The growth of automobile ownership in the United States has provided a combination of blessings and harms to the country and the world. Automobiles have stimulated economic growth, population mobility and geographic freedom. Yet fossil fuel cars are the leading causes of pollution, urban sprawl and massive traffic delays, in addition to fatalities, injuries and property damage from accidents.
One solution to these problems is the development of autonomous electric vehicles. Some analysts predict that these vehicles will eliminate traffic accidents, reduce pollution and decrease the number of vehicles on the road.
Is an electric or autonomous car in your future? Here’s a look at what they are, what they offer, and how to determine if one is right for you.
What is an electric or autonomous vehicle?
Technology is poised to transform the relationship between humans, their vehicles, and the environment over the next two decades. Peter O’Connor of the Union of Concerned Scientists predicts that electric vehicles (or EVs) could account for 20% of car sales in the United States by 2025. As sales increase, the cost of EVs will decrease. At the same time, the cost of internal combustion engine vehicles will rise as manufacturers face stringent and expensive emissions regulations.
Not all electric cars are self-driving, and not all self-driving cars are electric. While electric vehicles are on the road today, self-driving cars are only in the testing phase, and no one can say for sure when consumers can expect to see them. Below are the differences between the two.
Electric vehicles run on electricity from batteries or fuel cells located inside the vehicle body. The first electric vehicle was introduced in Scotland and enjoyed brief popularity as a taxi in the late 19th century. The introduction of the internal combustion engine, along with the low cost of gasoline, led to the replacement of electric vehicles in the 1920s.
Electric cars are extremely efficient (95% vs. 30% for a traditional combustion engine), as they deliver power directly to the wheels, eliminating the need for a clutch or gearbox. Manufacturers are currently exploring the possibility of an electric motor that would reside entirely in the rim of the wheel.
Environmental concerns (electric motors produce 0% tailpipe emissions) and volatile fuel prices have also spurred the development of modern electric vehicles. In 1997, Toyota produced the first mass-produced hybrid car, the Prius, which had a small gasoline engine to drive the electric motor between charges. Nissan, Honda, Ford and Chevrolet followed with their own models within a few years.
GM produced the first all-electric vehicle, the EV1, in 1996, but it was never commercially viable. In 2008, Tesla Motors produced its electric Roadster, followed by the launch of the Nissan Leaf. According to EVRater, 65 fully electric vehicles and 63 hybrid vehicles from 27 manufacturers are available now or in the future. According to the US Energy Information Administration, nearly 725,000 electric or hybrid vehicles were on the roads in the United States in 2017, representing about 3% of total new car sales in the United States, according to Quartz.
Autonomous vehicles are not yet available for purchase by consumers. As The Atlantic reports, Tesla introduced software in 2016 that allows a car owner to “invoke” their electric or hybrid vehicle. The car can start on its own, open the garage door and meet your passengers in the aisle like a motorist. Since that announcement, dozens of software companies have released competing software with similar functionality. Due to the diversity and the likelihood that various software will not communicate between car models, Bloomberg Opinion’s Noah Smith recommends that the federal government require the use of a universal and shared communication system between vehicles.
Autonomous driving software continues to improve after a driver of a Tesla Model S electric sedan died while in autonomous driving mode in Florida in May 2016. In 2018, an autonomous Uber car struck and killed a pedestrian in Tempe, Arizona. . . The inability of technology to make up for smaller, faster motorcycles caused several non-fatal crashes in California in 2017.
Still, many people are excited about the idea of a world in which autonomous and autonomous vehicles make traffic lights and freeway lanes obsolete. According to a 2017 article in Business Insider, 19 companies, including manufacturers and tech giants, are fighting to develop self-driving cars.
Advantages of autonomous electric vehicles
Futurists predict that by the middle of this century, new automotive technology will transform personal transportation in America in the following ways.
1. Reduction of personal transport costs
The traditional rule of thumb for determining the affordability of a car was that its total cost, including a 20% down payment, the loan term of no more than four years, and payments, interest, and insurance, should not exceed 10%. . its annual cost. entrance. However, this rule is becoming increasingly difficult for the average consumer to follow.
Due to higher prices and extended loan terms, the Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that in 2016, the typical American couple spent a greater portion of their gross income on transportation (17.5 percent) than on transportation. food (11.8%); only the cost of housing exceeded the cost of transport. Financial problems are compounded when a family owns multiple cars, and maintenance expenses increase as these vehicles age. Worse yet, Morgan Stanley Research found the automobile to be “the most underutilized asset in the world,” using an average of one hour per day, with a utilization rate of 4%.
