For many reasons, the popularity of electric cars is increasing significantly around the world. Nepalese and Palestinians who either can’t afford expensive gasoline or face shortages due to the Israeli fuel import disruptions, first-time Indian car owners struggling with the soaring costs of running their cars after recent price hikes due to subsidy cuts by the government, Europeans who have become used to high gasoline prices as a result of heavy taxation as well as Americans who can still afford driving but feel the pain of a 100% price increase since last year are more or less enthusiastically switching to electric cars or at least consider doing so. Obviously, there’s been a tremendous shift in attitude towards EVs recently.
Of course, skyrocketing crude oil prices driving up gasoline prices around the world are contributing decisively to the change going on in the minds of the people. On the other hand, with the disastrous consequences of climate change and pollution becoming more and more a real threat, people are becoming more environmentally aware and consider issues such as CO2 emissions and energy efficiency when buying a new car. Another important accelerator of this development are the numerous incentives by governments from around the world to support the development in the field of electric cars and to make them more attractive to small-distance commuters. Easing the high price for electric cars that we have to pay today is another area where governments should take an active role. No congestion charges, lower taxes, lower running costs and almost no maintenance costs let the whole thing appear more realistic and creates public attention. According to a recent poll in the UK, 71% of British motorists would consider driving an electric car. And for those who are about to purchase a new vehicle, either an electric car or a more fuel-efficient one are the alternatives.
Energy experts and auto industry insiders seeing the upcoming transition from petroleum to electricity rather regard this as a chance than as a threat. Electricity can be produced from diverse sources, it’s mostly domestically produced generating value and jobs, it’s much more efficient than the refinement of oil and has many more advantages.
Apparently, money is the most effective incentive. There’s hardly a way to convince people of an economical and inevitable shift. The Republican presumptive nominee John McCain has already signaled his support for electric vehicles. He called the Chevy Volt “the future of America and the world”, though this might eventually not be true, but it can be put like that as the Chevy Volt has the potential to become a smash hit in the U.S. and is a viable stop-gap.
Even Texans have changed their attitude towards electric cars and there’s a higher acceptance than ever for this technology which I think will spark a new era. Without the need for innovation, there’s no innovation. And without innovation, there are no or only moderate wealth gains. The time ahead of us will probably once be known as the energy age and all issues concerning energy – generation, conservation, supplies, storage, efficiency and distribution – will be of ever greater importance.
For those who’ll be prepared and jump at the chance, there’s a lot of money to be earned. Especially the massive investments in infrastructure creates blue-collar jobs and generates unprecedented business opportunities. Recharging the batteries of electric vehicles can become a major business. Retail chains, super markets, parking lot owners and fast-food restaurant chains could host charging points and make it a profitable business, probably the best new source of income for decades. I could imagine every McDonald’s offering a number of charging points which would finally solve the infrastructure problem. As is generally known, there’s a sufficient net of McDonald’s fast-food restaurants in most countries.
In the past, many challenges have been taken and innovative solutions to tough problems were found resulting in welfare gains and overall greater prosperity. The same could be the case with a different use of energy. The sooner we accept that we face enormous changes, the greater the potential to emerge from this crisis of high commodity prices and scarce resources enjoying the benefits of cheaper transportation and a more powerful position because of eneregy independence. We have to make an effort to reduce our reliance on fossil fuel imports, we have to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions responsibly. Battery-powered cars will probably not be the future, but cars using electricity for power with low running costs will be. The batteries with a limited storage capacity and the high purchase price of electric cars still prevents them from booming, but the technology with an improved storage is the only alternative to conventional combustion engines that we have in hour hands. Electricity can be generated from a bunch of different energy sources and can be transported efficiently and easily through our power grid. Clean energy such as wind and solar power are expected to gain a considerable share of the total energy mix in the coming decade. The future is electric, and eventually, we might again increase our living standard with a new mass-technology cutting back on our spendings on oil from the Middle East. Electricity generated at home is much more reliable, much cheaper and much cleaner.