Jared wonders why every auto maker is pushing hard for electric vehicles, and at what cost?
Last year I was in Tokyo for the world premiere of the new generation Nissan Leaf. The Leaf is the undisputed champion of electric mobility when it comes to global EV market share, and Nissan had put on the most elaborate press event I have ever witnessed for an electric car. But it wasn’t just Nissan who were all praises for electric mobility. Last year, at every major auto show from Tokyo to New York, electric mobility was being shoved down our throats incessantly.
Don’t get me wrong, I am an avid environmentalist and I deeply care about the overall health of this world we call home, but I just couldn’t help but wonder why everybody wanted to go electric, as if it was the only solution we had for a cleaner future. Ever since Volkswagen got busted in the emissions scandal, they have been pushing out a green agenda and just recently they have vowed to offer an electric variant for each of their models by 2030. Swedish car makers Volvo have gone a step further and have announced their plans to go fully electric by next year (2019). Then of course there is Tesla, started by the charismatic Elon Musk who has promised to change the world. Everyone is on the electric bandwagon and there probably isn’t a single car or bike maker left in the world that doesn’t have some sort of electric vehicle in the pipeline.
But the question I’m really trying to answer here is why is electric mobility the hot topic of discussion? Are there no other alternative options available to us? Well, there are plenty of other sources of fuel, but it seems that today, or in the near future, electric vehicles are also the most profitable alternative. You see, electric motors have been around longer than the internal combustion engine and the technology has always been available, but recharging vehicles was not. Charging an electric vehicle is perhaps the most crucial deciding factor when opting for an EV. Auto makers needed batteries capable of storing electricity and only recently have they been able to develop them. The development of these batteries has made it possible for EV’s to evolve. However, these batteries are wreaking havoc across the planet. While many manufacturers would want you to believe that they will develop vehicles with zero emissions, this is very far from the truth of the matter.
Lithium, nickel and graphite are mined across the world, and the environmental devastation from their mining does more than just pollute the air. Forests are decimated, ground water is poisoned, rivers turn red from contamination, wildlife is lost and then there is the human cost of course where the miners are treated as slaves, sometimes even killed. So, while your EV might help make the already poisoned air a little less toxic, it carries a more significant contribution to pollution, waste, and destruction somewhere else on the planet. In fact, even the mobile phone industry is a part of this.
The reason however, that auto makers continue to choose electric mobility over every other alternative fuel, is because it is the cheapest alternative for them to sell you a more expensive vehicle thanks to emission regulations. But, even emission regulations don’t really add any kind of external pressure to auto makers, because those same law makers will then help customers subsidise their electric vehicle purchase, which in turn is a boon for the car maker in itself because the money comes right back to them. Hybrid electric vehicles are incredibly inexpensive for manufacturers to develop and yet they have a huge mark-up on their selling price when compared to the standard models with gasoline engines.
The fact of the matter still remains that yes, fossil fuels are dangerous. Yes, petrol and diesel engines need to be phased out of production, and we need to be able to focus on alternative fuels. Let’s not forget there are other solutions that need to be explored, and just because electricity seems to be the easiest and most cost-effective option, doesn’t necessarily make it the right one, especially with the way it is being done currently.
Electric mobility as a clean alternative with zero emissions and no negative impact on the environment is still a very distant dream. And, while their intentions might be good on just a few occasions, profit has always been the ultimate goal for every auto manufacturer. Don’t ever forget that!