Category Archives: Opinion

Diesel cars will ‘almost disappear’ by 2025, says UBS

I got pretty excited when I heard that London was committing to buying only 100% emission-free buses for all single-decker city center routes. Likewise, when Eindhoven and Helmond bought 43 extra-long electric buses, it felt like one more step toward cleaner, greener cities.

Given that Paris, Athens, Mexico City and Madrid are pledging to ban all diesel vehicles by 2025 at the latest, the news has been pretty good for those of us who would like to see healthier air and a reduction in emissions.

Now the Financial Times reports that Swiss investment bank UBS is connecting the dots between these trends—making the bold claim that diesel cars will all but disappear from the global car market by 2025.

Not only are individual cities taking up the fight against diesel, says UBS, but countries like Belgium and France are also pledging to fix disparities between gasoline and diesel taxes too. (Lower taxes on diesel have long boosted popularity in Europe.) Add this to the fact that long-range, lower cost electric cars are finally becoming increasingly viable, and that cities are exploring ways to reduce dependence on motor vehicles overall—and you really start to see a convergence of factors which should lead to diesel’s demise in the passenger car market much sooner than many of us would have expected. UBS does expect diesel to continue to be used in large SUVs and trucks for now—but we’ll see if even that prediction really pans out.

Even more exciting than the demise of diesel cars, to me, is the fact that this demonstrates how the broader transition to a low carbon economy will ultimately come about. Just as US utilities are pressing ahead with phasing out coal, regardless of what short-term electoral politics might look like, diesel is not falling victim to any single policy or initiative. It’s simply facing a perfect storm of headwinds that will ultimately bring about its demise.


Read more: TreeHugger

Tony Seba: All new vehicles, globally, will be electric by 2030

My brother-in-law sent me a video this morning of a talk given by Tony Seba at the Swedbank Nordic Energy Summit in March of last year. I started watching it with mild interest, as it covered many of the topics I’ve already been harping on in recent posts:

• Solar power will keep getting cheaper
• Batteries will continue to become more commonplace
• Electric vehicles will soon become a mainstream transport option
• This confluence of technologies will begin to disrupt the economics of our existing energy system

Then, about halfway through, Seba made a claim that I had to stop and rewind: He believes that all new road vehicles—buses, cars, vans, trucks etc—will be entirely electric by 2030. That’s a pretty astounding prediction. Made even more astounding because he’s not talking about one country—he’s talking about the entire world.

Regular Fossil Fuel Car has 2,000 moving parts

The whole talk is very worth watching, but to give a very brief summary, there are two factors coming together to make such a shift possible.

Firstly, from battery tech to solar to autonomous vehicle components, technology is improving and getting cheaper following the same “Moore’s Law” curves that have made computes so cheap and powerful. The LIDAR—a laser and radar system used for autonomous vehicles—sed to cost $70,000 in 2012. By 2016, we’re looking at a LIDAR that costs in the region of $250 and will soon be down at $90. Similarly, says Seba, solar power won’t soon just be cheaper than coal, wind, nuclear or natural gas. By 2020, it’ll be cheaper than the cost of transmission—regardless of any subsidies. Meaning a utility could generate electricity for free, and still not be able to sell it because panels on your roof would still be more competitive. And long range EVs are becoming affordable and mainstream too—providing better performance and lower cost of ownership than their gas-driven counterparts.

Secondly, new technologies are enabling new business models: When a car sits idle in the driveway 96% of its life, that’s a massive opportunity for business model disruption that could change how we think about our relationship to vehicles. From Uber to Lyft, such changes are already taking place in many cities.

Read more: treehugger

Self-Driving and Electric Cars Are Going to Have Tons of Strange Effects on Society

Electric cars will be good for the planet and autonomous vehicles will reduce the number of road accidents. That much we know. But what other impacts will the coming automobile revolution provide?

First, a bit of managing expectations: without regulatory incentives, America’s electric car adoption looks like it will be slow to grow, and the first wave of autonomous cars might prove to be rather underwhelming. And while automakers and technology firms are indeed racing to reboot our cars—making these technologies seemingly inevitable—they are likely to take a while to get here.

What’s less certain is how they’ll change the world. Benedict Evans, a partner at the Silicon Valley venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz and no stranger to tech trends analysis, has published some thoughts on what he calls second- and third-order effects of the disruption that’s going to play out on our highways. And his insights describe a future made fundamentally different by the technologies.

