Misconceptions regarding electric cars

EU's Fit for 55 plan includes quite ambitious emissions reduction targets for the car industry and this has initiated a big discussion in the industry and among thought-leaders. I would like to point out two topics where our thinking tends to go wrong and where looking at the wider picture makes sense

Let's think wider than just switching the power source from internal combustion to battery-electric.

Here is a photo of one of the first cars made. It is a 1896 Arnold Benz, whose driver Walter Arnold received the worlds first speeding ticket for driving 13km/h with it. As you can see the car looks like a horse carriage minus the horse. It was only a few decades later that cars were considered to be cars and not horse carriages with engines and could therefore be designed differently.

At present day we have a similar problem and are stuck in the thinking that an electric vehicle must be a car where everything must be otherwise the same only the engine to be a battery powered electric engine.

But this conception misses one fundamental problem. That is that for electric battery powered cars range is expensive, weighs a lot and takes a lot of space. For a gasoline engine adding range means just a bigger tank, so for 100km of range you need:
-  8 litres of space
-  5,7kg of extra weight
- a few euros for the extra plastic of the tank.

For an electric battery powered car an extra 100km of range (rough calculation based on 2 models of Hyundai Kona) means:
- 75kg of extra weight
- Almost 3000euros for the bigger and more energy dense battery and more powerful engine.

The fundamental reason for this is the difference in energy density of batteries and gasoline:

The important result of this is that for gas cars the costs of range are irrelevant and driving short trips (to the supermarket, to work, to kindergarten) with a car that has a 500+km range is OK. Even driving with a full tank does not create much waste.
However, for electric battery cars taking the big expensive battery with you for short trips is a huge waste. We don't need the 10keur, 400kg battery that fills half of the trunk to drive 10km to work and back.

So maybe the future will be:
- Cheap, short-range cars for everyday driving with less than 50km range
- Big expensive (rental) cars for the trips to the countryside.
or maybe we will do all the short-range travelling with e-bikes, e-scooters and Vok Bikes

Substituting trips not (just) the vehicles
The other conception that we are stuck with is the idea that to become fossil fuel free means substituting the fossil fuel vehicles with electric vehicles. What we should think instead is substituting our fossil vehicle trips with either not travelling or fossil fuel free trips. When you think this way then we have a lot of positive things happening:
- If instead of driving to the office every day you would work from home 2 days a week then you have would cut your work-trip emitions by 40%. A huge shift! Use an e-bike for the 3 other days and you cut work-trip emissions by 100%. Wohoo!
- If cities would plan school, daycare, hobby possibilities so that children and adults could walk or bike to them then we could cut tens of percents of "school-trip" emissions.
- Last mile electric delivery robots will substitute some of the trips to the nearest supermarket.
- Online meetings instead of travelling to the customer office.
- Online shopping with electric van-s doing the delivery instead of driving to the shopping mall.

All in all we have a lot of good things happening and in private transport cutting the emissions drastically is really possible. Ships and airplanes are a bit harder.


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