Should Electric Vehicles be Compulsory in City Centres?

Should electric vehicles be compulsory in city centres?
Should electric vehicles be compulsory in city centres?

The subject of making electric vehicles compulsory in city centres in the UK, and indeed many other areas of the world, is one which keeps popping up time and time again. The Liberal Democrat party in the UK has been pushing for greater adoption of electric vehicles within city centres and, don't shout this, a ban on diesel and petrol vehicles. This is now something of a hot topic and one which will continue to appear in the political domain as we approach general and local elections.

How would you feel about making city centres a no-go area for petrol and diesel vehicles? Is electric vehicle technology of sufficient reliability to support such a dramatic and controversial move?

Air pollution

If we look back 40 or 50 years ago the argument was whether vehicles powered by diesel and electric were making any contribution to air pollution whatsoever. The situation today is very different and all parties agree that non-electric vehicles are pumping out a number of pollutants which are causing major problems within city centres with regards to air pollution. The quality of air in and around city centres is impacted more than any other areas simply because there is limited space, limited airflow, and the pollutants tend to hover over the city like a bad smell.

Air pollution within city centres has been linked to an array of health conditions such as asthma and other breathing issues. When you bear in mind the cost and the impact of such health conditions on the individual and health services, perhaps we should now be looking towards diesel and petrol free city centres?

Quote from ElectricForum.com: "The reputation of BMW is based upon luxury therefore many people are now asking the question, would you buy an electric powered BMW? Is BMW Daimlers joint-venture just a way to placate the green movement? Would an electric BMW be a mass-market seller?"

Infrastructure investment

What came first, the chicken or the egg? There is no doubt that local government and federal government investment in charging networks across the UK and other countries has increased dramatically of late. However, there is a feeling among some experts that the actual investment required to create a suitable and reliable infrastructure has not yet been reached. The argument being, do local authorities invest now and push motorists towards electric vehicles within city centres or do they wait for a gradual transfer and then invest?

If you take a step back and look at the overall cost of air pollution not only in terms of cold hard cash but also health issues, perhaps these do far outweigh the potential investment required to create a reliable recharging network infrastructure?

How will motorists react?

When it boils down to the nitty-gritty politicians will only push through potentially controversial issues which will have the support of the masses. It is an interesting debate as to whether motorists are now moving towards electric vehicles en-masse and would support such a ban in city centres. Let's not forget, motorists have been a cash cow for many governments around the world in relation to road taxes and the heavy levies cast upon petrol and diesel.

Would any political party be brave enough to take the risk of losing votes by banning petrol/diesel vehicles in city centres in favour of electric vehicles? Politicians can shout and scream about the environment, pollution, etc but the bottom line is they will not push through any controversial changes until they are sure they will not impact their core voting public. When that will be remains to be seen.

Is China the Key to the Future Electric Vehicle Market?

Is China the key to the future electric vehicle market?
Is China the key to the future electric vehicle market?

While the US electric vehicle market seems to grab the attention of the worldwide media, many experts believe that the industry is wholly dependent upon the future of the Chinese electric vehicle market. Initially the Chinese government had seemed reluctant to push electric vehicles although this has changed over the last couple of years. However, while there are high hopes for the future, is the Chinese government doing as much as it could or should for the electric vehicle industry?

Battery technology

Earlier this week we saw two prominent Chinese car manufacturers set up a very exciting EV battery deal which includes groundbreaking technology. As we have mentioned on numerous occasions, the direct technology associated with electric vehicles of today has gained much momentum over the last decade, although unfortunately the technology surrounding electric vehicle batteries has not been as quick to respond. However, while just a couple of years the US government set up a multibillion-dollar fund to assist with the development of new electric vehicle batteries, it seems as though the Chinese government, behind many of the giant public companies in China, is now looking to the future.

Tweaking regulations

There is no doubt if the Chinese government wanted electric vehicles to be the mainstay of the Chinese economy they could literally tweak and change regulations tomorrow. There may be a number of reasons why the authorities are not forcing the electric vehicle industry into the mainstream as yet which could include financing, public demand, corporate demand and perhaps the need for foreign investment?

Quote from ElectricForum.com: "If James Bond drove an EV, what kind would it be?"

