Image: Marc van der Chijs Image: Marc van der Chijs

As the government announces that all new diesel and petrol cars will be banned from the UK by 2040, indignation is in the air. But the critiques of such a move are wrong.

When it comes to public opinion, views on electric cars don’t count. And they don’t count because public opinion is wrapped in the tyranny of today’s thinking.

Right now, electric cars are not fit for purpose. Sure, if you have several cars, and like the idea of doing your bit for the environment, or you only drive a few miles a day, they are fine. For long distance drivers, they are not – but that is hardly the point.

Three years ago, a survey found very few UK customers could see the point of 5G – but the rise of 5G is unstoppable because, as the data speed grows, the applications that require super-fast bandwidth grow too. People who replied to the 5G survey were basing their views on what was available at that time.

If you had surveyed people 20 years ago on whether they wanted a touchscreen phone with a big screen, not many people would have said yes. What was the point in having such a product when there was nothing to use it for? Internet speeds were so slow, you needed the patience of a saint just to download an image.

Ten years later, people still didn’t want touchscreen phones, because up to that point what touchscreen phones there were, had been disappointing. But Steve Jobs ignored the research and the iPhone was born anyway.

He used to cite a supposed quote by Henry Ford – ‘if you ask people want they want they will say faster horses.’ There is a question mark over whether Ford actually said that, but that is beside the point, it summed up his views.

We are seeing a re-run. This time applied to electric cars.

The gainsayers and petrolheads miss the point.

All the critiques aimed at electric cars will cease to apply a long time before 2040.

  • Electric cars will be able to travel 300 miles between charges many years before 2040
  • The time it will take to recharge an electric car will be reduced to less than hour long before 2040
  • Thanks to the falling cost of renewables, combined with falling energy storage costs, the price of electricity will fall rapidly and its use will become much better for the environment.
  • Charging an electric car is not like refuelling a petrol car – you can do something else simultaneously – such as having a break
  • The cost of electric cars is set to fall sharply
  • At some point in the next 23 years, and a long time before 2040, it will be possible to charge electric cars whilst they are in use – wirelessly, and maybe whilst they sit at traffic lights, or are in a traffic jam
  • At some point in the next 23 years, and long before 2040, we will see the combination of lithium-ion batteries with supercapacitors. Supercapacitors can be charged in seconds, but have less storage. They will always have less storage than lithium-ion batteries, but the use of graphene will increase their storage such that the combination with lithium-ion will be compelling
  • At some point in the next 23 years, and before 2040, lithium-ion will, in any case, give way to new, superior technology, such as lithium-sulphur batteries.
  • It’s all a meaningless debate anyway because by then all cars will be self-driving, few us of will own cars, we will share them instead, and the sense of desirability we associate with cars will no longer exist
  • Critics are like the people who insisted that horseless carriages should be preceded by a man waving a red flag. Companies that deny the inevitability of electric cars display all the hallmarks of firms that will be disrupted out of business
  • To argue this one, you might as well argue that that the sun is not hot, we don’t need oxygen and the moon is made of cheese
Indignation may be in the air, but at least there will soon be a lot less fumes in the air for us to breathe in.