electric cars
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The world is taking huge strides to replace fossil fuel cars with electric ones. Various governments the world over, have indicated that they are pushing for electric cars. But this proposed shift comes with its own set of environmental and infrastructure challenges.

India has set a deadline of 2030 for replacing all vehicles with electric ones. Britain wants to ban the sale of all petrol and diesel cars by 2040. France has already decided on similar lines in a bid to cut nitrogen dioxide (NO2) pollution, while China has decided that 12% of all cars sold by 2020 would be either plug-in hybrids or battery-powered.

Norway wants that no new petrol and diesel cars to be sold by 2025 while other countries like, Finland, Sweden, and Denmark also are in favor of phasing out fossil fuel engines.

According to Alastair Lewis, professor of atmospheric chemistry at the University of York says, “Given the rate of improvement in battery and electric vehicle technology over the last ten years, by 2040 small combustion engines in private cars could well have disappeared without any government intervention,” But he goes on to add that these decisions by various governments do send a signal to all stake holders that electric is the future.

Watershed event

According to another expert on the subject, Stefan Bratzel, director of the Center of Automotive Management (CAM), last year’s emission scandal proved to be a watershed event in this shift away from hydrocarbons. The proof that many big and reputed manufacturers of mainly diesel cars were found to be flouting environmental tests gave a strong push for political will on this subject to be turned into concrete commitments.

The rapid strides taken by China to develop electric cars as well as local and national environmental targets are also responsible for this shift.

Stumbling blocks

But not all experts agree fully that by 2040 we will only have electric cars. Flavien Neuvy, economist at French automobile analysts Observatoire Cetelem while agreeing that electric cars in 2040 would be much more efficient than today and that they would become viable once the average range reaches 400-500 km from 250-300 km, also says that alternate fuels like gas and hydrogen are also available and manufacturers are investing heavily in self-driven cars.

He also cautions that the much-maligned combustion engine could become an environmental friendly with rapid strides in technology as can already be seen with cars with a fuel efficiency of 50 kilometers to a liter.

This push towards electric cars could also have a negative impact on the environment, not to talk about the huge infrastructure cost that it will entail and the question of job loss, if fossil fuel cars are completely banned.

There are questions regarding cost of production of the extra electricity that would be required to service these cars, resources to meet the huge demand for electric batteries and about recycling of the cars.

The huge number of charging points that would be needed and the cost involved in setting them up is also a point of concern. In Britain there are about 4,500 public charging points, to cater for about 110,000 plug-in cars in use currently, out of a total of 36.7 million vehicles registered in Britain.

The Swedish Environment Institute, IVL found in a study conducted last month that production of large batteries to adds to environmental pollution as up to 17.5 tons carbon dioxide is emitted while manufacturing a large battery. This is equal to about 700 hours of driving in a standard car.

The cost of installing recharge points on public highways would also prove to be an additional burden but Britain plans to reduce this cost by installing charging points at motorway service areas and at large fuel retailers.

Employment of a vast number of people would also be at risk if a complete ban on fossil fuel cars is imposed. According to Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) of Britain, 800,000 workers are employed in the market for new cars and their future would be at great risk.

But regardless of all these stumbling blocks, it appears that the shift from fossil fuel cars to electric cars is unstoppable and would gain further speed if oil prices again go northward.

According to CAM estimates by 2020 new registrations of electric cars across the world will go up by between 2.5 and 6%. And if manufacturers are convinced of the idea and aggressively start pushing the concept 40% more such cars will be registered World-wide by 2030.

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