When we talk about electric cars, we often mention the Tesla company and its visionary CEO, Elon Musk. Or Toyota Prius, which many even consider (wrongly) to be the first electric car ever. In popular culture, electromobility appeared for the first time only some 30 years ago, when in fact, battery-powered vehicles have been around for nearly one and a half centuries!
First electric cars appeared on the streets of France in 1881 and the UK in 1884. Soon challenged by their internal combustion counterparts, they lost the competition. Petrol- and diesel-powered vehicles have become mainstream for over a century until new inventions in the capacity of batteries and the need to save the environment revived electromobility. Despite the rapid growth of this segment, electric cars in late 2020 still amounted to merely 1% of total passenger vehicles in Europe. But let's leave the past behind and concentrate on what is to come.
The future of electric cars
Predicting is an extremely difficult task, especially when it comes to the future. Fortunately, for electromobility in Europe, there is a clear upward trend. More and more car manufacturers add EVs to their line-ups. It is partly due to customers' expectations and partly to more or less legit desires of the industry to fight global pollution. Another obvious reason for the constant development is that car manufacturers don't want to stay behind their competition. However, before we can do away with internal combustion engines and introduce widespread electromobility, EV producers need to address some problems.
What has to change in the cars of the future?
The most profound disadvantage of the current EVs is their limited range, coupled with long charging times. That, in turn, causes their drivers to suffer from 'range anxiety'. It is a common occurrence and can be described as a fear of being stranded out on the road, with a depleted battery and no means of charging.
Financial Times estimates that for Britain to be capable of fully embracing electromobility, it needs to create at least 2,8 million new public charging points by 2035. It is unlikely that the government will be able to keep up with the demand. Nevertheless, the network is constantly growing. We should also mention the increasing number of car-charging sockets in private homes.
So, when will all cars be electric UK drivers ask? Those vehicles are unfortunately still much more expensive than their petrol and diesel counterparts. Ban on internal combustion engines will not work in this case, as it will not make EVs any cheaper. What can do some good here is the good, old competition.
Sooner or later, there will be many more makes and models available on the market. To stand out from the crowd, car manufacturers will have to make their products more affordable to the general public. And so, the development is two-fold. On the one hand, automotive companies announce new premium future electric cars, such as the Audi A6 E-Tron, BMW i4 or the first all-electric Land Rover, all of them expected in 2023 - 2024. Even luxury brands aren't immune to the change. Bentley has recently announced that by 2025 they will have launched their first all-electric limousine, and by 2030 there will be no more new internal combustion Bentleys. On the other hand, inexpensive models are coming to dealerships soon too.
Tesla wants to stay at the forefront of the change. Even though their Model 3 has recently become the world's best selling premium car, they have plans to launch a more affordable one, with an incredible price tag of just £20.000. And they want to do that in just three years. They also plan to expand the range of their vehicles by over 50% by adapting new batteries in mid-2022. While the new Tesla will not beat the prices of small city cars, such as Skoda CITIGOe iV or Dacia Spring (under £17.000 and £15.000, respectively), other manufacturers aim to do precisely that with their new superminis.
Another option - electricity from hydrogen
Alternative scenario for the foreseeable future is also the dawn of Hydrogen Fuel Cells cars. In their case, an electric engine is going to be powered by hydrogen converted to electricity. At the current step of the design process, those vehicles could travel over 400 miles on one charge and re-charge 100 miles of range in just 10 minutes. There is a disadvantage, though. Hydrogen Fuel Cells will require a brand new network of H2 'petrol stations'. When we see how slow the development of EV charging points is, optimism is, unfortunately, hard to come by.
The future is happening now
The 'inevitable dawn' of electromobility has already been announced several times in the last decade. And we think that just like the end of the world, it will be postponed time and again. Whatever the sceptics might say, electric vehicles are now the only way forward towards effective, affordable and clean transportation of people and goods. According to the analysts of Edmunds, an online resource for all automotive information, 2021 is going to be a pivotal year for electric cars. And so, all the enthusiasts need to do now is sit back, relax, and enjoy the (motor) show.