Why the Future of Cars is Electric

Why the Future of Cars is Electric


I was invited here, to Munich, by BMW the sponsor of this video to find out why the future of cars is electric. But electric cars are actually nothing new — they date back to 1832, well before the first gasoline-powered car. In fact, the first car to go faster than a hundred kilometers per hour was in 1899, an electric one, called the Jamais Contente, meaning “never satisfied”. But people were apparently satisfied with electric cars. By 1910, they were almost twice as common on American roads as internal combustion engines. But then came the Model T, which at $650 was significantly cheaper than comparable electric cars and as gas stations popped up around the country, they could be quickly refueled, allowing you to travel farther, faster, and cheaper than electric cars, which took a long time to recharge. So by 1935, the electric vehicle had been commercially obliterated. But electric cars were still useful for some things: in the vacuum of space, an electric vehicle was the obvious choice for the Apollo lunar roving vehicle. It was a single-use vehicle due to its non rechargeable silver zinc potassium hydroxide battery, and it had a range of just 92 kilometers. But the astronauts never needed even half of this range. At the Munich Olympics in 1972, to lead marathon runners in their race, BMW created an electric version of its two series car. The car ran on 12 large car batteries for a maximum range of 60 kilometers, or 37 miles. This demonstrated the benefits of electric vehicles: they can run quietly with no emissions. But it also illustrated their limitations: with the battery technology available at the time, electric cars were expensive and short-range, impractical for everyday use. So why are electric cars the future? In 2020, BMW is launching the IX3 all-electric sport utility vehicle, and they plan to have 25 electrified vehicles in their fleet by 2023. A lot of their concept cars, like the Vision M Next, are electric vehicles and they have a Formula-E car which can now run a whole race on a single battery pack. This is all made possible by developments in battery technology. Batteries have gotten a lot better, particularly with the introduction of lithium ion batteries. First used in mobile phones about 30 years ago, lithium ion batteries have almost two times more energy in the same volume than the next-best battery chemistry. Because of their use in many consumer products like phones and laptops, their manufacturing costs continue to decline, driven by manufacturing and supply chain optimization. Over the last three decades, the energy density has increased both per unit mass and per unit volume, while the price has plummeted. This is unlike internal combustion engines which, after a century of development, have few areas left for improvement. And the reality is, you don’t really travel that far in a car. The batteries available today are good enough for all but the longest road trips. In the US, 99% of trips are under 160 kilometers, or 100 miles. And electric cars are just better vehicles. Here are my top 10 reasons why: First: more torque from a standstill. 2. Thanks to the batteries under the floor, they have a low center of mass and so better handling. 3. Since you can drive electric motors independently, you can have precise control over each wheel for maximum traction. 4. Electric cars are quieter. 5. Electric cars are cheaper to run than gas cars, because gas is more expensive than electricity for the same distance traveled. 6. Electric cars are more efficient than gas cars, both in converting stored energy into energy of motion and in regenerating some of that energy when braking. 7. You never have to visit a gas station, because you can recharge at home. 8. There’s less maintenance: fewer moving parts, no oil changes, and the brakes wear out less often thanks to regenerative braking. 9. And depending on the source of electricity, in my case, solar panels, electric cars don’t produce any CO2 at all, so they don’t contribute to climate change. Plus, as cars become essentially computers on wheels, electric vehicles are leading the way towards self-driving cars. Alright we’re gonna start our ride in an autonomous vehicle, my first time ever: Level 4 autonomy. Once this becomes commonplace, it’s likely we’ll change how we see cars: from something we own that sits idle for most of its existence, to transportation as a service, something we ride in to get from point A to point B, and something we share with others. There are still a lot of details to work out, but it’s clear to me that the future of cars is electric, autonomous, and shared.