The future of the electric car may be in your hands.
As Tesla’s electric Model S is poised to go into production in 2017, it’s already being considered as a contender for a future “fossil-fueled car”.
But the future of electric cars isn’t going to be driven by hydrogen and electricity, but by the sheer volume of petrol and diesel that we can put into the engine to drive our vehicles.
And that means that, as soon as the cars reach mass production, the question will be whether we can squeeze even more of that petrol and fuel into the cars and still achieve our goal of zero emissions.
That’s the message from scientists at the Centre for Sustainable Transport, who are working on a new report called The Future of the Electric Car.
Their report outlines the scenarios that we’ll have to work with if we’re going to get to zero-emission electric vehicles by 2050, and also outlines how the current range of electric vehicles can be extended to the end of the century.
What’s in a name?
The report outlines three main scenarios for the electric vehicle market in the next 25 years.
First, we have the scenario in which the current market is “totally oversold”.
In this scenario, there will be around 300,000 electric vehicles on the road by 2050.
In that scenario, about one-third of the total number of electric car sales in 2025 will be hydrogen-powered.
Second, there are three possible scenarios where we can reach zero-carbon emissions by 2050: electric cars with “sustainable” technologies such as battery technology, electric hybrid systems and electric motors, or hybrids with internal combustion engines.
Third, there is a scenario where we reach zero emissions by 2025.
In this scenario we could use only 100% of the petrol and 100% from the diesel fuel we currently consume.
In the scenario where the carbon dioxide emissions are zero, then the car would need to be the size of a small house.
It could take about a decade before the carbon footprint of a typical electric car is fully captured, but there’s no reason that it can’t be as low as a small hatchback.
That said, the report also says that it’s possible that we might not be able to reach zero emission EVs until at least 2050.
“The number of EVs is expected to exceed 100 million by 2030, while we’re in the middle of the production ramp for new electric vehicles,” it says.
“It is unclear when the market for electric vehicles will mature enough to meet the growing demand, and when demand will be met.”
But the biggest question mark is whether we’ll be able or willing to spend the extra money that comes with getting to that point.
There are two key issues with this.
First of all, the cost of EVs are going to continue to rise.
They are currently priced at around £80,000, and a range of petrol cars currently costs around £30,000.
Second, it may be too expensive for many people to buy an EV when it becomes available.
What does it mean for you?
There’s no doubt that electric cars are a major technological advance, and it’s also one that is bringing with it a whole host of other benefits.
But the big question is whether these are the kinds of benefits that people are willing to pay for.
“In a way, electric cars have a lot of advantages over traditional vehicles,” says Professor John Taylor, from the Centre.
“They have the lowest cost of ownership, they can drive less than a conventional car, they are very fuel efficient, and they are relatively inexpensive to operate.”
But there are also significant social and environmental challenges that need to addressed if we are to have a long-term solution for climate change.
“Ultimately, the benefits of the new electric cars should outweigh the costs.”
It could be a while before the electric cars get to the market, so it’s likely that a number of the major automakers will have to make their decisions about their next generation of vehicles based on the results of the study.
But for now, it seems likely that the Tesla Model S will continue to be on the front of the pack when it comes to driving range.
And the future looks very bright indeed.