In little more than five years, it will be cheaper to buy and run an electric car than a gas-powered car. This, more than anything else, might be the tipping point that gets people off the gas teat.
The figures come from Bloomberg New Energy Finance and rely on predictions that battery prices will drop and that sales of electric cars will jump, reaching 35% of global car new sales by 2040 or roughly 41 million vehicles. This would be a 90-fold increase on today’s electric vehicle (EV) sales.
“At the core of this forecast is the work we have done on EV battery prices, said BNEF’s Colin McKerracher in a press release. “Lithium-ion battery costs have already dropped by 65% since 2010, reaching $350 per kWh last year. We expect EV battery costs to be well below $120 per kWh by 2030, and to fall further after that as new chemistries come in.”
The people at Bloomberg also predict a recovery and rise of oil prices, which will make gas vehicles more expensive to run.
Right now, EVs are being bought, like all new technology, by early adopters. But soon, like with cellphones, iPods and VCRs, the prices is supposed to drop and the rest of the population follows along. Eventually, driving your car to the gas station to fill up will seem as absurd as having to wait a week to get your photos back from the lab or queueing at the bank on a Friday lunchtime to withdraw enough cash to last the weekend.
Another thing which may make electric cars cheaper is size, or a lack of it. A smaller car needs less power to move it around. Today’s huge cars are possible partly because gasoline is such an efficient way to store energy. You can move a lot of steel, glass, and plastic cup holders on a relatively small tank of gas. When we move to batteries, we might realize just how wasteful it is to haul around all that extra weight, and buy smaller cars instead.
One reason people buy big cars is safety. When a big car hits a small one, the small one will come off worse. But if all cars were smaller, then that wouldn’t be a concern. The switch to electric and the rise driverless vehicles, presents a big opportunity for cities to rethink their infrastructure. Taking away parking spaces, or banning SUVs might be political suicide, but it’s a lot easier to control new things. For instance, subsidized charging could be banned in on-street parking spots or limited only to cars under a certain size. And as city centers are pedestrianized, delivery vehicles could be limited only to early-morning or overnight access (something already in effect in some cities), which means that small cars never have to meet big trucks.
All this assumes that we keep using cars, when it might be better for everyone just to get rid of the things, in cities at least, and give all that space back to the people. That’s a long shot, though, so in the meantime we’ll settle for zero emissions, and silent electric motors over noisy machines that pump toxins into our air as they rumble by.
Have something to say about this article? You can email us and let us know. If it’s interesting and thoughtful, we may publish your response.