Cheaper electrics by 2020
Elon Musk was right when he said hydrogen cars are bulls** t in 2013, explains ALWYN VILJOEN
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.