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The Road to a Greener Future

published: 2010-11-09 17:08

When talking about Electric Vehicles (EVs) or Hybrid Electric Vehicles (HEVs), you might want to ask yourselves an intriguing question: what are the ideal circumstances for a greener future to develop under?

Infrastructure and all the supporting measures behind it are the preliminary starting point. It holds the key to the success (penetration rate) of EVs. In the early stage, what concerns people most is the waiting time to charge the battery. In the future, it will take only five to ten minutes, as opposed to several hours now, to charge the battery before you can hit the road again. Except for some irregular travels, the ideal situation is to commute between regular spots (e.g. home and work) where you can charge the battery when you do not need it long enough for the battery to be recharged.

Is there a better way? Waiting for the battery to be recharged seems troublesome and reduces the practicality of EVs.

Thanks to a group of pioneers in the U.S. who have already thought up a different approach. A company called Better Place proposed a battery switching plan. The brilliance of such a business model is that it takes the shortest time possible to get fully charged batteries ready for use. All you need to do is go to the service stations, and then the station will do the rest for you using an ingenious robotic system to switch new batteries for depleted ones. The switch process takes less time than a stop at the gas station and the driver and passengers may remain in the car during the process. Not only did it solve the problem of continuous mobility, it also created a feasible economical model. Consumers of EVs will no longer have to purchase the battery which accounts for more than half of the cost to buy an EV. Instead, batteries can be treated as a long term lease. The heavy burden of making one big payment for the battery will be spread out over time, thus greatly reducing the initial investment and increasing the willingness to make the purchase/switch.

After the penetration rate of EVs reaches a certain economical level, some believe it will be a tipping point for the next industrial evolution, evidenced by the fact that modern civilization in the past century started with the invention of automobile. Currently, vehicle CO2 emissions account for half of the total carbon emission from fossil fuel. The total number of cars will increase from 0.8 billion now to 1.4 billion by 2020, mainly because of the strong demand in developing countries like China and India. Without the presence of EVs, the oil consumption will increase dramatically, followed by sky rocketing oil price and not to mention the enormous environmental impact. EnergyTrend estimates the number of EVs will grow to 500,000 by 2015 and to 2 million by 2020 globally. The fate of the world will depend on the fate of a new industry?

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