Fulfilling a 100-Year-Old Promise, Electric Vehicles Will Own The 21st Century

Sign up for daily news updates from CleanTechnica on email. Or follow us on Google News!

Ford chose a 100-year-old image to kick off their Digital Summit in advance of this week’s North American International Auto Show in Detroit, and if you’ll look closely you’ll see why. Aside from the electric trolley near the middle and the tiny electric car tooling around at the bottom, 1903’s “Dawn of the Century” sums up the 21st century connectivity trend in a nutshell: in the midst of a swirling storm of technology, the artfully draped lady in the center of the photo is casually, and effortlessly, tapping out messages on a telegraph while balancing on a flying wheel.

So, what to make of all this? The early auto industry was dominated by electric cars, but they soon got the beat-down from gasoline and diesel, and trolley tracks were torn up to make room for more gasmobiles. Now that electric vehicles are finally making a comeback, is the oil crash price going to make them irrelevant again?

Ford electric vehicles
Courtesy of Ford Motor Company (image cropped).

Electric Vehicles Will Rule the 21st Century

This is the second in a weeklong series spotlighting the Detroit auto show, and once again we’re zeroing in on Ford, partly because the company made it possible for us to get here and also because Ford’s history over the past 100+ years is a strong indication of where the personal mobility market is heading for the next 100 years.

The key takeaway is that mass market demand for mobility can drive foundational supportive trends in infrastructure, manufacturing, and technology, so phooey on all those folks who say that electric vehicles will never make it on account of no EV charging infrastructure.


While cheap gasoline could crimp EV demand around the edges (at least until oil prices spike again), the over-arching trend is that the retail gasoline market is consolidating into fewer and fewer locations, while EV charging opportunities are skyrocketing at homes, businesses, and workplaces in addition to other locations. This convenience factor is a huge plus for EVs moving forward. Add fast charging to the mix, and gasmobiles just can’t compete in that field.

In addition, taking a quick look back at the Model T, we all know that when it first rolled out in 1908, cars were still seen as pricey playthings for playboys, and the Model T broke through because it was cheap.

As Ford was happy to enlighten us, though, price was only part of the reason why the T was a success. This 20th century conveyance was built to be rugged enough to handle the “19th century wagon tracks” that characterized most of America’s roadways back then.

The result: more cars on the roads, and more demand for better roads.

By mid-century, Ford had also figured out a new way to manufacture V-8 engines, making the formerly expensive pieces of hardware lighter and more accessible to the average customer, then it introduced an affordable, highly customizable “fun” car for 1960’s consumers (that would be the 1964 Mustang), and more recently the first affordable bluetooth connectivity for vehicles (the 2007 SYNC).

This year, Ford has launched a whole series connectivity experiments on the Smart Mobility platform, including one that combines EV car sharing and fast charging. That’s yet another example of a car manufacturer responding to changing times and changing demands on mobility services.

When you mosh connectivity together with the powerful energy storage capacity of EV batteries, you get a whole new level of demand fulfillment in terms of convenience and flexibility.

We’re also noting that some commenters are noting that the emergence of microscale distributed energy (solar and wind, too) is molding suburban living into a more sustainable model, which means that you’re going to see more EVs at least as second cars, perhaps with next-generation fuel cell EVs filling in the gaps when more power is demanded.

But There’s Still Room For Gasmobiles

We’ve noted before that Ford has recast itself as a “personal mobility company” rather than focusing exclusively on selling autos, and while we’re convinced that EVs will dominate, there will still be some room for gasmobiles in the sustainable personal mobility world of the future.

With that in mind, let’s not forget that the real showstoppers at Ford’s showcase press conference this morning were not EVs. They were this:

New Ford GT to be built next year
Yep, this would be the new GT that Ford promises to build next year (screenshot, courtesy of Ford).

…and this honey, the “all-new Shelby GT350R Mustang is the most track-capable, street-legal Mustang ever:

All new Ford Mustang
Courtesy of Ford (screenshot).

…and a new off-roader, the new F-150 Raptor.

new Ford F-150 raptor personal mobility
Courtesy of Ford (screenshot).

Later today, Ford is going give us some more details about their other personal mobility solutions and other fun green tech stuff, so we’ll be sure to bring you all the latest.

Follow me on Twitter and Google+.

Have a tip for CleanTechnica? Want to advertise? Want to suggest a guest for our CleanTech Talk podcast? Contact us here.

CleanTechnica Holiday Wish Book

Holiday Wish Book Cover

Click to download.

Our Latest EVObsession Video

I don't like paywalls. You don't like paywalls. Who likes paywalls? Here at CleanTechnica, we implemented a limited paywall for a while, but it always felt wrong — and it was always tough to decide what we should put behind there. In theory, your most exclusive and best content goes behind a paywall. But then fewer people read it!! So, we've decided to completely nix paywalls here at CleanTechnica. But...
Like other media companies, we need reader support! If you support us, please chip in a bit monthly to help our team write, edit, and publish 15 cleantech stories a day!
Thank you!

CleanTechnica uses affiliate links. See our policy here.

Tina Casey

Tina specializes in advanced energy technology, military sustainability, emerging materials, biofuels, ESG and related policy and political matters. Views expressed are her own. Follow her on LinkedIn, Threads, or Bluesky.

Tina Casey has 3147 posts and counting. See all posts by Tina Casey

32 thoughts on “Fulfilling a 100-Year-Old Promise, Electric Vehicles Will Own The 21st Century

  • The charging at home, while you sleep, no exhaust fumes and other benefits, like free fuel if you have RE power, should be enough to make e-cars, truck,etc, mainstream.
    Who likes to keep paying somebody else for to live and move around.

