Why The Future Of Cars Is Electric

Technology changes at a fast pace these days, but even so, we typically think that today’s technology norms will remain for a long time, just with incremental improvements. That hasn’t been how the story goes, though.

When I was in high school, a few people had beepers, and basically no one had a cell phone. If you were away from home and wanted to make a call, you had to search out a payphone. Just a few years later, a lot of people were buying cell phones. Not much of a phone person and not much of a tech person, I figured I’d not get a cell phone at all… as in, ever. “What’s the point?” … A few years later, I got a cell phone. Nowadays, we have smartphones and few people have a landline at home. “What’s the point?”

Similar transitions have occurred when it comes to computers, laptops, tablets, washing machines, dishwashers, and other technologies. I’m convinced the next such transitions will be to solar power and electric cars. And I’ll explain below.


1905 Woods Electric

First of all, though, it’s worth noting that electric cars have a long history. They accounted for a huge portion of the car market at the beginning of the 1900s. They were especially popular with women since they were much cleaner, easier to start, and required less maintenance. Then, the electric starter was invented, making it easier and quicker to start gasmobiles, and the affordable Ford Model T was rolled out. With very short ranges, due to battery capabilities of the time, and very limited public charging, those early electric cars slowly went out of style.

One of the things that has changed the story today is that battery technology has improved dramatically. Today’s lithium-ion batteries make some electric cars cost-competitive with “comparable” gasmobiles my on a life of ownership basis. The thing is, though, you can’t really compare electric cars with gasmobiles. Electric cars have some huge benefits that gasmobiles can’t acquire.

Chevy Volt Amsterdam

Chevy Volt in Amsterdam

First of all, electric cars are extremely convenient. We just assume today that going to the gas station is a part of life, like we used to assume that you basically had to be at home or work to receive a call. But with an electric car, you can simply plug in when you get home and then unplug when you leave again. It’s about as simple and quick as unlocking and locking the front door, or checking them mail. Based on today’s driving patterns and available electric cars, such charging should cover over 90% of driving for most of us, and even over 99% for a large number of us. Generally speaking, the convenience from that greatly surpasses the inconvenience of finding a public charging station very occasionally when you need one.

instant torque graph

Instant torque graph shows why even a Nissan LEAF crushes a typical gasmobile off the line.

The second great consumer benefit of electric cars is their drive quality. They come with “instant torque,” which means all your power right when you step on the electricity pedal. That acceleration is a ton of fun, and also super useful when turning onto a busy road, entering a roundabout, or getting into the other lane right after a red light. That’s not the end of the better drive quality, though. Electric motors make a very tiny amount of noise, so they are much quieter and smoother to drive than gasmobiles. It’s something you notice and appreciate right away, but once you get used to it, it makes going back to a noisy gasmobile weird and hugely unpleasant.

I think those two benefits alone will make the masses switch to electricity. Once you experience those benefits, driving a gasoline-powered car feels as ancient as calling someone on a landline. But there are other huge benefits as well.


BMW i3 with ubitricity branding in Berlin.

The biggest societal crisis the world has ever faced is probably global warming and the resulting climate change. About a third of global warming pollution comes from transportation, largely private automobiles. Electric cars are about 3 times more efficient and the electricity can of course come from clean, renewable energy. Electric cars are a critical solution to global warming, and anyone who cares about solving this problem (as we all should) who is still driving a gasmobile should be planning a switch to electric mobility.

Renault Zoe 5

Renault Zoe in the UK… eagerly awaiting my test drive.

Aside from global warming, gasmobiles are of course a huge source of air pollution. Switching to electric cars means the air around us will be cleaner and we will suffer less from pollution-related health problems (which often even lead to early death).

Furthermore, almost all of us live in countries where we import a tremendous amount of oil from foreign countries in order to enable our driving habits, often from countries that aren’t particularly friendly to us. Trillions of dollars worth of oil are imported into developed countries. Wars have been fought and countless lives lost simply to protect oil supplies. Electric cars offer the potential of energy independence and self-reliance, on the national level and even on the personal level.

For these reasons, there are already almost one million electric cars on the road, but I think that we will see almost all new cars driving on electricity before long. For once, I think I’ll be on the front end of a technology transition!

Tesla Model S Brown Amsterdam

Beautiful brown Tesla Model S in Amsterdam… and me in front.

Top image via the Steampunk Facebook page

Related: Solar + Electric Transport = Huge Social Implications

  • Mohd Farhan

    Hi Zach, I am doing my masters thesis on Marketing and Promotion of Electric cars in 5 countries- Germany, France, India, Japan and Norway. I found your articles very inspirational. I am also considering how these countries produce electricity, what is their current carbon foortprint of transportation and energy. My main focus is which are the best policies and which countries policies are not good. I will keep in mind the sales also.

