The idea of fully electric cars has been around for decades. Although progress may be slower than what many would like to see, there is still a noticeable trend towards electric cars.
A major shift towards electric cars would have a positive impact on our environment, which could prove to be an essential step towards slowing the rate of climate change. However, progress still needs to be made and demand will need to significantly increase before EVs can officially take over.
Current types of electric cars
There are three main types of electric vehicles (EV), which are hybrid electric vehicles, battery electric vehicles and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles. The following is an overview of each type:
- Hybrid electric vehicles (HEV) – These use both an electric motor and a gasoline engine. The electric motor is powered through regenerative braking. Once the electric motor runs out, the gasoline engine seamlessly takes over. Examples of HEVs include the Toyota Prius Hybrid, Toyota Camry Hybrid and Honda Civic Hybrid.
- Plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEV) – These are similar to HEVs and can charge through regenerative braking. However, they can also be charged by plugging them in. They have both a gas-powered engine and an electric motor. Examples of PHEVs include the Chrysler Pacifica, Mercedes 350e and the Toyota Prius.
- Battery electric vehicles (BEV) – These are what people mean when they say “fully electric.” BEVs do not contain a gasoline engine, and they are powered solely by electricity. Examples of BEVs include the Tesla Model S, Tesla Model 3 and Toyota RAV4.
The type of electric car factors into the potential range. The typical range for HEVs and PHEVs is between 5 and 40 miles. BEVs can run for as many as 90 miles.
Barriers to fully electric cars
There are several factors that are keeping EVs from becoming more common. The most notable barriers include electric driving range limitations, cost of EVs, availability of charging stations and the oil industry.
The range is perhaps the biggest hurdle car manufacturers must overcome. As mentioned, some BEVs are capable of traveling close to 100 miles on electric power, but for many, this is not enough. Of course, most do not travel more than 100 miles in the average day, but most would still prefer more long-range reliability for longer trips.
In addition to the maximum range limit, there is also a concern with the predictability of how long the battery will last. Many electric cars do not perform as well when the temperature is hot or cold or if they are in more mountainous areas.
The cost of electric cars is another concern for many Americans. Like with traditional cars, the price of electric cars varies, and one can expect to pay anywhere from $25,000 to $100,000 for an electric car. Although this is not far more than traditional cars, there are concerns about the longevity of electric cars as many are not able to handle hundreds of thousands of miles the way most traditional cars can.
There is no doubt that charging stations would have to be a part of a future in which electric cars are popular. Charging stations would make the issue of distance limitation easier to deal with. A major concern for many is the nightmare scenario of running out of electric battery in a BEV and not having the ability to quickly charge the battery. If charging stations were more commonplace and located in most cities, then it could one day replace gas stations and serve a similar purpose.
The oil industry
One often-overlooked hurdle that fully electric cars must get through is the oil industry. The fact is fully electric cars has a competitor, a huge competitor. The oil industry is a trillion-dollar industry, and they will not go down without a fight. For fully electric cars to surpass gas-powered vehicles, it would inevitably mean a significant decline in the oil industry, and that is something that will not be easy to accomplish.
Forecasting the demand for electric cars
Many expected us to make a stronger shift towards EVs. Although progress has not happened at a fast pace, there does seem to be an uptick in demand for fully electric cars. The increased demand has occurred for several reasons:
- A better understanding of how fossil fuels impact the environment
- Improvements in EV performance and design
- Longer battery power in new battery electric vehicles
- Larger players are entering the market and making affordable BEVs
The hope for many is that the trend towards fully electric cars not only continues but picks up its pace. If so, we could see them take over within the next 15-20 years and possibly as soon as 2030.
A world reimagined
Most notably, fully electric cars will have a positive impact on the environment. As we learn more about the threats climate change presents, we know a reduction in carbon emissions is essential. Cars account for 20% of emissions in the US each year. A large shift towards electric cars can certainly help.
From an operational standpoint, not much would change if we were to successfully make a transition away from gas-powered cars to electric vehicles. Charging stations would begin to become commonplace and eventually replace many gas stations. Car manufacturers shift their focus to the development of electric cars. Competition would lead to major advancements in the performance of EVs.
The bottom line
There is a growing interest in electric rides. As demand increases, more car manufacturers are beginning to develop and focus on battery electric vehicles. At the current rate of demand increase, we could see them take over within the next thirty years. If demand increases, we could see a major shift towards fully electric cars in the next 10 to 20 years.