Every beginning is hard – electric cars and the future of transportation

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A few days ago I stumbled upon a tweet of Sebastian who retweeted an article of Don Dahlmann. Don wrote about electrically powered cars and why they won’t be successful if their development would be as lame in the future as it has been so far.

 
The fact that one million electric cars should float on German streets in 2020 forms the basis of his article. He says that they’re too expensive (Tesla), their range would be too short or they just look ugly 1. Beside that their batteries would be too bad 2 and they aren’t as sustainable as advertised 3. Well, if you ignore his catchy lines Don at first glance isn’t totally wrong but as I already mentioned in my retweet „Every beginning is hard“.

 

Tesla S image by teslamotors.com

 
I grew up near cologne in a region where the fox and the hare bid each other goodnight. We know subways from movies and there isn’t hardly any short-distance traffic after 10pm. At the age of sixteen I got my A1 driver’s licence (it’s a 125ccm motorcycle driver’s licence) and at the age of eighteen I got my B and A driver’s licence (car and the general motorcycle driver’s licence ((yes I have a motorcycle driver’s licence, that’s the reason why I felt comfortable at the Harley events)). Since my studies I was living in several big cities with a good short-distance traffic infrastructure and a good bicycle infrastructure wherefore I didn’t depend on a car as often as I was used too. Nevertheless I was glad to call one mine and to go on vacation like our 1week4countries trip (I think I miss Paris btw) or our camping trips to Denmark ( I definitely miss Denmark too) and the Bavarian Alps by car.

 
On my way to Solda last year I came across Garmisch and an electric car service station by Flinkster. Last weekend I found one near Tegernsee too. It’s not really the middle of nowhere but if you’re honest you might not expect them there. BMW sold their first BMW Active E already 2011 and Audi is proud of their hybrid flagship aka the A3 Sportback e-tron. Their slogan is Verändert die Welt. Nicht den Alltag. which means that it changes the world but not your daily life (like Neil Armstrong’s That’s one small step for [a] man, one giant leap for mankind).

 

 
In july 2013 BMW released the i3 which is the replacement of the Active E. At the end of 2014 they additionally released the i8 as premium electric car and competitor to Tesla motors. And they can be bought and charged in the middle of Munich.

 

 
So I guess the car industry is playing the E-game very strong. They try to offer a good infrastructure, they offer products for a middle and high premium group of buyers and they try to build beautiful cars. Beside that the electric cars offer a range of 50km (Audi A3 e-tron electric motor only), 150km (Volkswagen e-Golf), 190km (BMW i3), 200km (Mercedes B-Class Electric Drive) + a bonus of 30km because gained braking energy boosts the battery and 334 km (Tesla S 60 kWh battery). And that is only the tip of the iceberg.

 
During the first month Mercedes sold 41 units of their Mercedes B-Class Electric Drive 4 and 280.000 electric and hybrid cars are currently registered in the United States. On january 1st 2014 12.156 electric cars and 85.575 hybrid cars have been registered in Germany 5 6. I’m not able to say if the low gasoline price is associated with peak oil or something but I’m certain that prices are likely to rise soon. And regarding to Don’s argument that electric cars aren’t as sustainable as advertised you have to keep in mind that the Well-to-tank equation partly includes the output which is produced during the production.

 
Last but not least I think that the future of electric cars goes hand in hand which the future of economy – the so called shared economy. As I already mentioned I stumpled upon an electric car service station at Garmisch. The service station belonged to Flinkster, the car sharing proposol of Deutsche Bahn. The carsharing venture with the most clients in Germany, DriveNow, offers sixty BMW Active E in Germany, twenty of them are based in Munich, and seventy Active E in San Francisco.

 

 
Maybe that’s not a lot but I think it’s a well done first step. Due to the fact that you use these cars only for short-distance trips the range doesn’t really matter. During the rush-hour large cities have to deal with high pollution – emission-free vehicles like bikes or electric cars can hereby solve such problems. And if you share such a car you don’t have to worry about high asset cost. The aim of one million electric cars in 2020 isn’t a reachable one but I think at least we have to look for and support sustainable means of transport.