There still is much uncertainty regarding how quickly the world will transition from vehicles with internal combustion engines to electric vehicles.
It may be possible that there could be no long-term future for electric vehicles at all. One of the major issues that has been preventing more people from purchasing electric vehicles is a sometimes perceived and often a genuine lack of options for charging these types of vehicles throughout the world.
There are a relatively large number of charging stations when compared to the number of electric vehicles on the road. Many companies are presently working to create even more: Tesla continues to add to its Supercharger network of which there are already 1,600 stations globally, Volkswagen is providing significant financing for Electrify America stations, General Motors and Bechtel are planning a charging network, Duke Energy is installing chargers in rural areas, and Royal Dutch Shell is working to integrate charging stations into Shell gasoline stations.1
Even with these charging stations rollouts, there still are many millions of miles of roads that do not yet offer convenient charging options.
For this reason and more, 100% electric vehicles may never reach the widespread global potential and popularity that many people believe is inevitable. By 2025, J.P. Morgan predicts that plug-in electric vehicles will account for around 8.4 million of the vehicles on the road, which would be a 7.7% market share; yet, this pales in comparison to the market share that hybrid electric vehicles (fuel engines with electric elements) are expected to hold—over 25 million vehicles, or 23% of the market.2
On top of the threat hybrid electric vehicles pose to the future of 100% electric vehicles, China’s recent push toward the utilization of hydrogen fuel cell vehicles will also make it harder for electric vehicles to reach the potential that many people expected.
Hydrogen fuel cells use chemical reaction to produce energy, they emit only water vapor, and they have a much better energy-to-weight ratio when compared to lithium-ion batteries which makes it easier to take longer trips without having to worry about recharging frequently.
However, there seems to be just as much uncertainty surrounding the future of hydrogen fuel cells as there is in the future popularity of 100% electric vehicles. High costs have prevented many individuals from giving hydrogen fuel cells a try, the rarity of platinum which is a key component has also caused issues, and there are major concerns regarding the difficulties in storing hydrogen and in preventing fires resulting from hydrogen’s high flammability.3
The decisions and directions that China decides to take will undoubtedly play a significant role as to whether hydrogen fuel cells prevail over electric vehicles, or vice versa.
That being said, India seems focused on making electric vehicles the predominant success, and they have the added benefit of being able to learn from what China already has done to spur electric vehicle usage in Asia. India also has plans to make innovations of its own in order to make electric vehicles more appealing: “Indian ride-hailing giant Ola . . . intends to opt for a battery swapping model where a fully charged battery would quickly replace the discharged one at swapping stations. Bounce too is experimenting with battery swaps.”4
Other developments also may spur greater adoption of 100% electric vehicles, including the announcement that Tesla is on the verge of producing a million-mile battery,5 and the production of batteries that charge as fast as it takes to fill the tank of a car with an internal combustion engine.6
As mentioned, it really is impossible to predict the individual futures of these different forms of cutting-edge renewable energy vehicles, but there certainly are many more electric options out there. Car companies that now offer or will offer electric vehicle models include Aston Martin’s Lagonda marque, Nissan, Audi, Mercedes, Honda, Kia, Jaguar, Porsche, Mercedes Benz, Cadillac, Volkswagen, and, of course, Tesla.7
Indeed, the company most recognized when it comes to electric vehicles is feeling competition for its brand that simply didn’t exist when the first Tesla was manufactured: according to Ed Kim, AutoPacific’s vice president of industry analysis, “The new electric vehicles are aimed directly at Tesla. . . . The vast majority of them are in the Tesla price range. Tesla has real competitors.”8
As per Jaguar Land Rover’s general manager of product development David Larsen, there are opportunities to address issues with current electric vehicles in order to produce new ones that are more appealing to people in the future: “It’s a different driving experience.... There’s a steep learning curve. The first time I drove the I-Pace I had to turn off the regen braking. It felt weird.”9
It is certainly true that driving electric cars can take some getting used to. The regenerative brakes that Larsen mentions enable electric vehicles to utilize single pedal driving, but if you lift your foot off the pedal immediately, the car will attempt to stop immediately. If the regen braking system is set to its highest level, a driver can easily be jolted, confused, and disheartened.
It may seem as though electric vehicles will be filling the streets any month now, but Kim argues that it will take years or even decades for that to be the case: “Electric cars are not mainstream yet.... There’s a lot of momentum building behind electrification, especially in Europe and Asia. Automakers will push them even though they’re low volume vehicles. They need North American sales. Consumers have to buy into the advantages of having an EV.”9
Regardless of whether or not electric vehicles end up dominating the global market, the future for electric vehicles is still bright. If India is able to develop effective and efficient battery-swapping stations, that would eliminate the concerns that many prospective buyers have about having to sit and wait for long periods of time—far longer than it takes to currently use a gas station for refueling—while they’re waiting for an electric battery to recharge. Innovative thinking like this could be just what electric vehicles need to reclaim widespread legitimacy as the vehicles of the future. If you have the next big idea for an electric vehicle and need funding for your idea we are clean energy experts and can help you bring your idea to life.
1 A game changer is coming for electric car owners
2 Driving into 2025: The Future of Electric Vehicles
3 China’s Father of Electric Cars Says Hydrogen Is the Future
4 India turns to electric vehicles to beat pollution
5 Tesla May Soon Have a Battery that Can Last One Million Miles
6 What If You Could Charge an Electric Car as Fast as Filling a Tank?
7 What automakers aren't telling you about electric vehicles