THE FUTURE IS ELECTRIC - BYE, BYE FOSSIL FUELSElectric and autonomous cars may have stolen most of the limelight in the move away from fossil dependency, but other kinds of electrified vehicles represent an even more significant growth area.
In July, Bloomberg New Energy Finance estimated that a record one million electric cars were sold last year, boosting the total rolling stock to three million worldwide. Although the growth of this sector has been impressive, the numbers pale in comparison to electric two- and three-wheelers, for example, typically electric city scooters and rickshaws. Today these number over 300 million, and are mostly used in Asia.
The truth is that a look beyond electric cars reveals that there is tremendous development and innovation taking place in other areas. Essentially, everything that is used to move or transport something is subject to electrification attempts today. As cities continue to expand at an ever-increasing rate, resulting in air pollution and congestion, a growing number of municipalities are turning to electric buses to make public transport networks more environmentally sound. In China alone, an estimated half a million people die from the consequences of air pollution each year, with China now leading the way in the electrification domain.
There are already 300,000 e-buses on the roads in China, and by the late 2020s these are likely to become the predominant form of traffic, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance (NEF). They predict that 80 percent of all buses worldwide will be electric by 2040, but only 33 percent of cars.
Electric trucks are also on the way, with trials of battery-driven long-distance trucks ongoing in Germany, Sweden and the US using intermittent charging on the move through overhead catenary power transfer systems. Another tell-tale sign is electric car pioneer Tesla’s decision to venture into e-trucks, with its Semi due to go into production in 2019.
Elsewhere, drones used for commercial purposes such as monitoring crops or livestock, or delivering supplies to remote areas are quickly growing in number, and offshore there are several initiatives involving electric cargo ships and ferries. Today one of the ferries plying the Öresund strait between Denmark and Sweden is, for example, fully electric.
In warehouses, electric forklift trucks are becoming commonplace, and electrified heavy equipment used in mines is even starting to be used. In Canada, Goldcorp Inc has turned its Borden gold mine into a fully electric operation, saving on fuel costs while reducing carbon emissions and creating a vastly better working environment. Waving goodbye to noisy and dirty diesel drills and trucks is now referred to as a “game-changer” by the mining workers.
Private car owners have been slower on the uptake than expected when it comes to electric vehicles. This partly has to do with the high purchase costs and in some cases inadequate charging infrastructure.
When it comes to commercial vehicles such as trucks, buses, drones, machines and robots, going electric often makes sense from a cost perspective since these are typically in more or less constant use. While they may cost more to acquire, these vehicles have much lower operating costs than those run on fossil fuels.
So, the future is electric — and far more diverse than one ever imagined.