Electric Cars may well be the future, but I firmly believe as rushed as everyone is about them; it’s not their time… yet. At least for me.
Before electric cars became all the rage in the world, Hollywood adopted the hybrid Toyota Prius.
This car was an ugly display of the self-righteous carbon footprint of celebrities in the face of the public and enthusiasts. The car was far from being “electric” in the same way that eating eggs, cheese and meat once a week makes me a vegan; another blemish for Michelin star chefs all around the world.
In comparison, the McLaren P1.
Now, this is a hybrid car. Of course, the fuel efficiency is somewhere between 5-7 km. But it is a hybrid. And for a purpose-built machine, it is damned right. For comparison, if you’re driving the Prius like a man with piles and a bad back you might get some decent figures, otherwise it’s as bad as any other weapon of global warming.
However, before the P1 came, things changed quickly…
Enter one Elon Musk.
Mars. Let’s go to mars. Now, give me all your money.– Elon Musk
MUSK, TESLA and the CYBERTRUCK
Musk with his brilliant business branding power as proven historically, had taken it upon himself to take the fight to the big ones (Ford, VW, etc) in personal transport. Moreover, he chose a domestic market where the “gas-guzzling” pick-up trucks dominated, although the answer to that monster as the Cybertruck shall come much later in the story that is Tesla electric cars.
Tesla had made the electric cars pleasing to look at again, the Tesla cars no-doubt looked more like the sedans and crossover cars we are used to. Not like the electric rickshaws. Although beauty is subjective as in the case of Cybertruck. I never claimed I understood Americans.
And I will also, never understand why Americans call petrol, a liquid fuel – Gas.– Buddha.
There were some clever design choices both inside and out. The noiseless electric motors helped, with no engine in the front clever guys at marketing earned a new yearly bonus calling the space under the bonnet a “Frunk”. There was also a screen as big as a monitor in the centre console. Plus the gimmicks of debatable “self-driving” and the singing and dancing with flapping doors, the Tesla became an instant hit.
And they had the advantage of looking down on the environmentally damaging, wildlife exterminating, polar ice cap melting, cancerous acid rain, and war for oil causing cars. Indeed a great value
So, the fuel for the motors running the vehicle is electricity as is said itself in the name Electric Cars. Plug it in the sockets, charge and off you go… like you are already used to with your mobile phone/tablets and laptops… but, the fine print tells a very different story.
Lets make some trouble…
First, there’s the question of the infrastructure of charging… your normal type C or another USB cable will not work. That will require tesla to come to your place of residence and fit a charging station with sufficient voltage and other parameters and a socket to plug in your car through a cable that can only be used for tesla cars. God forbid if you damage that charging cable. If you have too many chargers and cables at home for mobile phones, wireless devices, laptops, computers and cameras try one more. Apple is sweating.
Second, it is an immediate problem if you live in an apartment complex, how will the electricity used by you to charge your vehicle be billed in your name. And what if
I am ahem* a mischievous person is your neighbour. They will, (I guarantee) just pull out the cable at night while you think it’s happily charging and the next morning will show you the battery at 2% in the red. Worse, they might use your cable, your electricity and, you getting billed to charge their car with it. Sometimes the cameras in parking aren’t all that trustworthy, and people are James bloody Bond.
The third is a problem with electric storage i.e. batteries. The next big thing in innovation must be the batteries as I’ve been saying for the past 10 years. I have unfortunately yet to see it materialize. You see batteries are heavy and the storage is limited, extraction of rare earth materials, enrichment, processing to finally making a battery is a very polluting process. So, the environment and wildlife friendliness is thrown out of the window at first instance.
If you have heavyset passengers and tugging along extra weight with it like luggage and or you are towing extra you’ve effectively reduced the range again. Making charging a very regular thing, more so in the middle of a journey. The batteries themselves have a very limited charging cycle and that reduces on a bigger scale. So the ability to hold the charge and the fluctuation with regards to temperature changes will be higher as the vehicle gets older. The EVs have to solve the transportation of goods which is weight over the weight of the battery, a cycle of odds. If you count out electric trains then almost no progress has been made in that category.
So, the viability of electric mobility in cities is still great considering shorter travelling distances and upgradeable; if expensive infrastructure. Also, given if we can provide the charge without burning fossil fuels like coal power then electric power is quieter, cleaner, less expensive to maintain and gives you more space for storage even though it may reduce your range.
