The Economist reviews the speed of change in motor vehicles.  The internal combustion engine’s replacement by the electric motor is happening faster than expected. It often seems that technical progress exceeds expectations, while we humans change slowly.


Image via Wikimedia Commons

The implications are clear.  More electrical energy usage; less fossil fuel usage, leading to demand reduction.  Greater impetus to “leave it in the ground”, and growth of such stranded assets as an issue for utilities, fossil-fuel corporations and the governments that subsidize and enable them.  If, that is, we can overcome resistance to change by fossil-fuel companies, their captured governments, and their well-funded propaganda agents. And if we can continue to take advantage of the dropping costs for renewable energy sources like wind and solar.

The demand reduction scenario is especially concerning for Alberta’s highest-of-all high-cost tar sands industry.

THE high-pitched whirr of an electric car may not stir the soul like the bellow and growl of an internal combustion engine (ICE). But to compensate, electric motors give even the humblest cars explosive acceleration. Electric cars are similarly set for rapid forward thrust. Improving technology and tightening regulations on emissions from ICEs is about to propel electric vehicles (EVs) from a niche to the mainstream. After more than a century of reliance on fossil fuels, however, the route from petrol power to volts will be a tough one for carmakers to navigate. . . .

Ford’s boss is bolder still. In January Mark Fields announced that the “era of the electric vehicle is dawning”, and he reckons that the number of models of EVs will exceed pure ICE-powered cars within 15 years. Ford has promised 13 new electrified cars in the next five years. Others are making bigger commitments. Volkswagen, the world’s biggest carmaker, said last year that it would begin a product blitz in 2020 and launch 30 new battery-powered models by 2025, when EVs will account for up to a quarter of its sales. Daimler, a German rival, also recently set an ambitious target of up to a fifth of sales by the same date.