In years gone by the Chinese economy was been the mainstay of Chinese governments, Chinese companies and Chinese investors. You only need to look towards America and some of its larger corporations to hear evidence of extreme difficulties breaking into the Chinese market. This situation has changed dramatically over the last 20 years or so and, while still dictated by the Chinese government, regulations and free-market principles are starting to emerge which assist foreign investors.

A fight between the US and China?

For many years now experts have forecast a fight between the U.S. and Chinese authorities in relation to control of the electric vehicle market. The Far East has been heavily involved in the automotive industry for many years now and indeed is unlikely to allow the US authorities to dictate the pace, dictate regulations, and also the protocols used. We will see conflict and battles between the U.S. and the Chinese authorities although Tesla seems to have broken the mould after setting up a subsidiary in China.

The fact remains that between the U.S. government and the Chinese authorities there are literally billions upon billions of dollars of government investment and tax incentives at stake. Even though the European authorities have been very proactive in the field of electric vehicles it will be the Chinese and the U.S. markets which eventually dictate the future. The US authorities have certainly grabbed the headlines over the last decade or so although its seems that, slowly but surely, the Chinese government is beginning to warm to electric vehicles?

California at the forefront of the EV revolution!

California at the forefront of the EV revolution!
California at the forefront of the EV revolution!

Love them or hate them, there is no doubt that the Californian authorities are good to their words and do whatever they think is best - not taking into account neighbouring states. This is a state which has been at the forefront of the EV revolution and while some suggest it is all PR, others believe the state is playing a major role in the EV revolution. So what have the authorities decided to do this time?

New building codes

While nothing is set in stone as yet, the Californian authorities are considering introducing new building codes which would require builders to include plug-in electric vehicle infrastructure charging systems. This would be a major step forward, especially when you bear in mind the often prohibitive cost of upgrading existing systems against a potential cost of just $50 if the systems were added as the property was built.

Even though many other states and countries around the world make look at this particular development with surprise, this is something which the state of California has been moving towards for some time. Indeed not only would the new regulations cover new home builds but they would also take into account larger parking lots where many electric plug-in vehicles could be recharged.

Giving power to the people

Earlier in 2014 the Californian authorities tweaked tenant laws for commercial and residential properties, which now allow tenants to install electric vehicle charging stations at their own cost. In many ways this overrides the rights of landlords to refuse such requests and is yet again seen as a positive by the EV industry going forward.

Quote from ElectricForum.com: "Tesla seems to be dominating the EV market at the moment. Who is the biggest threat to Tesla in the future?"

In a perfect world you would hope that developments in California would be replicated in other states across the US and indeed other countries. However history shows us that while California can be revolutionary and ahead of its time, there is no guarantee that others will follow suit. Indeed the EV1 debacle perfectly illustrates this fact so while we should be encouraged we should take nothing for granted.

Are electric vehicles really the future?

As we have touched on many times, electric vehicles have been around in some shape or form for decades now. There are many reasons for developing this technology: there is growing demand and the long-term cost benefits are there for all to see. There is reluctance in some areas of commerce to invest the funds required to push the EV market further forward at a faster pace. However, government pressure and government finance could be the key to reversing this trend in the short-term.

You only need to look at the growing sales of EVs, the long-term cost benefits and the ever-growing problem of pollution in the world today. While government incentives to switch to electric vehicles have turned the heads of many, and perhaps lowered the cost of electronic vehicles beyond realistic short-term levels, it does seem as though we have crossed the threshold. Unlike similar episodes in years gone by, with governments publicly pushing electric vehicles but behind-the-scenes holding them back, we do appear to have now gone beyond the point of no return.

Will California be the state and the power behind the future electric vehicle industry?

Are EV Financial Incentives Preaching to the EV Converted?

Are EV financial incentives preaching to the EV converted?
Are EV financial incentives preaching to the EV converted?

In years gone by governments around the world have often been criticised for not investing significant time, money, and effort into the electric vehicle market. Indeed there have always been rumours of government interference in the electric vehicle market at the behest of the oil companies. However that was then and this is now, with many governments offering significant financial incentives to those looking to purchase an electric vehicle.

While there is no doubt that this strategy of financial incentives has been very successful in converting drivers from diesel/gasoline vehicles to electric powered vehicles, are these incentives basically preaching to the converted?

Is it sensible targeting the mass market?