Consider electrification. We know that losing the internal combustion engine will be good for the planet. But, as Evans points out, a lot will change when the supporting infrastructure for gas guzzlers disappears: many repair shops will be out of a job, because most car maintenance is focused around the motor. And gas stations no longer have a purpose, so what happens to the convenience stores that they contain—and the half of America’s tobacco sales that gas stations account for?

As for self-driving cars, every company involved in the nascent industry is keen to point out that autonomous vehicles will crash less frequently than those driven by humans. But the benefits of a car that can drive itself aren’t limited to moving folks from A to B: it can also go park itself somewhere usually considered too inconvenient for human passengers, ready to be beckoned when needed. That means that huge swaths of land in the hearts of cities, currently used as parking lots, could be repurposed—potentially upending the real estate market.

These are just a couple of the examples Evans provides, and there are far more to consider.

Read more: MIT Technology Review

Will the diesel car you are driving be worthless in five years’ time?

Is this the nightmare future for owners of today’s diesel cars? It’s 2020 and you are already taxed out of driving into the city centre. At the pumps the price of diesel has soared. The low-emission zone has extended to your suburb. Do you carry on paying extra, or sell for a small fraction of what you paid?

The mayor of London has effectively banned older diesel cars from central London from next October, and the same drivers face a wider ban from a larger area, possibly as soon as 2019. Meanwhile, a report this week by the mayor’s office proposed higher parking charges for diesel owners across the capital.

Things could also be even worse after next week’s budget. After years of pro-diesel policies, chancellor Philip Hammond could be selecting reverse, announcing a major shift in the way both diesel fuel, and the cars, are taxed.

The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders this week issued a plea to the government not to come down hard on diesel, as it revealed figures suggesting Britain’s love affair with such cars is already slowing. In January registrations were 4.3% lower than the year before, while those of petrol cars grew 8.9% – unthinkable two or three years ago. British Car Auctions, meanwhile, says the traditional price premium commanded by used diesel cars has narrowed considerably in the past 12 months.

Steve Gooding, director of the RAC Foundation, predicts price falls.

“Will all diesels be worthless in five years? Most unlikely. Will some of them be worth significantly less than they otherwise might have been? Almost certainly.”

He says that while the sale of new diesels in the UK has barely been dented, the market for new and secondhand vehicles looks “a lot less certain”, and in continental cities that have seen restraints on diesel use, older car values have fallen.

“It could be a bonus for high-mileage, bargain-seeking motorists who mostly drive out of town, but that will be scant comfort to the out-of-pocket urban vendor who probably thought they were doing the environmentally correct thing in choosing diesel.”

There is a precedent of sorts for price falls. Back in 2012, drivers of older diesel-engined campervans and a host of other older vehicles, including minibuses, saw values plummet after their use was included in London’s Low Emission Zone covering most roads inside the M25. Owners had to either install new exhaust systems, or sell to avoid paying a £100 or £200 charge for every day the vehicle was driven.

Read more: The Guardian

Clean disruption of energy & transportation

The industrial age of energy and transportation will be over by 2030. Maybe before.

Exponentially improving technologies such as solar, electric vehicles, and autonomous (self-driving) cars will disrupt and sweep away the energy and transportation industries as we know it. The same Silicon Valley ecosystem that created bit-based technologies that have disrupted atom-based industries is now creating bit- and electron-based technologies that will disrupt atom-based energy industries.

Clean Disruption projections (based on technology cost curves, business model innovation as well as product innovation) show that by 2030:

– All new energy will be provided by solar or wind.
– All new mass-market vehicles will be electric.
– All of these vehicles will be autonomous (self-driving) or semi-autonomous.
– The car market will shrink by 80%.
– Gasoline will be obsolete. Nuclear is already obsolete. Natural Gas and Coal will be obsolete.
– Up to 80% of highways will not be needed.
– Up to 80% of parking spaces will not be needed.
– The concept of individual car ownership will be obsolete.
– The Car Insurance industry will be disrupted. The taxi industry will be obsolete.

Read more: Tony Seba



Is 2017 THE year of the Electric Car?

Electric Car Sales Boom As UK Vehicle Sales Hit a 12-Year High

The popularity of the electric car has increased exponentially in recent years, with projections of 2 million electric cars shortly on the world’s roads (Guardian, 2016). This in turn has seen many adaptations such as charging points at service stations and even fast-food chains – benefiting those already owning an electric car, as well as attracting those thinking about making the switch. Further evidence of this rise is the news of the record sales of vehicles and a 12 year high in car registrations – which was aided by the surge of purchases in electric vehicles.