The electric vehicles of the future will likely be jointly owned by several drivers to capitalize on the investment. Industry watchers predict that by 2025, most families will own a single vehicle for most purposes and share vehicles for their occasional short-term needs. According to a study conducted by UC Berkeley’s Transportation Sustainability Research Center and reported in ACCESS magazine, the number of vehicles owned by ride-sharing partners drops by half as newer, more efficient cars replace older models. If carpooling increases as expected, individuals and families will be able to reduce their financial expenses for personal transportation without experiencing significant lifestyle changes.
What’s more, some forecasters are predicting that self-driving cars could transform ridesharing and ridesharing companies like Uber, Lyft, Zipcar and Turo. In an automated taxi system, customers could enter their destinations on their smartphones to send an autonomous vehicle that would pick them up, take them to their destination, and move on to the next customer.
2. Reduced environmental impact
Despite reductions of up to 90% in pollutants released per mile since the 1960s, gasoline-powered vehicles remain the leading cause of air pollution in the United States. Car emissions are linked to cancer and worsen asthma, heart disease, birth defects and eye irritation. A 2013 MIT study estimated that road emissions cause 53,000 premature deaths each year. Many scientists have linked these emissions to global warming and climate change.
A fully electric vehicle produces no direct emissions, while hybrids produce less than half of the emissions of internal combustion engine vehicles. A report by the Union of Concerned Scientists concluded that electric vehicles reduced global warming emissions from large and medium-sized cars by more than 50%. Pollution from car emissions will decrease dramatically in the future if electric cars become the dominant vehicles on the road.
In addition, today, around 80% of auto parts are recycled. Cars are the most recycled consumer product in the world, with 12 million products recycled each year in the United States alone. Electric cars should keep the same recycling rate, if not a higher rate. A Bloomberg New Energy Finance report estimates that by 2025, 10 gigawatt hours of electricity, enough to power 1.65 million average American homes, or the equivalent of 10 large coal-fired or natural gas-fired power plants, will come from used car batteries. By 2018, the cost to recycle these batteries is expected to be $ 49 per kilowatt hour, compared to $ 1,000 per kilowatt hour for a new battery system today.
3. Improved safety for drivers and pedestrians
New automated security features are developed every day, including:
- Airbags under cars for better braking
- Priority control systems
- Rear mounted radar
- Night vision with pedestrian detection
- High beam control
- Parental control
- Track discipline
- Vehicle-to-vehicle communications (V2V)
In a few years, predicts The Atlantic, cars will be able to determine when an accident is likely and make cabin adjustments to improve driver and passenger safety, such as moving seats, closing windows and retracting the steering wheel.
As these safety measures are implemented, the number of road fatalities will drop. A 2010 study by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) found that V2V technology has the potential to reduce 79% of vehicle crashes on the freeway. These crashes generated more than $ 870 billion in economic losses, killed 33,000 people and injured more than 3.9 million people in 2010, according to the NHTSA. Medical bills and emergency response expenses, which are reflected in taxes and insurance payments, currently cost $ 784 for every man, woman and child in the United States.
4. Extended utility of urban areas
The combination of autonomous vehicles, the availability of rental vehicles for short trips and the misuse of cars are expected to significantly reduce the 270 million vehicles currently on the road. This will free up thousands of parking spaces for new uses. The promoters of the new technology project that increases the use of autonomous vehicles will revolutionize urban landscapes. The expected benefits include:
- Additional open spaces in urban areas. In an interview with the New York Times, MIT town planning professor Eran Ben-Joseph noted that parking lots cover more than a third of the area of some cities. There are approximately two billion parking spaces in the United States, or eight spaces for each car, spread across work, shopping, and recreation areas. It’s called “Pensacola Parking Syndrome,” named after a downtown Florida city where so many buildings have been torn down for parking spaces that people no longer go there.
- Increased use of parking areas. Disney World parking lots are so big that Disney operates constant carts to avoid the marathon walk to the park. Autonomous vehicles could drop off and pick up passengers, then head to remote parking areas to wait for the next passengers. It would also help drivers avoid the annoying “Where did I park my car?” ” dilemma.