When you consider the size of the gasoline/diesel vehicle market, it is perhaps no surprise that many governments around the world have targeted the mass market. On paper this seems like the quickest way to increase the number of electric vehicles on the road and is literally a case of throwing enough darts to hit the target. However there is an argument that financial incentives for the mass-market are literally handing financial assistance to those who are already converted in their mind towards electric vehicles.

Quote from ElectricForum.com : "At this moment in time there are various financial incentives available from governments around the world, but how much would you be willing to spend of your own money on an electric vehicle?"

If you sit back and look at your own situation, would financial assistance in acquiring an electric vehicle be a deal breaker if you are looking to convert from a traditional automobile? The likelihood is that in order to even research and look at the financial incentives available you would partly in your mind have already decided to go for this new type of vehicle. Therefore, many critics will have you believe that the financial incentives available today are being wasted on those who were already going to acquire an electric vehicle.

Targeting niche markets

There is a growing movement for governments to look at niche markets such as taxis, business fleets, etc., where there is the potential for a significant reduction in air pollution and other negative aspects associated with traditional powered vehicles. When you consider that business users will drive many more miles per annum than traditional motorists perhaps there is an argument for targeting these niche markets?

When you also take into account the number of taxis on the roads today, again, this is a target market which seems to make common sense. Taxi drivers, along with business users, could also become a very interesting advertising strategy for the wider mass-market. If you were to see a number of taxis and business fleet vehicles using electric power, day in day out, would give you confidence in the sector going forward and may even prompt you to consider switching yourself?

Financial incentives cannot last forever

There is a growing concern that electric vehicle financial incentives are helping the industry in the short term but could cause major problems in the long term. Once these financial incentives are switched off, as they cannot last forever, where does this leave the main market? Is there enough momentum to continue the switch to electric vehicles or would demand slip back and the industry start going in reverse?

Survey Shows 42% of US Drivers Could Use Electric Vehicles Today

Survey shows 42% of US drivers could use electric vehicles today
Survey shows 42% of US drivers could use electric vehicles today

A survey by the Union of Concerned Scientists in the U.S. has opened an interesting and very topical debate on electric vehicles. The wide-ranging survey found that 42% of drivers on the road today could use an electric vehicle, assuming they had a recharging station at home or in their vicinity to cover their average daily mileage. The survey confirmed that 69% of U.S. drivers actually drive less than 60 miles per day, although not all have ready access to charging points.

What does this mean for the electric vehicle industry and, perhaps more pertinently, why are so few drivers switching to electric vehicles?

Options for those driving less than 60 miles per day

The Nissan Leaf and the Ford Focus are two electric vehicles which would easily accommodate those travelling less than 60 miles per day. These are highly efficient, very popular, and technologically advanced vehicles which are taking the EV market by storm in the U.S. and indeed many other countries around the world. This survey rubber stamps an array of comments from recent times supporting the EV industry although seeing the data collated in one report brings it all home.

Quote from ElectricForum.com : "While more and more companies are now offering recharging services for the employees - have you seen evidence of this at your place of work?"

The Union of Concerned Scientists estimates that if everyone who could use an EV actually switched from gasoline vehicles this could save around 350 million barrels of oil per year. This would reduce enormously the U.S. dependence upon oil and the billions of dollars spent supplying the country and protecting sources. It is a little surprising that these kinds of surveys and reports have not surfaced on a more regular basis because they perfectly illustrate the fact that electric vehicles are practical and accessible today.

The future of EVs in the U.S.

Slowly but surely, momentum is building within the electric vehicle industry although while 42% of drivers on the roads in the US today could switch, only 1% have actually done this. This leaves a potentially enormous market for the electric vehicle manufacturers of today and strengthens the hopes of many that electric vehicles will become mainstream very soon.

It is also worth noting that the U.S. government has invested billions of dollars into the EV industry with mixed returns. The authorities have received some significant criticism as some of these investments have not been as successful as hoped, even though there is no doubt that progress is being made. Interestingly, the US government seems now to have changed its focus more towards the battery technology sector, announcing an array of partnerships and consortiums for the future.

Conclusion

While 69% of US drivers travel less than 60 miles per day, 42% of US drivers could switch to electric vehicles today with no impact on their driving habits it seems that the message that electric vehicles are practical and here to stay has not reached its intended market. When you also bear in mind that just 1% of those who could switch today have switched already, this would indicate a significant market for the EV manufacturers to target. What will it take to get the message across?