Updated date:

The EV Revolution

I grew up on Cape Cod, Massachusetts, and currently reside in Florida.

the-ev-revolution

In the Beginning

At the turn of the 20th century, America was experiencing a similar disruptive "revolution" in technology that we are experiencing today.

Back then, automobiles began replacing the horse and carriage, and electricity began replacing oil and steam in a multitude of appliances. In fact there were electric vehicles even back then, such as the Detroit Electric. These EVs competed favorably with gasoline-powered vehicles and absolutely dominated when it came to ease of use at that time. EV builders used their smooth, silent operation and lack of a dangerous crank start to entice potential customers.

It's estimated that, at the turn of the century, one-third of all automobiles on American roads were electric. By the 1920s, however, mainstream electric automobility was essentially dead. Internal combustion engine vehicles had secured the marketplace, primarily due to the inability of battery technology at that time to be developed to the point where long-distance travel and quick recharge was possible.

The technology of the 21st century, however, has allowed for EVs to go 300 to 400 miles between charges and for recharge of 90 miles worth of range to be available in as little as one hour. The range of EVs continues to improve, while recharge times continue to decrease. Just as ICE vehicles displaced the EV at the turn of the 20th century, the EV is now ready to displace ICE vehicles in the 21st.

Below is a video which details the early efforts of EVs and their evolution.

Today's Top (American) EV Makers

I would say, at least for North America, potential customers in the market for an EV have two routes that they can choose, Tesla or GM (Chevy's Bolt).

There are a couple reasons why I want to focus on what I consider the two main options in North America for EVs (currently). The first is because these companies are, more or less in today's globalized world, American.

The second is due to comments like this from Toyota CEO Akio Toyoda, who went on a rant about EVs at an annual Toyota meeting:

The Wall Street Journal reported on his comments, which included claiming that battery-electric vehicles were more polluting than gasoline-powered vehicles due to electricity being mainly produced by gas and coal in some places — something that has been proven false by several studies.

Not only is it already not accurate in most places, it’s also short-sighted to focus on that considering the electric grid is also rapidly getting cleaner as new deployment of renewable energy is becoming significantly cheaper than coal and gas.

Toyoda claimed that electric vehicles are overhyped as being clean:

When politicians are out there saying, ‘Let’s get rid of all cars using gasoline,’ do they understand this?

The Toyota executive even said that “the current business model of the car industry is going to collapse” if the government pushes for gasoline vehicle bans.

Toyoda argues that electric vehicles are too expensive, and pushing for a mass transition to battery-electric vehicles will price people out of new cars.

The above Quoted from an Electrek article referenced below.

The Toyota Prius Prime (plug-in Hybrid) has been around for a few years now, however I don't believe Toyota truly believes in investing heavily into transitioning to EVs. In fact, that could be said for most Auto makers. The primary manufacturers other than GM and Tesla taking this seriously at the moment seem to be emanating from China.

The likes of Ford, Volkswagen, BMW, etc. seem, to be dragging their feet or all but ignoring EV efforts all together.

GM came out with the Volt back in 2011, and the Bolt in 2017, so while Tesla has dominated the marketplace, GM at least has consistently put out good efforts as well.

Being the owner of both a Volt and a Bolt I can honestly say that Chevy put a lot of effort into these models, when compared to something like a Prius, they are luxury models capable of outperforming on every level, in every way. And in many ways they can hold their own to Tesla as well, especially in the cost arena.

The difference between buying a Tesla Model 3 with all the bells and whistles and a premium Bolt is well over ten thousand dollars difference. And if you choose to buy a slightly used Bolt or Volt, your savings are going to be in the tens of thousands of dollars.

The video below compares the two models.

GM Not New To EVs

GM’s EV production dates back to 1912 when 682 electric trucks were produced with lead-acid and Edison nickel-iron batteries. So they have been at it since the very beginning of their efforts at mass producing automobiles. The EV1 was the first mass-produced electric vehicle in modern times from a major automaker, produced to comply with CA efforts on forcing change into the marketplace in the 90s.

GM's stated goals as of today (12/2020) is to speed up the rollout of new EVs and offer up to 30 models globally by 2025, expanding on a prior target of 20 electric models by 2023. GM has set a target of annual sales of 1 million EVs in the USA and China by 2025.

While I expect GM to make great strides in the future, other than the Hummer EV rollout they have planned for late 2021, I have not heard much about these models that are expected to be available come 2023.

GM's 1990s EV1

GM's 1990s EV1

The upside for those interested in EVs but not overly familiar with them, or Tesla, is that all the "comforts" potential purchasers have grown accustomed to over the past generation or two GM offers.