    If you have some good free online sources like for energy and carbon, i am using iea.org.
    Is it possible where I can find exact sales of EC in Paris, Berlin, Bangalore, Oslo and Tokyo? Or its better to focus on country sales?

    Are there some good websites to get free Electric Cars data?

    Anyways EVobsession is one of my favourite websites. Thanks a lot. Your page has inspired many like me.

    • http://zacharyshahan.com/ Zachary Shahan

      AWESOME! That sounds like a lot of fun. If you feel like blogging about it along the way, let me know.

      IEA is probably best for current energy/carbon data. And perhaps IRENA.org — its focus is renewables, but may have info putting them into broader context… but I assume that info just comes from IEA anyway.

      Not sure about those cities, but some cities do publish car registration data. I’ve never tried to track such data down, but you may be able to.

      Keep in touch! In which country are you based?

      • farhan59

        Wow. Its such an inspiration for me to see your reply. I am currently in Berlin. I come from India.

        Yes. I will try my best to find that data also. Also my time period is short- have to defend thesis in February 16 . So, I can only focus on limited countries.

        Yes. I will LOVE to blog about EV. There are some good things I find on internet everyday that I cannot put in my thesis, like for latest technological news about fast charging batteries, etc. Also I am trying to make graphs incorporating carbon footprint of countries, energy production and EV sales. After my thesis gets over, on my personal level, I will do research on more countries.

        Thanks !

        • http://zacharyshahan.com/ Zachary Shahan

          Excellent. I was actually thinking about you blogging about your thesis as you found some interesting info, but either way.

          I’m actually just a few hours from Berlin, in Wroclaw, Poland (aka Breslau… to the Germans). Maybe we could meet at some point either here or there.

          • farhan59

            Hi, I needed a little help from your side. I did a little change in my approach.I am now focusing more on comparing 2 cities in each country. How Electric Car sales have been different.

            I have already selected
            1. Paris, France
            2. Berlin, Germany
            3. Tokyo, Japan
            4. Oslo, Norway
            5. California, USA.

            Can you please suggest me one more city in each country, so I can compare Electric Car sales, policies, carbon and energy footprint.

            And surely let me know if you drop to Berlin. Or I wish I travel Poland.


          • http://zacharyshahan.com/ Zachary Shahan

            Yeah, emailing you.

          • farhan59

            I am more interesting in comparing 2 contrasting cases. One in which these EV policies worked and one where they failed.


    • Sandra Wear

      Hi and good luck with your thesis.

      As of right now, the electricity to fuel EV’s is primarily generated by burning of coal. There is no hiding from this and honestly needs to be considered very carefully in your thesis.

      Nuclear facilities raise all kinds of panic – it is clean but for the storage of waste – so many will not consider this in their communities. Scratch that.

      Where the electricity to power EVs comes from cannot be ignored. We must answer this question intelligently and reasonably.

      Then, what about the battery? What are they made of, how much energy is expended in making them and what happens when they need to be replaced? Do they go into landfills? Are they taken apart in 3rd world countries in unhealthy conditions to preserve what is reusable and the rest is scrapped? This question must be carefully answered as well.

      The energy expended to manufacture the car – what source of energy is used for that endeavor because both manufacturers are using it (EV and H2O). The energy to deliver the cars, where does that come from?

      In truth there is no silver bullet for the challenges we face concerning climate change. Whatever we choose however it would be wise to incorporate it in society beyond a car.

      For me, I have been asking Honda makers about an H2O fueling station for my home. My goal is to use H2O to power my house. My solar panels can provide electricity to make H2O to power my home and my car. I will also use it to run my geothermal fans to keep the temperature in my home warm/cool and run my electrical appliances etc.

      My footprint for all intents and purposes will amount to .001% compared to now which I think is pretty good. In fact, at present this is the H2O society I believe is achievable and one I ascribe to therefore it won’t include an EV simply because the issue is well beyond a car’s performance I think.

      There is one other possible solution and that is magnetic energy but then you’d have to dig up all of the rare earth on this globe and that like fossil fuels is a limited resource. We will run out of that too.

      H2O from what I understand is limitless but I could be wrong. So for me, my next car must address the use of energy beyond vehicle exhaust and performance. Simply put could I live with a car that perhaps doesn’t have the kick of a Tesla? Yes – but only if I have the ability to refuel it and my home at the same time.

      We do not need to create all sorts of fueling stations for H20. We need a tank and a process to generate it for ourselves. We get rid of trains and trucks hauling it to stations therefore this is no different an idea than an EV but it is far better on many other levels. Just my opinion.

  • Alan Friedman

    Does anyone know of “any on the fly” ev charging projects currently going on in the United States, such as the project in England (http://assets.highways.gov.uk/specialist-information/knowledge-compendium/2014-2015/Feasibility+study+Powering+electric+vehicles+on+Englands+major+roads.pdf)