Fourth is the time taken for charging itself. If you have a car that runs on fossil fuel you can be damned sure that even in busy hours you can get her filled up and be on the road in a matter of minutes, in the case of electric cars, even with faster charging the minutes will be piling up. If you’re in a rush, imagine coming up to a roadside charging station with 20 charging ports all of them filled up and people talking about saving the environment and being the next avatar. It’s the stuff of nightmares. And oh, forgive me if you’re going uphill. You might as well take a cardboard cut out and a broad marker pen in your trunk or in case of a tesla the frunk to write a destination on. Expecting a lift, from hopefully not a psychopathic murderer.
Save us from this and please get graphene going ASAP!
Maybe they’ll come up with interchangeable batteries that you can swap and be good to go in minutes. Please, dear reader with great ideas read further…
Fifth and the most important in this chain in my opinion… the power and where it comes from to charge your vehicle. The coal-powered plants. Everybody knows that is not good. The only country I believe that can claim to have made a difference in that area is France, more than 70% of their electricity comes from nuclear power. At least they can doubt free charge up all their batteries without losing sleep. That’s the entire idea, isn’t it?
And do not even get started on renewable sources like wind and solar, they aren’t up to the mark. The silicon despite being much more efficient than a few years ago isn’t a fit and forget project. The wind is worse. The investment is so high and the dependence on the unknown of weather gods is disturbing, not to mention the large open area requirement for solar and wind farms. Cons so far outnumber the pros.
Let’s study the case of why Mr Elon Musk doesn’t like Singapore.
Singapore Vs. Tesla :
Elon Musk has said that Singapore has been unwelcoming of Tesla. Which was softer than his previous statement as reported in US news that the Singapore government is “not supportive” of Tesla or electric vehicles.
So, what happened there? Singapore is called a city nation, being small to the size of a city, a nation that is densely populated. Their outlook on personal 4 wheeled vehicles have been of restricting their number by issuing permits of ownership and making their cost actually kind of unbearable. So, unless you’re pretty important and rich your chances for a personal car are about as good as owning a 10% share in Tesla itself. For instance, a Suzuki Swift a pretty common hatchback in South Asia is about the price of an entry-level German luxury car in the rest of South Asia.
But don’t start feeling too good about yourself owning a Hyundai just yet. Let us see how a bustling metropolis like Singapore gets over the hurdle of transportation. The answer is simple, a very affordable and robust public transport system. Singapore has it as one of the best. And they are more interested in hybrid-powered buses and taxies and personal transport for the time being. Bringing the best of both worlds without making a hole in the pockets and investing and upgrading in the ever-changing infrastructure requirements to keep electric mobility for personal vehicles. In fact, the Singapore government has plans to invest heavily in mass transport. Even going as far as making a model mini town to test and run and check the viability of driverless public mass transportation. That is two steps ahead of the game if you ask me. But, let’s be clear Singapore can do it because as said they are a city nation, small, totally urbanized and ready for such projects.
In emerging markets like India, while Tesla’s announcement of entry creates a big buzz and hype, I am thus not very enthusiastic about it. In cities like Bangalore, where the only thing working in its favour is apparently the weather and parks, and now Tesla. As it plans to have a plant there.
I am sure EVs (Electric Vehicles) will work given the horrible traffic conditions and congestion. I am also sure about electric mobility working in tier 1 cities in India or anywhere else in the world, working – yes. But, to what extent dominating? I am not making any bets. I am again sure about Bollywood and other elites buying Tesla one and all. This is great because I’ve never given a thought to endorsement by celebrities who drink single malt and advertise for a much cheaper brand of alcohol favoured by students in hostel.
There is a bright side though. A Bangalore based start-up Pravaig, developed a Made In India E.V. (electric vehicle) mode called Extinction Mk. 1 and tested it. There’s your silver lining.
I am hoping and praying that being a domestic producer they might be able to come up with simple solutions to the questions I’ve raised, with some indigenous ingenuity. I am looking forward to that.
I am excited and electrified about that and I am rooting and cheering for that.
May the god of thunder be with you. And because I am not northern European or even Australian it would be the god Indra.