I may have spent most of 2011 in a Nissan Leaf, and love the car’s effortless speed and refinement, but I’m already wondering if the electric car is already doomed.
The car industry is finally developing a coherent plan for a low-consumption future and the signs are that pure electric vehicles (EVs) will have been mostly written out of the script by 2020.
Earlier this year, reports in the German automotive press suggested that Mercedes has put the proposed EV version of the new B-class on ice. One of the reasons is that, although the factory cost of batteries could tumble to around 300 Euros per kilowatt hour, there’s no sign of battery performance making big gains in the medium term.
Mercedes bosses are also said to be worried about the disposal of exhausted battery packs. No carmaker wants to saddle itself with expensive technology when it is also responsible for expensive recycling. And government tax breaks that make EVs more affordable are also likely to dry up as the Euro crisis rumbles on and austerity grips more governments.
More importantly, though, it is quite possible that upcoming EU regulations will result in the typical Golf-class car of 2020 being just as environmentally-friendly as an EV. An industry source told me that the 2013 EU6 exhaust pollution laws were so strict that the air coming out of the exhaust was actually cleaner than the air found in the average office.
Moreover, the planned 2020 EU fuel economy regulations, would mean the average Golf-class car being good for around 85g/km of Co2. Unless you recharge from Hydro electricity or Nuclear power, that’s about the same Co2 released by a gas-fired power station generating the electricity needed to drive an EV one kilometre.
With EV-matching zero pollution levels and similar Co2 figures, the typical 2020 diesel car will probably result in the typical EV – which will still be an expensive proposition, even with a reduction in battery costs – becoming the choice of low mileage, back-to-base operators, such as local authorities.