You may have heard from the Elvis song „The great pretender“. I’ve chosen this title wisely, because here in Germany – the home of automotive innovations of the world – our government and the car industry work hand in hand pretending, that drastic change isn’t needed. The topic e-mobility almost always lead to heated discussions, which are barely objective. Rare, very specific occasions are named, often mixed with wrong conclusions and a great lack of knowledge. Here comes the third power into place: the media. It does its part to keep people at bay, meaning „pro combustion engine“, because that’s what the big three in Germany want. Sell big, heavy gasoline monster.
First step in solving a problem is recognizing there is one. So let’s look at the facts and by doing so, there is no direct connection to e-mobility in the first place.
Our earth is dying and we, the humans, are causing it. Not one single sane mind would doubt climate change. We just had over 40 degrees twice this summer in Germany. All across the world our weather goes nuts with floods, droughts, tornados, you name it. With 7 billion people on the planet and soon +10 we simply cannot allow them our lifestyle, if this lifestyle is powered like we power ours: with oil, coal and nuclear. Because if we do, we are fucked. That’s why we need another solution.
That brings us to sustainable energy sources like wind, solar, tidal wave plants etc etc. As long as the moon stays where it is, we’ll have waves. Weather systems will arise, the wind will blow. As an icing on the cake we have this giant nuclear power reactor which will always (well at least a few million years or so) rise in the morning and set in the evening: The sun. All those power generators have one thing in common: The energy comes pretty neatly packed in cables, transported straight to your door step. It’s electric!
Skeptics may say, that producing solar panels, windmills etc also causes pollution. Hell ya, I don’t doubt that. But so do power plants, oil fields, refineries etc.
Engine powered by source
Many critics also say, that the electricity is produced with dirty sources like coal. Yeah, that may or may not be the case. But there is one tiny little detail, which all of you doubter out there must keep in mind. Once you purchase a Diesel or Gas car, once a city decides to buy a fleet of Diesel buses for public transportation, you are stuck with this dirty energy source for life(time of the vehicle). An electric platform gives you adaptability, it is energy source agnostic!
The only conclusion out of this logic – as fragile it may be is – can only be, the car/ transport industry need to go electric.
Prejudices versus electric cars
Repeatedly those three arguments come to mind, when one discusses about e-mobility.
- Electric cars are too expensive
- Electric cars only drive for less than 200km
- Electric cars cannot be charged anywhere
The answers to those questions are simple and the funny thing: There is one single car company proofing them all wrong. Tesla Motors. A company founded years ago with one vehicle: A roadster with an insane price tag. But they learned, adapted, changed, learned again, improved and then introduced one of the most exciting cars there is: Tesla Model S.
- Batteries are expensive. As the car industry has done with innovations well in the past, introduce them in the luxury segment with fewer units but customers with deep pockets. Over lifetime the technology slowly vaporizes through the cracks until it ends up in a tiny little shit box (see Airbags, power steering etc.)
- Model S driver easily go beyond those 200km on a single charge. By the way, 50% of the public drives less than 10km to work roundtrip, another 30% reaches their desks after 50km (Source). I know, 99,9% of all reading this claim, that this isn’t true. Don’t go crazy on me, because you are the 20% minority.
- This one is funny. Girls blow dry in the morning and guys shave. Apparently the access to electricity seems not to be a huge problem. Again it is Tesla with its Supercharger network who helps you out here while not at home.
Solutions offered by german carmakers
Just recently the german public television broadcasted a piece, locating the biggest preventer of e-mobility within the industry and the government. Vehicles like a Porsche Cayenne receive a little electric engine and can drive up to 20-50km fully electric. But mainly the electric engine is used to get a little extra kick out of the 0-100 km/h.
Supported by the german government those insane gasoline guzzlers can be accounted for to decrease the overall fleet consumption mix. Our government doesn’t help the car industry by protecting their laziness. They have slept through the Hybrids (see Toyota Prius) and never really created a similar success. The bosses only thought bigger, faster and more power, instead of having a closer look to those mega cities around the world and how traffic looks like there. I’m sorry to disclose this, but it’s not all green grass, blue skies and clean air everywhere. It is even harder to believe, if you look at the facts of VWs unit sales across the world. China is the biggest market with 35% of all sales. Ever been to a chinese city? Man, all of them host millions and you are lucky to see the sky once a day.
Only BMW takes this task seriously. In the mid 2000s the board made a bold decision and invested heavily in BMWi. I really admire their entrepreneurial spirit, but they also didn’t go the extra mile. Somewhere along the way they lost courage. The fantastic looking i8 comes as a hybrid and only the roomy i3 is available as a pure electric version. One can argue design, but I recommend everyone to take it for a spin. It’s huge, drives super smooth and the concept of renewable materials is unique.
The rest isn’t very innovative but pretending. They take regular vehicles and transform them to electric vehicles. This is wrong in two ways:
- God damn it, I want everyone to see, that I’m a treehugger. A little blue „e“ on the back of my Golf doesn’t do it
- An electric concept is built completely different, starting with the battery pack on the floor and with the lack of an engine compartment. Those technical requirements hardly can be adjusted to a regular car.
How to do it right
Also Renault/ Nissan have some interesting vehicles available. Just a few weeks back another company turned off stealth mode and entered the arena, causing a lot of noise in this corner of the news: Faraday Future from Gardena, CA. What strikes me is the fact, that USA is all of the sudden the technology leader and driver, while Mercedes, Audi and BMW try to keep up with them. Back in the days they were laughing at Tesla and their vision. After best ratings in crash tests, customer satisfaction, awards after awards and higher sales figures in California than A8, 7 series and S class combined, laughter lapsed into silence.
Norway and California state are openly discussing to ban combustion engines by 2025/ 2030. Older fellows remember the tough regulations from California for pollution and how this became a global trend. It comes without saying, that our industry leaders realize the challenge at hand. That’s why Audi has announced a competitor to the Tesla Model X by 2018. Interesting side note: Audi sells this new SUV as a Tesla fighter. Strange world, huh? From forward thinking to a follower within a couple of years. By the way, Audi doesn’t go all in, since the SUV is not built all electric. It comes with other power sources like – ring the bell – combustion engine.
The biggest challenge for electric transportation is more charging stations. I still cannot believe, that a small start up from California installs thousands of chargers across the globe, while Europe agreed on a common plug last year. Now I can hear Elon Musk and his team rolling on the floor laughing. Rumor has it, BMW was in contact with Tesla to use their supercharger network. Again, strange world, huh?! Oh, talking about strange: Tesla has opened up their patents for everyone to use. This Musk guy gives our old economy a real headache!
In UK they consider charging through the air while driving on special lanes on the road, Tesla will soon build the gigafactory and researchers across the world try to increase the density of batteries.
I saved the worst for the final punchline. While google and Uber run pilots with (self driving) vehicles, there is one other tech giant supposedly entering the arena. Usually they literally destroy the old players or may transform them to suppliers. I’m talking fruits and I make a bet: If Apple really will sell cars, one of the big three in Germany will shrink to basically non-existant. And please, don’t argue with complexity and shit. They have so much money in cash, they can buy 2/3 of germans car industry and still have so much money left to book all advertising space in all car magazines in the world for decades.
The future is electric and I’m electrified. Go spark, share the love.