January 2017 saw 174,564 cars being registered across the UK, up 2.9 per cent when compared with the previous year, and the highest monthly level since 2005 (Guardian, 2017). The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) also announced that electric vehicles took a record share in the sales market. Looking at the underlying figures, it is clear to see how alternative fuel cars are helping with this surge, especially electric cars like the new Nissan Leaf. This increased by a fifth and reached its greatest share of new vehicles registrations at 4.2 per cent, passing its previous 3.6 per cent high of November last year (Guardian, 2017).

“With the fluctuating cost of fuel, it is clear to see why motorists are opting for alternative fuel vehicles, where electricity prices are more stable”

There are a multitude of reasons why electric vehicles are leading the charge and steadily growing in the overall sales market. One of the main reasons, and alluded to earlier with the Nissan Leaf, is that no longer are electric cars a simplistic eyesore, but instead have increased in both style and scope. Drivers are now more attracted to alternative fuel cars as their appearance has evolved to be more like that of standard cars, as well as being cleaner and cheaper to run.

Almost mirroring the persistent rise in the cost of fuel is a further advantage to those thinking about purchasing an electric car: battery costs are down by 65 per cent from prices 5 years ago (CityAM).

As well as being cheaper, cleaner and more environmentally friendly, electric cars outclass internal combustion vehicles on a multitude of levels. Electric cars run more smoothly and have improved acceleration over their fuelled counterparts, as well as having significantly lower maintenance needs, and the scope for manufacturer modifications to be completed via software updates.

With four major world cities now actively moving to ban diesel vehicles by 2025 (BBC, 2016), and London looking increasingly likely to join this, alternative fuel vehicles will certainly continue to grow their share in the market. Major car companies are already altering their strategies to put electric vehicles at the center of their ranges, with Volkswagen planning to invest $11.2 billion over the course of the next decade to make electric cars 25 per cent of its total sales (CityAM, 2016). These latest trends and figures suggest that the sales of electric cars will continue to rise, with Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF) forecasting that the sales of electric vehicles will account for 35 per cent of all new car sales by 2040.

Source: TryMyEV

Electric cars are set to arrive far more speedily than anticipated

Carmakers face short-term pain and long term gain

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.

The change of gear is recent. One car in a hundred sold today is powered by electricity. The proportion of EVs on the world’s roads is still well below 1%. Most forecasters had reckoned that by 2025 that would rise to around 4%. Those estimates are undergoing a big overhaul as carmakers announce huge expansions in their production of EVs.

Morgan Stanley, a bank, now says that by 2025 EV sales will hit 7m a year and make up 7% of vehicles on the road. Exane BNP Paribas, another bank, reckons that it could be more like 11% (see chart). But as carmakers plan for ever more battery power, even these figures could quickly seem too low.

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.

Read more: The Economist

Windfarm (Image:UNK)

Google set to reach 100% renewable energy in 2017

In December 2016, Google announced that they are set to reach 100% renewable energy to power everything such as their offices and server farms. 

Every year people search Google trillions of times and upload over 400 hours of YouTube every minute! All of that takes a very large amount of processing power which means a lot of electricity is needed.

Windfarm (Image:UNK)

“I’m thrilled to announce that in 2017 Google will reach 100% renewable energy for our global operations — including both our data centers and offices. We were one of the first corporations to create large-scale, long-term contracts to buy renewable energy directly; we signed our first agreement to purchase all the electricity from a 114-megawatt wind farm in Iowa, in 2010. Today, we are the world’s largest corporate buyer of renewable power, with commitments reaching 2.6 gigawatts (2,600 megawatts) of wind and solar energy. That’s bigger than many large utilities and more than twice as much as the 1.21 gigawatts it took to send Marty McFly back to the future.”

Urs Hölze, Google’s Senior Vice President of Technical Infrastructure.

Google operates in an environmentally sustainable way which is one of its core values since its founding. This is a very good value and one we should all follow. Whatever your thoughts are on global warming, we all know that pollution is a bad thing for us and the environment.

Science tells us that tackling climate change is an urgent worldwide issue and that we must take steps in doing our own individual bit for the environment.

Read more: Medium. Phil Leach

ZOE on Charge (image: UNK)

The beginning of the end for the infernal combustion engine

WHAT WE LEARNED IN 2016: After many false dawns, 2016 was the year electric cars showed they are on a path to rapidly replacing the infernal combustion engine.

There are now more than half a million battery electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles on Europe’s roads, and annual sales are expected to top 1.5% of the market for the first time. While the figures are modest, Dieselgate has created an EV earthquake, shaking carmakers from their complacency.