GM auto dealers offer test drives, service stations and finance options, all the things people have grown accustomed to when shopping for a new vehicle or needing to take it in for its regular service are available.

This I believe will actually help many people transition to EVs, those who are not so tech savvy or inclined to consider environmental impacts, are not ever going to be the types of customers that go online and research the benefits of a Tesla, order it online, and patiently wait for a year or two for their model to be made and shipped to them.

The more EVs become mainstreamed into our lives, the more a company like GM is poised to benefit from it, if they set themselves up as they said they will.

Reference Material

This content reflects the personal opinions of the author. It is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and should not be substituted for impartial fact or advice in legal, political, or personal matters.

© 2020 Ken Burgess

Comments

Ken Burgess (author) from Florida on December 31, 2020:

You have noted some of the obstacles Chris.

The effort has to be made, it has to be supported by the Government which must make it a priority.

Looking at the past, the Government put forth great effort to build a system of Highways and Dams and it is this type of effort that will be required to change how things are done in North America.

The majority of people don't like change, and certainly don't go looking for it. For every person that wants to buy a Tesla there are ten people in America that don't even know what it is, or care to have one.

The technology is there today, in a way it wasn't twenty years ago when Germany started down that road. It is easier today to make the transition than it was then, and far more affordable as technology has advanced.

CHRIS57 from Northern Germany on December 31, 2020:

Ken, what you mention in your comment is spot on.

Of course the whole idea of going electric holds the potential of an "industrial revolution".

Only - my personal experience of living in an economy where 50% of electricity is already renewable (Germany) leaves some doubts. It took us more than 2 decades to get to 50%. And that was with massive government support (subsidies, tax breaks...). If we want to transfer within one decade (2030), how do we do it (go to some 300%)? Technology doesn´t necessarily follow the laws of exponential growth (as Corona does).

For the US there is another issue. The US currently consumes far more electricity than Europe does per normalised GDP. And at the same time utilises far less renewables, with most of renewables being water (the Hoover Dam stuff). Seems to me the road to electricity is even longer for the US.

Arthur Russ from England on December 31, 2020:

It’s interesting how few car manufacturers in the USA are switching to EV, and that in the USA the Tesla is one of the main choices. In the UK and across Europe Tesla is not the main choice, and in the UK in particular all car manufactures have either switched to or are switching to the production of EV.

Ken Burgess (author) from Florida on December 30, 2020:

Thanks Doug, I appreciate you taking the time to read it.

Ken Burgess (author) from Florida on December 30, 2020:

Chris,

You make a good argument, if, everything else were to remain the same and we kept on using fossil fuels to generate our electricity.

However, if we continue to generate the conversion to homes being powered by Solar, using Battery storage, and recharging EVs through Solar Power.

If we continue to develop alternate energy sources, by capturing energy from waves, wind, and solar.

And if we continue technological advances elsewhere, such as replacing light bulbs with LEDs which use up less energy, and computer chips (see Apple's M1 computer chip) that use less energy, etc. etc. we will be able to impact our use of fossil fuels in a major way.

I expect by 2030 the global needs for oil and coal will have been halved from what they are in 2020.

CHRIS57 from Northern Germany on December 30, 2020:

Interesting read on electric vehicles.

I am not too familiar with what the Toyota guy said, but the comments you quote on not being clean hold much truth.

2 facts to take into consideration:

- If you use fossile fuels to generate electricity, the thermodynamic efficiency will be close to 40% (at best 50% from generating electricity and 10% loss for transport and charging). This percentage is not much better than what you achieve with modern combustion engine cars. So you end up with a similar carbon footprint for mileage. But the electric cars carry a backpack of dirty emissions from battery manufacturing. Where is the benefit?

- Transport mobility in developed economies makes up for roughly 300% - 500% energy compared to current overall electricity generation (100%). In other words: If you make every car, every truck electric, you will need some 3 to 5 times as much electricity generation as there is now.

Of course you can deal with this. Just build another 4 Hoover dams (green, carbon neutral by the way). Or set up nuclear power stations in magnitudes (with other delicate implications).

The whole discussion about electro mobility only makes sense, if electricity is generated carbon free. And if you cope with a 3 -5 fold electricity demand in the future. Quite challenging i would think, more challenging than building cars and batteries and replacing combustion engines.

Because for cars the basic manufacturing capacity is already existing, only needs adaption. Of course there will be no engine manufacturing any more (as carburator manufacturing disappeared in th 80ties, replaced by fuel injection), the typical life cycle of product innovation.

Doug West from Missouri on December 30, 2020:

Good article on the coming big changes in the auto industry.

Related Articles