Non-market for EVs continues non-growth

Electric cars are a fascinating subject.

Their existence is predicated on the eventual demise of mass-market, gasoline-engined motoring.

But since EVs cannot do the job of ICEs, they are actually proof that the car industry is nearing the end of its allotted timespan.

That isn’t me gloating, by the way. Without the automotive industry, oil would be little more than  inedible black fossil goo rather than being the basis of the bright, fun, complex existence we enjoy today.

Ordinary cars are cheap to buy, cheap to refuel, hugely practical and immensely enjoyable. They rule the world they allowed us to build.

EVs are expensive and just as energy-hungry and polluting, on a coalface-to-wheel basis, as their conventional counterparts. Their limited and unpredictable range makes them impractical to own and nerve-wracking to use.

On that basis, the fact that around 1,400 EVs have been registered in the UK since January 2011 is quite an achievement – even if nearly all of them eventually turn out to be demonstrators owned by the manufacturers.

But when you factor in the mind-blowing level of private and public investment in EV design, development, marketing, charging infrastructure and so on, the handful of genuine private sales achieved so far can only be described as super-pathetic.

Nevertheless, British Gas bravely fronted up for EVs in Fleet News this week, demanding that the Government continues to bung £5,000 incentives to EV buyers in the hope that these unwieldy and unloved solutions-in-search-of-a-problem will eventually reach some kind of critical mass.

British Gas’s pledge to run just 0.8% of its fleet on electricity by the end of next year (up from 0.04% today) won’t bring critical mass any nearer. In fact it merely illuminates the chasm between the fantasies of EV-boosters and reality.

And as Gareth Roberts’ article pointed out, BG has a vested interested in pushing batcars because it’s the preferred installer of charging points for 70% of EV suppliers.

At some point investors are going to get tired of throwing money into the black hole that is the reality of trying to make EVs into a mass market phenomenon, especially as a recent report commissioned by the Department for Transport (and stating the obvious) suggested that electric vans may never be cheaper to run than diesel versions

For the remainder of the car’s time on earth, the vast majority of people will drive on petroleum. Since the alternatives will never be as affordable or as practical, the exit from petrol-powered car-ownership will be into non-car-ownership.

Even when oil is priced out of the reach of 99% of people, it’s likely that the privileged few who still own cars will prefer to run them on gasoline rather than electricity.

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