- Improved flood and storm water controls. Impervious “asphalt deserts” in parking lots exacerbate flooding and complicate stormwater management, as was recently the case in Houston, Texas during Hurricane Harvey. Eliminating parking lots will reduce costs and generate new income for towns and villages through new activities and increased pedestrian use of town centers. More importantly, it will make cities more welcoming and liveable.
5. Less stressful travel
Increasingly long journeys create traffic jams and overload roads that are already at full capacity. per day.
Due to congestion, road violence incidents are increasing by 7% per year, and a study found that the number of road violence incidents with firearms has doubled since 2014. Aggressive driving is the cause of 66% of road fatalities and more than a third of these incidents are related to firearms, according to Safe Motorist.
Imagine a world where you simply set the course to your destination, then sit back and relax. Your car would communicate with other vehicles on the road to maintain a safe distance, resulting in smoother overall traffic and less stress for you at the start and end of the workday. With autonomous vehicles, that could very well happen in your future.
Barriers to adoption
Will self-driving electric cars soon become the dominant vehicles on the road? In Norway, electric and hybrid cars account for more than half of new vehicle sales each year. Experts predict that the United States could experience a similar transition to fully electric vehicles by 2050.
However, unlike Norway, the United States faces major hurdles to overcome before this transformation takes place. Norway has a smaller population, land mass and number of vehicles per person – about 1% of vehicles registered in the United States. The widespread adoption of autonomous electric vehicles in the United States will need to overcome the following main obstacles.
1. Industry resistance
The infrastructure that supports the internal combustion engine was built over the past century and is in the billions of dollars. Tangible capital assets combined with the 2016 balance sheets of the Big Three automakers (GM, Ford and Fiat Chrysler) exceeded $ 150 billion, the majority of which went to the manufacture and sale of traditional vehicles. Foreign automakers also have factories in the United States that produce traditional vehicles.
The existing structure supports more than 16,700 new car dealers and nearly 175,000 auto repair shops employing a total of 670,000. An estimated 121,446 service stations nationwide employ nearly one million additional workers.
Additionally, gasoline demand has been the primary driver of growth in the oil industry, from less than three billion gallons in 1919 to 143.4 billion gallons in 2016, according to the Energy Information Administration (EIA ) the United States. More than 1.3 million people are employed by the petroleum industry to research, extract and refine petroleum products in 2015, according to data compiled by Statista from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics.
A rapid switch to electric cars will destroy much of the country’s existing auto and oil assets, potentially generating billions of dollars in losses and killing thousands of jobs. With so much at stake, it’s no surprise that these industries haven’t been greedy for the prospect of electric vehicles.
2. Government indifference
The Power Extension and Improvement Act of 2008 and the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 provided tax credits for the purchase of electric vehicles, rechargeable electric vehicles, and electric vehicle charging stations. In 2017, 45 states and the District of Columbia approved incentives for purchasing qualified electric or alternative fuel vehicles, including toll exemptions, free parking, tax credits, and reduced registration fees. These incentives are a major factor in electric vehicle purchasing decisions, but they are unlikely to last forever.
Many powerful business interests oppose the continuation or escalation of national standards for Business Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) and electric vehicle production. In 2016, The Huffington Post reported that Koch Industries and others were planning a multi-million dollar campaign to discourage subsidies for electric vehicles and promote the use of fossil fuels. NBC News reports that Ford CEO Mark Fields has told President Trump that fuel economy rules put a million American jobs at risk. Subsequently, the president announced that his administration would work tirelessly to “eliminate regulations that kill the industry”, effectively repudiating the previous administration’s efforts to promote lower emissions and better fuel economy.
According to David Kiley of Forbes, the Republican Congress and President Trump “have no plans to extend the $ 7,500 federal tax credit that subsidizes sales of electric vehicles in the next budget.” Navigant research director John Gartner predicts that automakers will abandon electric vehicles from 2021, the earliest point at which existing product development programs can be terminated.
3. Vulnerability of the existing electricity network
US electricity is produced and supplied by a complex and interconnected network of power plants, high and low voltage transmission lines, distribution lines, transmission and distribution substations, and transformers. A 2016 Congressional Research Service report found that “various parts of the electrical power system [in the United States] are vulnerable to failure due to natural, operational, or man-made events.”
This blackout can be the result of widespread or local storms that destroy transmission and distribution lines, surge spikes that cause blackouts or cyber attacks that cause blackouts in a large area. Widespread blackouts create confusion, public fear and hundreds, if not thousands, of deaths from heat stress in summer or extreme cold in winter.
