Don’t be shocked by the ar­rival of elec­tric cars

Cape Breton Post - - Editorial -

When fu­ture gen­er­a­tions glance into his­tory’s rear-view mir­ror, they might agree the sum­mer of 2017 was the be­gin­ning of the end for gaso­line-pow­ered ve­hi­cles and the start of the elec­tric-car era.

In the space of just a few weeks, Tesla’s Model 3, the com­pany’s long-awaited mass-mar­ket elec­tric ve­hi­cle, be­gan rolling off the assem­bly line to the de­light of 373,000 ea­ger buyers who had made $1,000 de­posits, while Volvo sig­nalled all of its car mod­els launched af­ter 2019 will be either elec­tric or hy­brid.

Just months ear­lier, BMW pledged it would elec­trify each and ev­ery one of its makes and mod­els by 2020. Bri­tish and French gov­ern­ments an­nounced in July a ban on the sale of gaso­line and diesel-pow­ered cars by 2040.

Yet the shift could hap­pen sooner, ac­cord­ing to Dutch bank ING. It pre­dicted all car sales in Europe would be elec­tric ve­hi­cles in less than two decades.

Based on what’s hap­pen­ing this sum­mer, the ques­tion is no longer ‘if ’ elec­tric ve­hi­cles will take over the world’s road­ways but ‘when.’ And that’s good news.

Tran­si­tion­ing from ve­hi­cles fu­elled by gaso­line or diesel to ones pow­ered by elec­tric­ity is a ma­jor strat­egy in fight­ing the green­house gas emis­sions wreak­ing havoc with the Earth’s cli­mate. The shift would also end the ex­haust pol­lu­tion that chokes big cities.

The dawn of the elec­tric-car era also shows how in­dus­tries re­spond­ing to mar­ket de­mands can work co-op­er­a­tively with gov­ern­ments to­ward a shared and de­sir­able goal. Un­til now, the ma­jor road­blocks to elec­tric car sales have been the ve­hi­cles’ cost, their lim­ited range and lack of recharg­ing sta­tions. Each of th­ese bar­ri­ers is be­ing knocked down as au­tomak­ers build more af­ford­able elec­tric ve­hi­cles with cheaper bat­ter­ies and the abil­ity to drive far­ther be­fore a recharge.

Gov­ern­ments are do­ing their part by sub­si­diz­ing elec­tric ve­hi­cles and in­stalling recharge sta­tions.

There is a long jour­ney ahead. Only a small per­cent­age of ve­hi­cles run on elec­tric­ity. Of the nearly two mil­lion ve­hi­cles sold in Canada in 2016, only 11,000 were elec­tric. But the change is com­ing fast. Gov­ern­ments can as­sist more by en­sur­ing there are enough recharg­ing sta­tions and, even more im­por­tant, that the elec­tric­ity grid can han­dle the com­ing surge in de­mand.

The av­er­age elec­tric ve­hi­cle uses a load equiv­a­lent to what an en­tire house­hold does each day. While the On­tario grid can han­dle the in­crease in de­mand for the one mil­lion elec­tric ve­hi­cles the gov­ern­ment wants on the roads by 2025, lo­cal util­ity com­pa­nies fear the sys­tem could be over­loaded in ur­ban ar­eas where de­mand is es­pe­cially high.

And those one mil­lion elec­tric ve­hi­cles would rep­re­sent just 12 per cent of the num­ber of cars on On­tario’s roads. Yes, a trans­porta­tion rev­o­lu­tion is rac­ing our way. Gov­ern­ments can help most by en­sur­ing there’s enough en­ergy to keep it run­ning.

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