Cheaper electrics by 2020

Elon Musk was right when he said hy­dro­gen cars are bulls** t in 2013, ex­plains AL­WYN VILJOEN

The Witness - Wheels - - ELECTRIC -

TESLA CEO Elon Musk may one day be re­mem­bered best for his prophetic sum­mary that hy­dro­gen elec­tric cars are bulls** t.

Here at Wheels, we agreed with Musk’s state­ment in 2013 and not just be­cause the tiny hy­dro­gen mol­e­cule will even­tu­ally leak from any tank, as Toy­ota found out in Florida, where H1 driv­ers are not driv­ing be­cause they can­not get fuel.

Our anti H1 stance is mainly based on the dou­ble labour re­quired to get hy­dro­gen cars to go.

For those who don’t know, mak­ing hy­dro­gen re­quires lot of elec­tric­ity from dirty, coal pow­ered plants, and this hy­dro­gen is then stored un­til such time as it can be used to gen­er­ate elec­tric­ity again, ( if the lit­tle mol­e­cules have not all leaked out, that is). As BMW stated, in­stead of build­ing new hy­dro­gen fuel sta­tions, just use the ex­ist­ing elec­tric in­fra­struc­ture to recharge bat­ter­ies. This means ev­ery lamp pole out there is a po­ten­tial charg­ing point.

Then there is the fact that elec­tric cars have fewer mov­ing parts than hy­dro­gen cars. Fewer mov­ing parts means less ser­vic­ing, which means lower run­ning costs. To put a num­ber to this, the UK govern­ment and in­dus­try- backed Go Ul­tra Low cam­paign points out UK mo­torists can save an av­er­age of £ 306 ( over R6 800) a year in work­shop fees by switch­ing to a new elec­tric car.

Re­turn of the milk float

The prob­lem to date has been the cost of bat­ter­ies that can last the dis­tance and the source of the en- ergy. To solve the first, all hy­dro­gen haters, Wheels in­cluded, pointed out build­ing bet­ter bat­ter­ies to store that first batch of Amps should be the fo­cus of all auto en­gi­neers.

The lat­est Bloomberg New En­ergy Fi­nance re­port shows call has been heeded.

By 2020, pre­dicts Bloomberg, elec­tric ve­hi­cles will be­come cheaper than petrol or diesel cars in most coun­tries and by 2040, sales of elec­tric ve­hi­cles will hit 41 mil­lion, with one in three of new light duty ve­hi­cle sales, like the milk floats of yore.

Salim Morsy, se­nior an­a­lyst and au­thor of the Bloomberg study, said the fore­cast is based on the crude oil price re­cov­er­ing to $ 50, and then trend­ing back up to $ 70- a- bar­rel or higher by 2040. “In­ter­est­ingly, if the oil price were to fall to $ 20 and stick there, this would only de­lay mass adop­tion of EVs to the early 2030s,” Morsy said in a state- ment. While oil pun­dits cur­rently pre­dict low crude prices for at least the next four years, even smaller ve­hi­cle sellers like Citroën and Honda ex­pect oil will go back up again, and are turn­ing to elec­tric ve­hi­cles that are not like milk floats at all.

Citroën last week man­aged to turned even die- hard V8 petrol­heads with an artist’s im­pres­sion of the DS E- TENSE, which will be launched at the 2016 Geneva Mo­tor Show.

This elec­tric- pow­ered supercar will be sold un­der the um­brella of Citroën’s newly es­tab­lished lux­ury brand, DS Au­to­mo­biles, and will re­port­edly make 300 kW and 516 Nm — all qui­etly and with zero emis­sions.

Honda makes a U turn

But the big sur­prise was from Honda’s new CEO Takahiro Hachigo, who told a spe­cially con­vened press con­fer­ence last week that the Ja­panese au­tomak- er is chang­ing its fo­cus from mak­ing hy­dro­gen cars to mak­ing electrics.

By 2030, said the new gun Hachigo- san, Honda plans to sell a third of its fleet as elec­tric cars.

Not that com­mut­ing and de­liv­er­ing the milk in quiet elec­tric ve­hi­cles will save the world from cli­mate- chang­ing green­house gases.

For while the world still creates its elec­tric­ity by burn­ing coal, even this au­thor’s elec­tric scooter has very big and dirty ex­haust pipes at the end of the power line in­deed.

Two in­de­pen­dent stud­ies pub­lished in the jour­nals En­v­i­ron

men­tal Re­search Let­ters and En­vi­ron­men­tal Sci­ence & Tech­nol­ogy un­der­line that charg­ing elec­tric cars overnight at home will lead to coal- fired power plants emit­ting green­house gases around the clock, lead­ing to more pol­lu­tion by night, with an in­crease of 50% in health costs.

Which is why, along­side bet­ter bat­ter­ies, the next chal­lenge is bet­ter voltaic cells for the sun to trickle charge those bat­ter­ies to cre­ate ve­hi­cles that make more en­ergy than they use. Im­pos­si­ble? Not so, as the stu­dents at the Delft Univer­sity has now proven with Stella Lux, a road- le­gal, so­lar- pow­ered fam­ily sa­loon that does make more Watts than it needs.

As a proof of con­cept, Stella cost well over R20 mil­lion to de­velop, and the tree- hug­gers at

Wheels can but hope Moore’s Law will re­sult in a more af­ford­able ver­sion within our life­time.


Citroën’s says its DS E- Tence con­cept car will use the com­pany’s For­mula E mo­tor that makes 516 Nm of torque from zero revs to silently shoot up to 100 km/ h in less than five sec­onds. It can also cruise for 360 km on its bat­ter­ies in the city us­ing a 53 kWh lithium- ion bat­tery pack.

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