Are electric cars the future of cars?

Traditional internal combustion engine is bravely sticking to the car, but an offensive of alternative energy sources is underway. Is the future of cars electric cars, more and more boldly starting out in many markets? Will internal combustion engines soon become a thing of the past and we will only have memories of noise, exhaust fumes and decades of tradition?

Electric ancestors

In fact, the more traditional drive is the electric one. Electricity floods were built as early as the 1830s, and the first speed records were beaten with such cars. In 1899 the barrier of 100 km/h was crossed by an electric vehicle for the first time.

However, with the development of combustion engines, electric competitors became less and less practical. Inventions such as a starter (which eliminates a cumbersome and dangerous crank start) or a radiator (a significant increase in range) contributed significantly to the gasoline victory. The nail to the coffin for “electricians” was the mass production of Ford T, thanks to which combustion cars became more accessible.

Eco and trends

In today’s society, electric propulsion technology, which has been developing anew since the 1980s, is finding its way to a fertile ground. Quiet, non-polluting cars are in line with 21st century trends. The move away from noisy, kicking and smelly combustion cars has an impact on the imagination of young people, who are in love with modern technologies rather than with the market of “traditional” engines.

However, the supporters of the electric revolution forget about a few facts in their ecological dragon. Yes, just moving with an electric car does not generate any pollution. However, somewhere you have to draw electricity to charge the batteries.

Here a lot depends on the source of energy – in countries with developed nuclear or renewable energy (sunshine, wind, water), emissions are actually one quarter lower than in the case of combustion cars. In the case of coal-based energy, we already have a similar level of pollution.

It is also important to remember about the impact of the production process of an electric car itself, as well as the subsequent disposal of batteries. The use of quite exotic metals has a negative impact on pollutant emissions during production – it is estimated that this level is more than twice as high as in the case of “ordinary” cars.

However, it is important that the pollution generated by factories or power plants has a strictly defined range and location. Cars move almost everywhere and an industrial plant will not suddenly enter the city centre….

Fast and efficient….

The electric drive has many advantages for the user. The cost of operation itself is lower (not only do we save on fuel, but also, for example, on oil), and in return you can even get impressive performance – sports electric cars differ from combustion supercars only in the absence of noise.

The characteristics of the electric engine – high torque available in practically the full range of revolutions – allows to achieve impressive acceleration and resign from the use of traditional gearboxes. The efficiency of such a drive (80%) can also embarrass internal combustion engines (35-40%) – colloquially speaking, less steam goes into the whistle, and more on the wheels.

Not yet long-distance

We now have a petrol station almost every step of the way. Worse with charging points for electric vehicles, which in combination with the range (still much smaller than the competition) requires careful travel planning. Of course, this depends on the country and the scale of the expansion of the local infrastructure – but Poland has no particular reason to be proud of.

The same applies to facilities for buyers. Electric cars still have one feature from the times of Ford T – they are expensive. So expensive that in Poland, according to expert calculations, the difference in price between an electric car and its diesel counterpart pays for itself after…. a dozen or so years.

In many countries the situation is different: government programmes beneficial to buyers bear fruit in the form of the market share of “electricians” and hybrids at the level of 50%. In 2017 the share of electric and hybrid cars sold in Norway was as high. However, electric cars are exempt from VAT, excise duty, registration and insurance fees. In addition, they can use bus lanes and park for free or for half the rate.

Promotion through sport

Electric cars are also gaining a more and more impressive bridgehead in motorsport. Since 2014, Formula 1 has been driven by a hybrid turbocharged 1.6 litre V6 internal combustion engine with two hybrid systems (one draws energy from the rear axle brakes, the other from the turbocharger). Currently, these units have reached the barrier of 1,000 horsepower….

Since 2012, Formula E championships have been held for fully electric racing cars. It is a dynamically developed and promoted series, in which former Formula 1 drivers take part. The races are held on short street tracks in the centres of the largest cities in the world (New York, Berlin, Paris, London).

The 2019 season will also see the start of an electric class in motorcycle competitions, as a series accompanying the prestigious MotoGP races. A year later, the rallycross world championships are to be driven by electric power – spectacular and contact races on a short track with a variable gravel and asphalt surface. Recently, the famous M-Sport rally team announced a plan to develop an electric rally boat. The Ford Fiesta-based car would be used for one-day events (echoes, these ranges…)

Stick and carrot

There is no doubt that electric cars are gaining more and more market share. The success of this offensive depends on three key factors. The first of these, global, is the development of technology: increasing range, battery life, lowering prices as production increases. The next two are already local, depending on the country. It’s about preparing the right infrastructure and encouraging drivers to invest in new technologies.

The latter element may take the form of positive (elimination of excise duty, various tax reliefs) or negative (discouraging combustion vehicles through various fees, subsidies, etc.). Of course, the most effective way is to combine these two techniques, a carrot and a stick.

33 of the two million

Experts estimate that thanks to technical development – especially in the field of batteries, which are becoming cheaper – between 2025 and 2030 the prices of electric cars and petrol cars will be more or less equal. For Norwegians, this may no longer matter – the plan of the Norwegian government assumes the complete elimination of the sale of combustion cars by 2025. France gives itself more time – until 2040.

If global progress continues to rush so smoothly, then in a few years’ time smoking gasoline cars may in fact remain a memory – at least in some countries, because there are no signs of electric offensive somehow – when in 2016 there were already over two million electric cars on the world’s roads, in Poland in the first half of the year they were registered exactly….