The tipping point for the mainstream acceptance of electrically-powered cars may already be with us, according to a study by US-based market analysts, Pike Research. Their research suggests that there are (and will continue to be) 3 main reasons why car manufacturers around the world are ramping up the production of electric cars: a) newly enacted fuel economy standards; b) greater confidence in electric powered vehicles; and c) advances in battery technology.
“In 2012, Toyota introduced the fifth-generation Prius, powered for the first time with lithium ion (Li-ion) batteries. The shift from nickel-metal hydride (NiMH) batteries to Li-ion represents a major endorsement of this chemistry as well as its ability to perform consistently in an automotive environment.
“The immediate future looks to be secure for the Li-ion chemistry, although there are many variants still under development to improve performance and reduce cost. The technology continues to improve, and leading battery cell manufacturers have built new factories utilizing the latest production techniques including greater automation and faster throughput.”
The Pike Research report goes on to predict that the overall market for Li-ion batteries in light duty transportation will grow from $1.6 billion in 2012 to almost $22 billion in 2020.
Despite what the likes of committed ‘petrol heads’ such as Top Gear presenter Jeremy Clarkson would have us believe, the production costs of electric cars – the principle determinant of which has always been the battery – are falling fast as all the major car manufacturers begin to reap the rewards of extensive research and technology improvements. A trend which is likely to continue as economies of scale also kick in.
Further research by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in 2011 calculated that an average, mid-sized family vehicle emits 5.1 metric tons of carbon dioxide a year into the atmosphere. Which means that if you were to load all the carbon emitted in a year by all the working cars currently in existence into a freight train, it would be long enough to reach the moon and back.
As far as we’re concerned, the sooner electric cars become the norm rather than the exception, the better.