One of the higher-ups at BMW, Ian Robertson, recently commented that the breakout moment for electric vehicles was fast approaching, and that the time for the auto industry to transition towards mainstream EV adoption was not that far in the future.
The argument is that, with the use of soon-to-be-commercially-viable “next gen” battery technologies (lithium air, solid state, etc) that EVs will soon possess ranges similar to those seen in gasoline-using cars, along with their many, many advantages over gasmobiles.
Of course, this doesn’t implicitly address one of the big barriers to widespread EV adoption — relatively high upfront costs — but it could if these technologies improve enough to bring down cost while also increasing range.
When you also consider the fact that peak car ownership may have already passed us by (in this country anyways) — with new car sales in the future likely to slowly fall from their current heights — it’s still an open question if the economy of the next few decades will support the large-scale adoption of shiny new EVs.
But from the technological point of view, Robertson certainly has a point — the primary issues that many potential buyers have had with EVs (limited range, long charging, etc) look likely to be addressed authoritatively within the relatively near future. At that point, what reason would anyone have to buy a gas-powered vehicle rather than an EV?
Robertson mentioned the potential use of hydrogen fuel cell vehicles as well, but noted that said technology will likely be outcompeted by conventional battery technologies. This same thing has been said by Tesla’s Elon Musk, VW’s Rudolf Krebs, Renault-Nissan’s Carlos Ghosn, and others.
“We’ve said we’ll continue to invest in hydrogen and that will result in a small number of production test vehicles being made to prove the technology works. The real issues lie not around what we can do, though, but whether the infrastructure can be built up to supply hydrogen in the marketplace cost-effectively,” stated Robertson.
“Advances in lithium ion technology are set to be followed by a switch to lithium-air and then solid-state batteries. These advances over the next 10 years could see charging time and range worries disappear.” Some battery experts are skeptical about lithium-air ever taking off, but everyone seems to be convinced that solid-state batteries are the future.
All in all, this is not a surprising opinion coming from a BMW rep, considering the company’s rapid embrace of EVs of the past few years and its stated aim of electrifying its entire lineup. With the relative success of the i3, it seems likely the company is confident about the future of this technology.
“At some point in the future the technologies will switch over. When the crossover comes and the focus becomes electricity, the rate of learning will accelerate even faster. Relatively, that time is not far away,” Robertson concluded.
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