 4,125,744 vehicles (+ 7.3%), –
Mexico: 3,565,469 vehicles (+ 5.9%), –
Spain: 2,733,201 vehicles (+ 13.7%), –
Brazil: 2,429,463 Vehicles (-22.8%), –
Canada: 2,283,474 Vehicles (-4.6%), –
France: 1,970,000 vehicles (+ 8.2%), –
Thailand: 1,915,420 vehicles (+ 1.9%), –
United Kingdom: 1,682,156 vehicles (+ 5.2%), –
Russia: 1,384,399 Vehicles (-26.6%), –
Turkey: 1,358,796 vehicles (+ 16.1%), –
Czech Republic: 1,303,603 vehicles (+ 4.2%), –
Indonesia: 1,098,780 Vehicles (-15.4%), –
Italy: 1,014,223 vehicles (+ 45.3%), –
Slovakia: 1,000,001 Vehicles (+ 3.0%),
Iran: 982,337 vehicles (-9.9%).
So, the international constraints for Algeria are there. The situation of the global car market is evolving through being an oligopolistic market, depending on purchasing power, infrastructure and the possibility of substitution of other modes of transport, in particular the collective specific to each country according to its transport policy, having known since the crisis of October 2008 major upheavals, mergers succeeding takeovers and various equity acquisitions. Currently, the largest multinationals are General Motors despite its recent restructuring, closely followed by Volkswagen and Nissan, which since its alliance with the French manufacturer Renault, Chrysler, FIAT, Honda, Mitsubishi and Mazda share the limelight of the top six global manufacturers, all of which have a production capacity of over four million vehicles, accounting for 61 percent of the global automotive market, followed by South Korean Hyundai, Daewoo, Kia; Sang-Yang and Samsung have joined the ranks of independent builders, able to finance, design and produce their own vehicles and that European multinational companies are the most Important manufacturers of spare parts and the largest manufacturers of trucks, including Mercedes-Benz and Volvo. In the rest of the world, most car manufacturers are subsidiaries of American, Japanese and European manufacturers. In countries like Malaysia, China and India, production is managed by local companies, but always with the support of large foreign groups. We observe two opposite tendencies that are happening at the same time: The location of the production in certain geographical areas and on certain countries and the relocation; And for what is The location of world car production, it focuses on the Regional over three Areas: Europe, North America and Asia. In addition, on each of them the manufacturing is located on some Countries; In Europe, the main manufacturers are Germany, France, the United Kingdom and Italy, all belonging to the European Union. In North America, production is mainly concentrated on the United States, and in Asia it is in Japan and South Korea and for world exports of automobiles, the concentration is even higher, since it is limited Mainly in two areas : Europe and Asia. And that the near future with the loss of competitiveness of some countries for the benefit of some emerging countries (Russia, India, China, Brazil) we should witness the reorganization of world production of vehicles in relation to the levels of training of The size of the factories and with the research carried out by the motor companies and clearly, the factories which will maintain themselves on each country will be the most competitive, the priorities of the leaders of the car manufacturers being thus: technology and innovation with notably automation, especially in Japan, whose labor cost is about ten times higher than China’s, ethics and corporate governance, collaborative approach, best strategies for success, environment and globalization. Future technological prospects taking into account the new Ecological Challenge, (hybrid, electric cars) taking into account the new model of energy consumption which is slowly in place, the crisis of October 2008 foreshadowing important Strategic and economic upheavals, as China is on the move to become the world leader in Clean cars All categories thus taking advantage of the first plans “Greens” of the United States, Europe and Japan. In the short term, we are moving towards optimising the operation of petrol and diesel engines, with a reduction of 20/30% of the consumption, because for electric cars, the lithium resources for the famous lithium-ion batteries are Limited and that electric motors require magnets that are also manufactured with rare metals, a market of 70/80 million vehicles per year that cannot absorb large Volumes in electric cars and that for another ten years the engines Classics should remain in the majority. To make things even less amenable, the US will slap a tax on cars made on the continent if the European Union (EU) retaliates against its recently adopted tariffs on imports of steel and aluminium.
Published on Monday, October 23, 2017 by Common Dreams, this article by Jessica Corbett, staff writer refer to analyses that show how demand for electric cars and falling renewable energy prices could take down oil and gas industry. Here it is republished with compliments to each the author and publisher. The bearing of such transition would of course have heavy consequences on all of the MENA countries, petro-economies or not. But this is another story, which could make another interesting article.
The cost of solar energy technology is expected to fall within the next decade, giving a boost to the industry. (Photo: Oregon Department of Transportation/flickr/cc)
As an increasing number of nations make plans for banning gas and diesel vehicles within the coming decades, and drivers gain an awareness of the benefits associated with electric vehicles, researchers are predicting notable consequences for dirty energy sources as the public shifts toward favouring renewable alternatives.
“Post-2025, that’s where electric car sales take off. The further you go into the future, the more it’s electric cars,” Alan Gelder, a senior analyst for the research group Wood Mackenzie, told the Guardian. “If cities began banning cars with a combustion engine, that would rapidly accelerate the switch to electric vehicles.”
Drivers transitioning to electric vehicles out of necessity, because of such bans—which multiple European nations plan to implement in the next 15-25 years—and efforts by governments to increase fuel efficiency regulations, is only part of what is fuelling the blossoming electric vehicle market.