If consumers are concerned about grid reliability, the transition from current carbon-based mobile fuel sources to a fixed but vulnerable electricity grid will certainly be delayed.
It is estimated that replacing obsolete power plants, many of which are 40 years or older, will cost $ 2.7 trillion, while the cost of maintaining them over the next 10 years will require “hundreds of billions, if not billions of dollars. . the following decade, “According to Business Insider. With national debt at historic levels, Congress may be reluctant to fund the necessary rehabilitation of the power grid.
4. Future fuel prices
In 1996, General Motors introduced the EV1, the first mass-produced electric vehicle available from a major automaker. At the time, the average cost of gasoline was $ 1.82 per gallon. GM manufactured just over 1,100 EV1 models, which failed to attract many buyers. According to a study by Dr. Kenneth Train of UC Berkeley published in Automotive Design & Production, customers would only choose an electric vehicle than a gasoline car “if it cost $ 28,000 less than a comparable gasoline car.” Not surprisingly, GM stopped production of the EV1 in 1999.
The EIA predicts that West Texas oil prices will drop from $ 49.99 per barrel at the end of 2017 to $ 168.69 per barrel by 2040, which equates to a gasoline price of 4, $ 00 to $ 4.00 per barrel $ 4.50 per gallon. Energy analysts expect continued price volatility due to variability in shale oil production, the inability of OPEC members to maintain price discipline and China’s growing fuel needs .
There is an inverse relationship between gasoline prices and consumer interest in hybrid, electric and small vehicles. At $ 4 a gallon, consumers find that a car with better mileage makes sense; At $ 2 a gallon, they care less about mileage and are looking for power, size and comfort. The expectation of higher prices 20 years from now is unlikely to encourage consumers to buy electric cars today.
5. Transition of existing inventory
New car sales accounted for about 6.5% of total vehicles on the road in 2016. Since 1976, consumers have bought between 9 million and 22 million cars and trucks and thrown away about 11 million units each year. During the same period, the average lifespan of a passenger car fell from 12.2 years to 15.6 years. As a result, some analysts predict that more than 20 million vehicles on the road in 2021 will be over 25 years old, as motorists will keep their cars longer to save money.
Research indicates that the price of a car, rather than the price of gasoline, is the primary factor in consumers’ purchasing decisions. Unfortunately, most Americans today don’t earn enough to afford an average new vehicle, which costs $ 33,300, and many struggle to afford an average used car, which costs $ 19,200. according to a 2016 study reported by Consumer Affairs.
While the price of a new electric car is likely to drop as purchasing and manufacturing efficiency increases, most economists doubt the price of electric and internal combustion cars will reach parity by 2025. as expected. Meanwhile, the possible loss of government incentives for electric vehicles, as well as the continued stagnation of middle-class wages, is likely. As a result, the likelihood that electric cars will replace more than half of the existing car fleet in the United States by 2040 is low.
Despite the benefits of an autonomous car, surveys like Gartner Consumer Trends consistently show that more than half of drivers would not travel in a fully autonomous vehicle and a third would not travel in a partially autonomous car. Because? Because people are wary of being in a vehicle over which they have no control.
Automobiles today have up to 150 programmable computer elements, called electronic control units, or ECUs. These ECUs require surprisingly large amounts of wiring, many types of electronic signals and interconnect buses, and up to 100 million lines of software, in addition to the thousands of mechanical parts needed to run a car.
This complexity, added to the high failure rate of electronic components and the potential for hacking, worries most consumers. People are reluctant to travel in an autonomous car for fear that the car will get tangled up in certain situations and system failures can put them at risk. A survey by MIT and the New England Motor Press found that while 25-34 year olds are more comfortable with self-driving cars than their older or younger counterparts, the number of people who were “completely out of date” ‘ease’ has been halved compared to 2016. to 2017.
In 2014, Fast Company questioned whether the average driver could afford a self-driving car. His response: “Not soon.” He noted that the autonomous Toyota Prius costs around $ 320,000, more than a Ferrari 599.
Proponents of autonomous driving technology say costs will decrease as more people buy these cars, from $ 7,000 to $ 10,000 for autonomous driving capability today to $ 3,000 in 2035. In the meantime, you’ll have to pay around $ 43,000 for an Infinity Q50 with that capability or $ 92,000 for a Mercedes-Benz with the package.
Is an electric car right for you?
If you are planning to buy or lease a new or used electric car in the future, consider the following factors.
