Electric cars make up a very small part of the world’s total of vehicles: in terms of total new sales between 2013 and 2015, only Norway (22.39%), the Netherlands (9.74%), Iceland (2.93%), Sweden (2.62%) or Denmark (2.29%) exceed a mere 2% of the market quota, to which can be added some other selected regions like Hong Kong (4.84%) or California (3.1%).
The reasons why so few people buy electric cares is above all their price and the limits on the distances they can travel before a recharge is needed: so-called range anxiety. A lot of people still believe myths such as the one that says that electric cars also pollute, even though most of these myths have been disproven.
A recent MIT study looks at the potential for electric cars for personal transportation, and reveals that they would meet the needs of 87% of trips respondents currently take, based on GPS data and surveys that recorded hundreds of thousands of trips throughout the United States, a country with plenty of wide open spaces and widely sprawled cities requiring long daily trips between home and work.
The survey estimates that by 2020, electric cars would cover 99% of trips, even with today’s battery technology. Even in rural areas, where longer trips are the norm, the survey shows that electric cars would be able to undertake 81% of journeys.
The results show that the public’s range anxiety is widely overblown: current, mid-priced vehicles would meet 90% of needs, without taking into account recharging infrastructure (the MIT survey assumes that people only recharge their vehicles overnight at home. The new Tesla, with its 100 kWh battery, can travel 610 kms on a single charge.
But we should also factor in the impact of other types of electric vehicles such as public transport, along with car-sharing, car-pooling and ride-sharing, motorbikes and scooters (TechCrunch recently featured a visit to the Alta factory) and other similar amazing vehicles. At the same time, the higher cost of electric vehicles is compensated by lower maintenance costs.
Widespread use of electric vehicles would drastically reduce diesel and petrol use; by up to 60% in the case of the United States. If battery technology improves in the way the US government says it will, then that figure could rise to 88%, which would be a huge reduction in damage to the environment in terms of the greenhouse effect and respiratory diseases.
So what needs to be done to get more people to start using electric vehicles? Given that uptake has been biggest in cold countries, where batteries supposedly function less efficiently, leads one to think that it is ignorance of the subject, along with belief in myths, that prevent us from going out and buying an electric car. We need to know the facts if we are to make a balanced decision.
Electric cars no longer require expensive subsidies, as though they were some kind of extravagance: the majority of brands are getting on the program and prices are coming down. What’s more, electric cars are cool. How long will it take to change the preferences of decades on the part of a significant percentage of the population?
(En español, aquí)