The car of the future is subject to intense discussion. The electric car seems to be a key technology for tomorrow’s mobility. Nearly every automobile manufacturer has announced a concept car based on electricity. Some of them will be launched and available in 2010 (e.g. Nissan). The modern sports car Tesla Roadster opens new doors to stakeholders and let’s say conventional automobile drivers (mainly male as far as I can observe).
Smaller models like the existing Norwegian electric car Think are realistic options for the coming years. Having a personally optimistic view of these market dynamics I believe that we will have different types of electric vehicles available on market within months.
Will the electric car simply replace the fossil one? Is it then a sustainable way to go?
I don’t think so. At first there are technical aspects to be considered. The development of the electric car has some crucial aspects to be clarified. Some examples:
– A completely different infrastructure is needed for an efficient charging system (Shai Agassis Better Place project offers an innovative approach)
– The market situation and availability of some needed raw materials (eg. lithium for batteries) leaves a lot of open questions.
– International standards between different manufactures and models have to be set
– Mobility is a question of culture, too.
We should not underestimate these questions, there is more to be considered:
A question of approach. What is innovation?
Of course, developing and establishing a different type of propulsion is an innovative process. But what’s the aim behind that? Is it saving the automobile industry in its deepest crisis? Is it an answer to the energy crisis? Or, not to forget, part of the solution to the climate crisis? Is there any other concern, e.g. that the way we build our cities is based so thoroughly on mobility aspects and a car-driver perspective that other questions of quality of life are of less priority? Is that what we want?
I strongly believe that sustainability has to become the major drive of this innovation process. We have to re-think our mobility system. New models are necessary and possible. The development of electric cars is a chance for that. But only when developers think in systems and not only in technologies. And yes, that makes it much more complex. But we have to accept that our world is about managing complexity. And not to forget, a social factor in life.
Infrastructure is crucial: Cities are the playfield of innovation
Being part of a project development team on electric mobility it became quite obvious that it’s again the cities that are the ideal playfield for improving new mobility solutions. The 1:1 replacement of fossil cars by electric ones is not possible on a larger scale, at present. The crucial aspect is infrastructure, ideally common infrastructure. High density areas offer opportunities for vehicles with a short distance range. Of course, bicycle and public transport are still preferred choices. But cars are used in many different ways. The keyword is different. Why e.g. not improve the cost-effective access to different car usages instead of working on a model of the expensive ownership of one specific car. I know car-sharing is nothing new, but it’s only one chapter of a book yet to be written.
More on the future of mobility in cities (projects, approached) and the synergy with Smart Grids coming up next week.