Electric cars have a limited range per battery charge. This range can vary considerably depending on the battery capacity and the driver’s habits. According to Motor1, the Tesla Model S Sedan travels between 275 and 337 miles on a single charge. The popular Chevy Bolt EV sedan travels 238 miles per charge. The site ranks other 2018 model year electric vehicles based on manufacturer and EPA data.
A low kilometer range limits the attractiveness of electric vehicles for potential buyers. If the current range of your preferred electric vehicle is too low, delay your purchase until the range improves or buy a hybrid model from the same manufacturer.
2. Loading requirements
The time it takes to fully charge an electric car battery depends on the type of charger used and the size of the battery. A 240-volt system charges faster than a 120-volt system, and small batteries charge faster than large ones.
Most drivers with home charging stations choose to use their home’s 120-volt Level 1 system at night by plugging the charger into a grounded wall outlet. Charging may take a few hours or overnight, depending on the vehicle. Charging time is cut in half or more with a 240-volt Level 2 system, but this may require dedicated wiring for home use.
Direct current (DC) systems can complete charging in under an hour, but DC charging is only practical for commercial operations, such as buildings, parking lots, or dedicated charging stations. In addition, some electric vehicle models cannot use DC charging.
As the number of electric vehicles increases, the number of charging stations will increase and also increase across the country. However, there is currently no national network of commercial charging stations; Locations are mostly on the west coast and in some urban areas.
Before purchasing an electric vehicle, determine where and when it will perform the necessary charges, as well as the reliability of the electric service in those places. For example, areas of the country subject to catastrophic weather events can lose electricity for months.
While the purchase prices of electric vehicles can be similar to those of internal combustion engine models after tax deductions and dealer incentives, the resale value of electric cars is appalling. According to Car and Driver magazine, a three-year-old Nissan Leaf bought for $ 30,000 to $ 40,000 brand new has an average retail value of $ 8,000 to $ 8,500 today. Hybrid models experience a similar drop in resale value. Only Tesla models have withstood the decline in value as they age, possibly due to the company’s recently abandoned resale value guarantee.
Although the miles per gallon equivalents are much higher for electric and hybrid vehicles than for conventional engines, the benefits of lower fuel costs are considerably less than the premiums that must be paid for electric and hybrid vehicles. A 2016 Arthur D. Little report estimated that the total cost of owning a compact electric vehicle over a 20-year period is 44% higher than that of a comparable conventional small car. The cost of a mid-size electric vehicle is 60% higher than that of a gasoline-powered mid-size vehicle. The price premiums paid for an electric vehicle can exceed the costs of a gasoline car for up to 15 years.
4. Safety and comfort
Fully autonomous vehicles are currently not available and are unlikely to appear before 2025. However, many of the technological advancements that will be part of an autonomous driving system are already available in new cars and can be purchased in as add-ons to the car. Marlet.
Cars are more comfortable, safer and more reliable than ever. Better design, improved shock absorption systems, automatic braking, adaptive headlights and stability control systems have dramatically improved driver and passenger survival rates. As a result, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety noted that the risk of death in an accident in a late model car was reduced by more than a third between 2012 and 2015. A video from the New Car Assessment Program Australasia (ANCAP), the Independent Vehicle Safety Commission for Australia and New Zealand, vividly demonstrates the difference in crash damage between an older car and its 2015 counterpart, each running at 40 mph.
If your current vehicle is five years or older, you should consider purchasing a newer vehicle, according to the Los Angeles Times. Your older vehicle is unlikely to have the latest technology that improves safety and navigation. It should be noted that vehicles today have similar life cycles to computers and cellphones, and any vehicle purchased today can become obsolete within three to five years. For this reason, those looking to buy a new car should consider a short-term lease rather than a purchase.
There is growing interest in electric vehicles, especially given the fluctuating cost of gas and the harmful emissions produced by traditional cars. Ultimately, lower manufacturing costs, combined with potential incentives from automakers and governments, could lower the cost of electric vehicles to match the cost of gasoline vehicles. However, it is unclear how long it will take the United States to transition to general adoption of electric vehicles.
The timing of the switch from driver assistance systems to autonomous vehicles is even less clear. The biggest obstacle is the driver’s fear of perceiving loss of control. However, vehicles, both electric and gasoline, will become safer and more comfortable thanks to technological advances, which will even make self-driving vehicles more attractive to drivers.
Do you drive an EV? Would you buy one? What do you think of autonomous driving technologies?