That ex-wife is an EV. Electric vehicle, if you prefer the long version. Lots of talk, little action. This year, the world watched in amazement the launch of not one, but two such cars: the Volt and the Leaf. “Two arch rivals are born”, “Death of the ICE engine”, “Revenge of the Electric Car”, newspapers headlines read.
Words, millions of them, on paper or on your home computer’s screen, praised the birth of a new way of motoring and the death of another, which, for better or worse, has been with us for more than a century now. Thanks to those words, the world now expects streets to buzz with electric life by the end of the decade and the internal combustion engine to become a museum piece.
Wake up, people! That's not going to happen. Well, it will, but it'll mean nothing to us. We, the current generation, won't live long enough to see EVs take over the world. There are too many elements working against them, too little of an infrastructure to support them and a great deal of ignorance to prolong the pain for more, much more than one decade.
What works against EVs? Take your pick! Mentality (how many of you really consider buying one?), price (more expensive than regular cars), range anxiety (a myth, according to Pike Research, but so heavily advertised that it may soon become reality), battery issues...
And yes, infrastructure. There are countless charging solutions and providers are scrambling, like ants on the way to a termite war, to place their stations at every bend in the road. But that only happens in the US and a few other countries. Sorry to say, boys and girls, but the world does not mean only the US and a few other countries. And, even if it were, you, me and everybody else you know will be long dead by the time chargers are to be found anywhere you look.
Yes, electric vehicles are here, but only a handful. What's important is that, for now, they're not here to save the planet. They're here to save a car maker's average fuel consumption and emission figures.
More than a year ago, electric vehicles were for me just a placebo pill for a dying (at the time) automotive industry, a reason for hope when the threat of bankruptcy loomed over the heads of many. Now, after actually seeing such models launched, I still feel the same way.
Think of it like this. The US and Germany announced plans to force the adoption of a million or two EVs by the end of the decade. We all applauded. But then we realized what a small number that is, compared to the total size of the world's auto fleet.
I like EVs just as much as the next guy and I truly think they are a solution to some of our problems. But it seems to me that the world expects too much from the newcomers. Three years ago, none of the manufacturers launching EVs today were even considering them as a viable choice. Now, everybody rushes in, head on, and promise a 2011 filled with electron joy.
In the distant future, the world will probably be different. EVs, or some other type of vehicle, will have long killed ICE. But, for now, their arrival remains just a fact. Not a wonder of the modern world, but a corporate strategy. Not an evolution, but the start of one. Let it take its course.