Monday, September 21, 2009

A slow grass roots movement

Its starting to feel like the battles have all been won.

We have a President of the USA who is listening to scientists and informed advisors, and who as a result is leading the way to a greener future - and a major plank of Obama's platform is electric vehicles.

Here in Australia the politico's aren't arguing about whether to have a green policy, its just which one, and who is greener than who.

In 2010, a whole slew of car manufacturers will be delivering new zero emission electric vehicle models - and the factories and supply chains for these are rumbling along as I write this.

What I think is most exciting is that all of this is mirrored by a beginning groundswell of us ordinary humans, eagerly waiting to get our hands on these cleaner more hi-tech electric cars.

But one very important thing should not be lost sight of with this change: it will be a slow-burning revolution. There'll be no overnight toppling of the old regime of internally-combusting dinosaur-burning auto's.

As we've already seen with the Prius, the rate of supply of batteries and other components has meant that the demand for the high-miler has typically outstripped supply.

When EV's come on the market, even if prices are initially inflated, there will be far fewer units available than eager drivers waiting to buy one. The auto-makers are busy testing the waters with every market research tool they have, but still caution and costs of tooling factories will mean that production capacity will be initially low, and waiting lists for the new cars will be long.

And yet, its funny - when I talk to ordinary folks around about EV's there is occasionally a very defensive reaction.

Its almost as though the arrival of electric vehicles is expected to be like going to digital television: an overnight government mandated changeover where new-fangled equipment will be forced on sometimes unwilling citizens along with assurances that its all for the best.

Well, it is all for the best.

But there is no overnight thing, and there's no mandate either.

For those that love their gas-guzzler, I'd love to say please consider driving something greener - but the reality is, that big old bus is not going to be supplanted by an EV because the green and bleeding-edge technology loving crowd will be grabbing all the EV's that come down the line.

A couple of weekends ago I was at the foundation meeting of the Brisbane branch of the Australian Electric Vehicle Association.

And it was a fascinating group.

One third roughly were the green-tech crowd I mentioned - in fact there was quite the contingent of software engineers (like me), along with a few other types of engineers. Another third were solid green and star-gazing types, familiar with promoting the low carbon agenda.

All of us in those two-thirds (barring a few with electric cycles and so on) were in the "wannabe" category when it came to electric vehicles. For us in this sector of the electric green-swell the belief is that it's all a brand new wave.

Then there were the other third: electric vehicle grey-beards and sages of back-yard engineering who have been designing, building and driving around in their own electric vehicles for decades. This inventive entrepreneurial vanguard have been waiting so long for this revolution you could forgive them for being a bit tetchy.

Outside the meeting was parked a Honda City converted to electric over 14 years ago.

Since arriving back in Australia from Silicon Valley in December last year this was the first electric vehicle I had seen.

In less than 2 weeks I'll be flying down to Canberra for the AEVA's National Electric Vehicle festival - the first of its kind.

There I'll be seeing dozens of electric vehicles. From the ultra-fast, ultra-desirable Tesla, to the home-grown sports cars of Australia's EV innovators and hardware hackers.

From these firsts, we're going to see a slow dawning of a new age of zero emissions vehicles.

The electric vehicle revolution is slowly happening. I'm hoping its not too tardy to turn around rising levels of pollution, and the economic damage of oil.

How long then before gas-guzzlers are the same kind of curiosity that electric cars are today?

I'm picking it will take a decade for it to be an overnight success.

1 comment:

  1. Just saw a relevant article at ElectricAid -

    2000 Mitsubishi iMiev's were built in their initial run in Japan, and all of them have been bought. Even demo and showroom floor models have been pulled off and sold.

    So sleep easy gas-guzzler die-hards, there won't be near enough EV's for those folks who actually want them for quite a long time yet.


Hi, thanks for leaving your thoughtful on-topic comment!