Auto manufacturers are also taking cues from the increased demand due to bans and enhanced regulations as well as consumer desire for more environmentally friendly vehicles, as Business Insider detailed in May.
These efforts by governments to limit emissions and by automakers to meet the rising demand for electic vehicles are expected to substantially impact the oil and gas industry in the coming years.
Wood Mackenzie estimates global gasoline prices will peak then start to fall by 2030, though Gelder posits “the ripples of gasoline’s plateau would be felt much earlier,” as fossil fuel companies take fewer investment risks once demand for gas ebbs.
“While gasoline will peak first,” the newspaper notes, “the analysts expect total oil demand to plateau about 2035, as growth is hit by climate change policies and developing world economies maturing.”
Meanwhile, the oil and gas industry is also taking a hit from the solar energy market—which is booming in the U.S. and elsewhere, and is expected to continue doing well over the next decade. The head of the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) toldReuters the industry expects the costs of solar power to fall a notable amount over the next 10 year.
“In the next decade, the cost of (utility scale) solar could fall by 60 percent or more,” IRENA director general Adnan Amin said.
The Trump administration is currently weighing whether to increase taxes on imported solar materials, after the U.S. International Trade Commission determined in September that cheap imports had been harmful to U.S.-based solar companies.
Amin criticized the possible increased taxation as short-sighted, considering the growing global demand for solar products and renewable alternatives to oil and gas.
“It’s not always the best strategy to try to protect your industry and have high prices,” Amin said, “because in the long-term what you want to do is drive down the cost of energy.”
Tesla 3 is being marketed worldwide as the model that will per The Guardian finally make electric cars “mainstream”. But more recently, Tesla drew the global media’s attention to the UAE, a region well known to be reliant on anything to do with fossil fuel, in a similar attempt that is to sell electric cars to the local gas guzzling four-wheel drive crazy cars owners. Would they buy it? The answer could partly be found in this article written by Matthew Watkins, Nottingham Trent University on the current trend that concludes by the internal combustion engine is dead, long live the electric car. Cheers.
End of the road for traditional vehicles? Here are the facts
There is still much debate about the long-term environmental benefits of electrically powered cars. What fuel mix will the power stations that generate the electricity be using, for example, and what are the implications for the environment of widespread battery production and disposal? Nevertheless, the key message in the Clean Air Plan is the need for an improvement in air quality for the benefit of human health and therefore the removal of petrol and diesel cars from built up areas. It is not an academic argument on the holistic environmental impact.
In the last decade, manufacturers’ hybrid and electric offerings have grown – but the market is still small. Only 1.84% of new vehicles sold were wholly electric and 3.46% hybrid (a combination of a smaller internal combustion engine supported by electric propulsion) in September 2017, although this represents an increase of 0.29% and 1.39% respectively on September 2016 figures.
According to a 2014 government survey, consumer resistance to adoption is largely due to concerns over recharging and “range anxiety”, with consumers worrying about how far they can actually go on a charge.
In fact, the average annual mileage of a privately owned car in 2016 was 7,500 miles, equating to only 28.9 miles per day – assuming that the car is used for commuting five times per week. This is easily within the range of electric cars, which typically boast ranges of over 100 miles.
Fit for purpose?
Electric cars arguably suit our modern, digital lives far more than the faithful old internal combustion engine – and most of us are now more attuned to plugging in devices that support our daily lives. Surely visiting a fuel station once or twice a week for about ten to 20 minutes should be a rather alien and outdated concept in an instantly connected, plug-in culture many now live in.
Indeed, the idea of plugging your car in at the end of the day is just a logical extension of the need to plug in your phone, your laptop, tablet or even your toothbrush.
But perhaps therein lies the uptake problem. While we have become accustomed to a portable battery orientated culture, we are also very aware of the potential downfalls this brings. We are familiar with the annoyance of our phone running out of battery while we are using it as a sat-nav to get home, or the degradation of a laptop battery over its lifetime, or the ultimate frustration of waking up in the morning to find that our electric toothbrush has run out of charge. Perhaps the modern human consciousness can’t uncouple its infrequent but memorable frustrations with battery technology to recognise the benefits an electric car could bring.
But this may not be an issue among younger generations. My two-year-old son picked up my scale model of a Ferrari 355 (yes, this is being written by a petrol head), pointed to the engine compartment and said, “daddy, batteries go here”. I grew up maintaining cars with my father, so this was quite a shock – but also a revelation. A cultural shift is underway. The knowledge I proudly hold may be irrelevant to my children as they reach driving age – and the joy of explaining the internal combustion engine to my older five-year-old son already seems more akin to teaching history than technology.
There is already a growing infrastructure in the UK for electric vehicles with 14,548 charging points in 5,207 locations (in comparison to 8,459 fuel stations). There are now on-street chargers in most cities and dedicated parking bays in motorway service stations, although access is more limited in rural areas.
Even if charged at home, the range of most current models should be sufficient for the majority of journeys, with the exception of long distance trips, where a change of pace may need to be adopted to permit for the longer charging periods mid journey. For those who typically drive beyond the average range on a more frequent basis, a hybrid vehicle remains the most suitable option.
In any event, after over 140 years of virtually unrivalled domination, the innovation cycle has finally caught up with the internal combustion engine. The internal combustion engine is dead, long live the electric car.