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How EVs Will Change our Entire Transportation Landscape
This is another column about the future of EVs in the U.S. The two recent columns I published here got a lot of positive feedback. It seems to be on people’s minds.
In the first column I suggested why 2025 will be the break-out or tipping point year for EVs in the United States. In the second column I suggested how the EV market would become segmented into three basic categories by 2030. Both were about the coming shift from ICE vehicles to EV vehicles. Today we look at all the cascading consequences this shift will trigger.
Whenever there is a new, transformative technology, it does far more than replace its predecessor; it changes the landscape. The garage was created to supplant the stable when the ICE vehicle replaced the horse and buggy. The gas station came into being to allow the ICE vehicles to have the range and drive almost anywhere.
The massive conversion of ICE vehicles to EV vehicles will alter many aspects of our lives beyond simply replacing one for the other. Here are some consequences of the move to EVs in the United States in the next 10 years.
The Garage becomes a power center
An EV will be charged in the garage of a free-standing house. Overnight the car will be charged for the next day. The next level up is to get a large battery to put in the garage for when the electricity goes out. A fully charged wall-mounted large battery can be used as a back-up energy source if electricity gets knocked out or to charge an EV several times over.
For people living in high-rise apartment buildings, there will be charging stations on every parking garage level, and most likely near the elevator or stairs.
Energy-savvy consumers will quickly realize that the cost of electricity goes down after midnight. What this fact means is that overnight charging will become widespread.
Parking garages become power stations
The big, urban parking garages will become power stations. Commuters, having charged their vehicles with lower- cost electricity overnight will set resell electricity back in the daytime at higher prices when parked during work. Setting the drawdown to allow enough range for the commute back home. This makes consumers actual energy entrepreneurs and purveyors of energy.
The end of the car dealership as we know it
Ask anyone what the most profitable part of any car dealership, and the answer will be “the service department”. I have known this since my youth and I am not a car nut. Today's average car has nearly 20,000 parts if all nuts, bolts and technologies are summed up. An EV has far fewer. It has been estimated that an ICE drivetrain has some 200 parts, and an EV has 20. So, if there are 10% of the number of parts needing service, it stands to reason that there will be fewer needed repairs.
Tesla has had great success with high-end retail outlets in signature malls. Whether this is a sales model all the other EV companies will embrace remains to be seen.
If you have flown in winter weather, you know that the airlines “deice” the plane, particularly the wings, to prevent the build-up of ice for take-off and flight. The term will now have a new meaning.
In the EV era, deicing will mean the conversion of an ICE vehicle into an EV.
Say you have a classic car such as a 1957 Chevy or a 1953 Buick convertible. What to do in the era of EVs? Convert that magnificent road machine into an EV! This particular market will initially be addressed by all the automotive custom and detailing shops that specialize in rebuilding vintage vehicles. Then it will break out from that market niche to become a business that services anyone who has a vehicle that, for some reason wants to keep it “in the family”.
I foresee national chains in this new service sector. Oil changes, tire changes and now engine changes. There will be competition on price, time and range. This is a business that will start out slow and will build up through the end of the decade and then slowly decline in the late 2030s when the remaining stock of ICE cars starts to shrink dramatically.
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Dramatic increase in accidents involving pedestrians.
This is the big safety issue with EVs. They are silent. Pedestrians are supposed to “look both ways” before crossing a street, but we have all lived in the current reality when we hear cars approaching as a prompt to wait for the light to change.
This will lead to a small market sector: engine noise software. Want your long-range vehicle to sound like a Ferrari? No problem! Want that cute, small, low-range vehicle to sound like a Volkswagen Beetle? No problem. This will lead to a vanity market when we switch out one engine sound for another.
This will be a subset of the overall EV marketplace. Modular batteries will become a competitive advantage. Companies will tout that their vehicles have replaceable power packs that can be switched out quickly affordably and with environmentally acceptable practices. This is an entirely new concept prior to EVs. How often have you taken your car into to have the engine switched out while you wait?
A variation on this of course will be “range extension”. Adding battery packs to existing vehicles to extend range.
Clean energy charging stations
There will be arrays of charging stations owned by companies or governments that will tout that they provide 100% clean-energy charging. The effect of this will be widespread. Any solar panel or wind turbine “farm” will put in some charging stations to offset the building cost.
Companies will install solar panels on roof-tops to allow employees to charge their vehicles while at work.
As a futurist, I have been completely wrong in my forecast that up to 33% of all cars on the road in the U.S. in 2030 will be driverless. I was too optimistic about the development of the necessary sensor-driven software for safety. That said, autonomous vehicles will be perhaps 10% of vehicles on the road in 2030. This will quickly climb through the 2030s so that it will reach some 50% of all vehicles in the road by 2040.
The concept of autonomous vehicles becomes real with EVs. EVs will be able to self-drive to a charging platform one or two times a day as a charge is needed. No human will be needed as the autonomous vehicle pulls over a charging platform. Once this starts to take root in the U.S., and around the world, vehicle ownership will plummet. The concept of fleets will begin.
The average American drives her car only 10% of the time that car is owned. The rest of the time, it is parked. The car usually represents the second largest purchase an American makes, after buying a house. This is expensive redundancy. Would one buy a house if one was only going to live in it 10% of the time?
For example, I live in a housing development of 106 houses. Most have two-car garages, though some have three-car garages. My rough guess is that there are some 250 cars and trucks in this neighborhood. In a fully autonomous future, perhaps 25-30 cars will be needed to service the needs of those 106 families.
So our future of individual transportation is not a new infrastructure, but the roads, highways and interstates with 40-50% fewer cars. The reality by 2040 at the latest. With half the number of vehicles on the road, and with the vast majority of them being EVs GHG emissions for this sector will vanish.
In summary., the coming EV revolution will transform personal transportation in the U.S. over the next 15 years in ways far beyond simply switching out ICE vehicles for EVs. I dare submit that, by 2035 when we look back at the disappearing ICE era, we will wonder how we could have had such dumb, dangerous and planet-damaging forms of transport.