Many people see the enormous advantages in electrically-powered vehicles, and lament the fact that there are relatively few of them in operation. With the technology in place to convert to an “on-grid” system of transportation, how long will it be before electric vehicles dominate the scene?
In order to answer this question, it is important to look at all facets of the problem. If we simply focus on the benefits of EVs, the resulting lack of enthusiasm for them and consequent low sales figures does not make sense. There are other factors which are contributing to the slow growth of EVs worldwide.
First, it is interesting to note that EV technology is not a new phenomenon. In the early 1900s, electric cars were actually a popular mode of transportation, and dominated the “new” technology of the gasoline-powered car. However, new advances in internal-combustion technology soon caused the gas engine to outstrip electric engines in terms of performance and operational costs.
At that time, gasoline was a relatively cheap commodity because of low demand, so those switching from an electric format to one based on fossil fuels noticed a sharp savings. Soon, the gasoline-powered engine was the preferred form of technology for automobiles.
During the 1970s and the sudden rise in gas prices, electric vehicles made a short comeback, but the leveling of oil prices effectively killed the new movement. However, the seeds were planted, and many dedicated researchers have spent the intervening years with an eye to the future, realizing that at some point, the volatile fossil fuel situation would again erupt and a demand for EVs would once again occur.
These lessons from history point to what is probably the real reason for the slow acceptance of EVs: money. It costs initially to change over to an EV and to change the power-consumption grid, so as long as people are tolerating gas prices, the switchover will not occur rapidly. If gas prices were suddenly to triple, of course, this attitude would likely be reassessed.
There are other, less tangible reasons for the resistance to EVs. Because of current battery technology limitations, EVs must be charged for a long time for relatively low performance in terms of mileage. As battery technology improves, more people may be willing to take the plunge to EVs.
Another reason some people are less than enamored of EVs in on-road performance. For people used to interstate highway travel of 70 to 80 mph, the idea of driving an EV and possibly doubling travel time is less than appealing.
This complaint is diminishing as EV makers focus on creating vehicles which can travel at higher rates of speed, but it is likely that a “slow-down” in traveler mentality will have to occur with a wholesale adoption of EVs. That is unlikely to happen overnight, and many still prefer powerful, gasoline-powered engines to the less stunning performance of EVs.
When can we expect to see more EV acceptance? Most likely, when gas prices finally pass the mythical “price ceiling” which customers are willing to pay. At that point, expect to see more charging options springing up in public places and more EVs on the road.
Once the landslide starts toward EVs, it is unlikely that there will be a return to the old, gas-powered systems which are favored by most today. However, at this point, it is impossible to predict how long that shift will take.