To read the views of some futurologists, it might be very easy to imagine that within a very short time all cars will be electric-powered, no doubt being covered with solar panels or even equipped with their own mini-turbines to generate power on windy days.
However, it may well be that such predictions will go the way of 2015’s flying cars of Back to the Future fame. If the boss of Total is to be believed, the internal combustion engine will be with us for a long time yet.
Chief executive officer of the company Patrick Pouyanné said the reality is that the adoption of electric vehicles will be much slower than some imagine. He predicted that by 2040, only between 20 and 30 per cent of light vehicles will be electric, and only half of cars will run off batteries by this time.
Some might retort: “He would say that, wouldn’t he?” After all, Total is a major oil company.
However, Mr Pouyanné drives an electric car himself and emphasised that Total intends to be a diverse energy company in the future instead of specialising in oil.
He remarked: “There is a clear future for electric vehicles, especially in cities in China and Europe because of air pollution, but there are still obstacles to a large adoption.”
The problem, Mr Pouyanné explained, is that there are structural barriers to the mass-adoption of electric vehicles, at least in some countries. This includes capacity constraints on some national grids and a lack of charging infrastructure. He also predicted that the cost of the basic raw materials of the batteries such cars will use – nickel, lithium and cobalt – are likely to go up, not down.
Cobalt is particularly problematic, as 60 per cent of the world’s supply comes from the unstable Democratic Republic of Congo.
Of course, new technologies may emerge to solve these problems. But for now, it seems the idea that the whole world will switch to electric cars within decades may be a bit too optimistic.
Ellie Baker, brand manager at Fuel Card Services, comments: “Electric cars are clearly going to play a growing role in the years ahead. But rumours of the imminent death of petrol engines have clearly been exaggerated.”
Posted on 19th June 2018
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