The Big Switch To Electric Cars

Electric car in snow

Another week, another new piece about electric cars. Business and government are both making a lurch towards emissions free, electric vehicles. There have been increasingly rapid advances in electric technology, with the batteries particularly tumbling in price as they become more sophisticated and in more demand. Here are the latest stories about electric cars:

UK funds research into letting electric cars return power to grid

A growing concern about electric cars is their drain on the power system. A clever solution to this is for vehicles to give leftover battery back to the system, which would also help keep the grid stable if there was a switch to renewable energy.

Both business and government are prepared to invest millions into research on how electric cars could help to power the grid, and how to encourage people to do it. Businesses will be able to bid for the government funding of a massive £20 million to research and develop a vehicle-grid system. The new system could revolutionise the power industry and force massive price drops as companies are forced to compete with a renewable market.

People getting home in their electric cars will inadvertently power the tea time surge that consistently pushes the power grid to its limits every day. The cars will give back their remaining charge, then charge the correct amount for the morning. They will also provide a storage system for excess energy produced by renewables, allowing renewable energies to plug the gap if there is increased demand during rush periods.

The power companies aren’t the only one’s to profit from this revolutionary power scheme, as electric car drivers will also get some benefits. Aside from extremely cheap electric fuel, grants to purchase, no road tax, and free congestion zones, electric car drivers could be compensated for the vehicle to grid arrangement. This could mean free charging or free parking, but the estimates on the potential earnings could even pay for the car! StrategicFit, an energy consultancy, suggests a single electric car could earn its owner £1,000-£2,000 a year.

There have already been trials into the system. Japanese car-maker Nissan partnered with Italian energy company Enel to launch a large scale test in the UK. It involved over 100 cars, and there are also many university research projects also being run. The £20 million government fund supports these studies into the future of our automotive industry.

There are now more than 90,000 electric/hybrid cars on the roads, and more than 13,000 public plug-in points with even more home charging points. That should mean there is plenty of supply, given there are 31 million cars and only 8000 fuel stations around the uk, however the public plug-in points have varying degrees of useful application. Unlike fueling stations, which can fill up a car in under a minute, you may have to wait hours for an electric car to fully charge. This means journeys will have to be more planned out than regular driving, and sat-navs will need more integration to plan a journey around the range of the battery. Filtering out the slow charging points, there are only 4442 over 22kwh, which are mainly clustered around cities and will be in higher demand. Coinciding with this, the new electric vehicles bill currently going round parliament, should force large fuel suppliers to install charging points at all their fuel stations across the UK.

France is switching on electric cars

Across the channel in France, president Emmanuel Macron’s government has announced radical changes for his country to meet the Paris climate accords. A proposal has been made to ban the sale of petrol and diesel vehicles by 2040. This announcement is a key marker of the end for internal combustion engines, and a massive shakeup of the oil, fuel and energy sectors which have controlled countries, even the world for over 100 years.

Nicolas Hulot, France’s ecology minister, said: it would be a “tough” objective for car makers and fuel companies but that France’s industries were well equipped to make a switch to electric, adding “Our [car] makers have enough ideas in the drawer to nurture and bring about this promise … which is also a public health issue.”.

Hulot also pointed out the decision was about public health as electrics aid in the “fight against air pollution”. Nicolas Hulot has been a long time environmental campaigner, so was delighted by this decision.

France has been proclaimed as a “world-leader” of climate change action, with the announcement a clear warning shot “to manufacturers and consumers of the direction of travel and may accelerate a transition to electric cars”, Prof David Bailey, automotive expert at Aston University has said.

Norway has a similar aim to have 100% of car sales to be electric/hybrid by 2025. They are the current leaders of electric cars, having almost 30% of new car sales. With France now stepping up, there may be more countries bouncing around this idea.

The electric focus has in part been to cover up the mess of diesel cars, which used to be heavily subsidised and encouraged by many governments. Now ‘diesel’ is a dirty word, clouded with emission scandals and air quality.

The Netherlands voted against a 2030 ban, citing it as too ambitious, although some German states are calling for a 2025 ban on sales of non-electric vehicles. Even India, where many cities have clouds of dangerous air pollution, are looking to ban the sale of non-electrics.

The UK shares the 2040 low emission aim, but hasn’t drawn up much policy towards it. The UK government have been painfully slow to tackle emissions, and even encouraged poor air quality with their decisions on Heathrow airport expansion. Sadiq Khan, the mayor of London, said: “I welcome the strong leadership the French government has shown by making the decision to end the sale of petrol and diesel cars by 2040…This radical step shames the timid and insufficient response of our own government to the health threat posed by poor air quality.”

Electric cars may dominate the automotive market more quickly and dramatically than was thought possible. In just the last few years, countless countries have seen the first wave of truly commercial electric vehicles, yet peg electric cars to tip a market upside down in the next 10. The predictions by Bloomberg forecast that electric vehicle sales will surpass petrol and diesel by 2040, cutting the forecast by 10 years in just a single year of innovation. If vehicle to grid power systems are also introduced, this would have massive repercussions for the oil and power sectors.

Green light for Volvo as they pledge to be all electric/hybrid in just 15 months time

Volvo president and CEO, Hakan Samuelsson, announced that all new Volvo models from 2019 have some form of electric propulsion, either as hybrids or electric models. France may have made a ballsy pitch to ban sales of non-electrics within 25 years, but Volvo have just blown them and the rest of the car industry out of the water by announcing their departure from petrol and diesel in just 15 months. Their aim to sell 1 million electric/hybrid cars by 2025 is a direct response to “People increasingly demand electrified cars, and we want to respond to our customers’ current and future needs.”. The world’s car industry has spent 130-years being closely tied to petrol, diesel and the internal combustion engines, but in the coming 20 years we will see that completely flipped. Realistically, this means you will still see petrol and diesel motors in dealerships until mid or late 2040s but it will be a dying breed of petrol guzzling vehicles.

Manufacturers have struggled against increasingly challenging EU emission regulations so many are choosing to go electric so they no longer have to dedicate resource into trying to meet the target or lobby against it. Companies that fail to meet targets are sapped with fines and even lawsuits. Going electric is the best option for manufacturers that tend to sell larger vehicles, like Volvo’s saloons and SUV’s.

Another reason for many companies going electric, may be the buy in by emerging markets, such as China. In a bid to clean up the air quality surrounding cities, China has decided to heavily encourage electric vehicles. It is the leading sales ground of electric vehicles at 507,000 units sold in 2016, more than Europe and the US put together.