Renault ZOE
Renault ZOE

The Paris Motor Show was a turning point. Volkswagen launched its “revolutionary” I.D concept and announced it aspired to a quarter of its sales being electric by 2025. Mercedes launched an equivalent Generation EQ concept range, announcing it was “flipping the switch”, which was backed up with an €11 billion investment. Opel confirmed the launch of the 300km range Ampera-e; Renault and BMW announced upgrades of the Zoe and i3, both with significantly longer ranges; and Renault commented:

“Our vision of the electric market is that it is not a niche market.”

Also, around a quarter of Mitsubishi sales can be plugged in and 7% of Porsche’s.

The U-turn in European carmakers’ attitude has resulted from a combination of market, technology and policy changes. Dieselgate has brought about much needed realism that outside Europe the tiny 5% share of new diesel cars will in the future decline, not grow.

In Europe, the scandal is stiffening the resolve of regulators to effectively enforce better tests that commence in 2017. Several countries, including France, are also increasing fuel excise duties and cities are proposing to ban or charge diesels or all combustion cars. UBS shockingly forecast diesel sales will fall to just 10% of the market by 2025 from 50% today.

Read more: Transport & Environment

Kia Soul EV on charge on a London street (Image: M. Willis/Getty/Go Ultra Low)

The Guardian view of the car industry: an electric future

The world is moving faster than we think towards more automated vehicles powered by renewable energy

Gone are the days when cars made in Britain were British. Monday’s sale of Vauxhall/Opel to Peugeot meant only the transfer of two large English factories from the German subsidiary of an American firm to a French company, accompanied by the ritual promises that jobs would be safe. These seem insubstantial, given that the new management plans to save €1.7bn a year from the old Opel operation, while the Vauxhall factories made a heavy loss after the pound’s post-referendum slide. Yet the contortions of government policy which once accompanied threats to the car industry went quite unseen this time. But there is one small aspect of the deal in which it appears that Mrs May’s industrial strategy might be an intelligent deployment of very limited resources. The future of the car industry is clearly electric, and the development of battery technology – something the government plans to support – will be vital.

Kia Soul EV on charge on a London street (Image: M. Willis/Getty/Go Ultra Low)
Kia Soul EV on charge on a London street (Image: M. Willis/Getty/Go Ultra Low)

Against the protectionism practised by the Chinese government, which is determined to dominate the world market, and to supplant the Japanese and Korean firms which now provide most of the world’s batteries, any effort by the British government is likely to prove inadequate. Especially a British government which has ended its own participation in the single market; but at least it is playing in the right game.

At the moment, wholly electric cars are still a tiny minority of those on the road, but their number is growing very fast as they become more affordable and more practical. Their advantages to society are obvious: they pollute far less than internal combustion engines, and use less energy too. A city of electric cars will be cleaner and quieter than our present stinking streets. And at some stage in the next decade, their advantages to private drivers will become overwhelming. The electric car will become a mainstream status symbol and it is the buyers of internal combustion vehicles who will feel like weird outsiders. The Dutch parliament has considered a measure which would make all cars sold there electric by 2025. A recent thinktank report suggests that 10 years after that a third of all the vehicles sold in the world will be electric.

New electric cars must travel further and need less time to recover from their journeys than those that can be bought today, when long journeys are still fraught with anxiety. This means lighter batteries that hold more charge and can be charged more quickly; they are appearing already and the huge amounts of global investment make it likely that progress will continue and technology will supply what the market needs.

Stepping back for a moment, the rise of electric and largely automated cars might change the world around us almost as profoundly as the internal combustion engine did. Part of this is their obvious role in transportation. All-electric traffic will be faster, reversing the trend of the last century. Lighter cars will accelerate and brake more quickly, while increasing automation will mean traffic moves more freely. If those trends continue, the private car might disappear altogether, replaced by a network of hired autonomous vehicles, at least within cities. The beginnings of this development are already visible in the reluctance of young people to learn to drive.

Less obvious, but just as important, are all the symbolic values of cars. It’s not just for Bruce Springsteen that they embody freedom, autonomy and power. The car that you own says almost as much about your social position and your aspirations as the clothes you wear. Car ownership was for much of the world a mark of status in the way that owning a horse made you a knight. The coming revolution threatens far more than the vehicle manufacturing industry. If cars do come to be valued for their usefulness, not as means of ostentation, the motor car would become only a status symbol for the rich, as useless, if still as loved, as the private horse now is.

Source: The Guardian