  • All for a less polluting more sustainable future. I think they said that about the early autos being less polluting than horses and after millions were produced found they had issues especially in very large numbers. The century is young, which is good.

    Last year EV sales cracked 100K and project to go much higher. Given the new car market is 16M and that hybrids having a decade to grow sell ~500K, there may be a requirement for a gas killer on top of the eco friendly incentive. It could be home solar becoming standard that spurs the EV adoption. Don’t know, but the merits of EV alone is insufficient.

    • “Don’t know, but the merits of EV alone is insufficient.”

      Right, but the merits of EV’s better performance, fewer repairs/better reliability coupled with renewable energy for charging shoould be quite sufficient.

      • I like the progress that EV’s have made since Tesla’s sustained momentum. But talking about raw numbers shows that the product, still developing, needs to be the choice for the average purchaser to make the impact desired. People have varying needs so 100% penetration in one segment is 0% in another. As people age and families grow then shrink needs change and choices reflect. The market has captured the early adopters. The government has provided incentives to compensate for the ‘hand crafted’ step before mass marketing. An improvement over the silence in the 1990s. In the next few years EV’s will be price and feature competitive with it’s intrinsic advantages intact. Hopefully will be followed by similar competitiveness in larger sedans, minivans and who knows maybe small and large trucks and industrial vehicles. This may take a few decades on it’s own, not a bad thing. An external event like home renewable adoption, or gas price spike would bring customers to the table sooner if the products are ready.

    • As this article hints at, there may come a time when enough people own EVs that various gas stations lose enough customers they can’t afford to stay in business, or must keep raising prices, and both scenarios will drive everyone else in the area to convert to EV asap.

      Bigger cities may need to mandate a phase out of gasmobiles in the name of air quality to achieve the same effect as there will remain enough gas customers around to keep a reasonably convenient gas station in business for quite awhile even if the overall number of stations declines.

    • Autos ARE less polluting than horses. Imagine how nasty a street would get if every vehicle on it dropped two or three “road apples” per block.

      • “The 15 to 30 pounds of manure produced daily by each beast multiplied by the 150,000+ horses in New York city resulted in more than three million pounds of horse manure per day that somehow needed to be disposed of. That’s not to mention the daily 40,000 gallons of horse urine.”


        • Which is probably why many older cities have “combined” sewer systems rather than having separate “storm” and “sanitary” sewers. A rainstorm was like flushing the horses’ toilet.

    • Agree that home solar might be a good incentive to get people to buy EV’s, but I think you are being overly harsh that the merits of EV alone are insufficient. EV choices are still very limited and most do not want to settle for anything less than 100 mile range. With additions like the Bolt, and Tesla 3 we should really start seeing EV’s take off.
      In addition EV’s have grown in sales far more quickly then Hybrids did in their initial years.

  • I never can understand the “free gas” thing. The government will just tax us on mileage use. Thus always knowing how much we travel. They have to also come down in price.

    • Depending on where you live the electricity price is generally (much) lower than a taxless petrol price. So even if you add the taxes that are on gasoline it will still be much cheaper than before.
      Not free though, but on the cheap.

  • More like EVs plus “not personal” but collaborative mobility like Uber, Lyft, and other rideshare.

  • Before we start pinching ourselves with glee here in the US, we need to figure out why gasoline, diesel, and jet is still going up in use. That’s really the only thing that matters, if climate change acceleration is a concern. Diesel use seems to be accelerating compared to gasoline. That’s not due to increase use of Ford F250 four door with Cummins diesel is it?

    • You’ve got a production graph. Need to look at a consumption graph. The US ships a lot of oil product. Consumption is dropping.

      As for the Ford F250 thing, trucks are now part of the CAFE standards limit. If Fold sells a truck that uses more fuel than the CAFE limit then they have to offset that excess by selling one or more cars which have better than CAFE performance. This is going to make EVs very attractive to manufacturers who want to keep selling some big pickups and SUVs.

      A 25 MPG pickup + a “100 MPG” EV averages 62.5 MPG. Well above CAFE standards. One EV cancels out two PUs.

      • Gads, its Bob Wallace. Was it something I said or how I said it, again? The plot I attached is from EIA is refined and blended products. This is the best indication of how much gasoline, diesel and jet we’re burning. Here’s refined gasoline (domestic, imported, and exported) as an example:

        US refined gasoline: 9,037,000 bpd (1/2/15)

        Imported gasoline: 760,000 bpd

        Exported gasoline: 363,000 bpd

        Net gasoline import/export: 397,000 bpd

        Percentage imported wrt domestic refined: 4.4 percent



        Diesel is about the same.

        CAFE is not the same as fleet average. It’s still low given the sheer volume of cars and trucks being driven in the US. Data for the graph and table from DOT.

        Bottom line: with gasoline at $2.00/gallon and car companies advertising souped up pickup trucks for men to add length, we’re not in good shape for decreasing CO2 emissions. Solid, liquid, and gas phases of hydrocarbon production and consumption is up again.

        • Burning = consumption.

          Production consumption.

          If you want to talk about US burning then look at US consumption. If you want to talk about world burning then look at world consumption. Production tells you only where the oil is being extracted/refined, it does not tell you how much is being consumed.

          The key on your graph is all about production. The graph I posted shows both production and consumption. While US production is increasing, US consumption is dropping.

          (I think it’s something you said. ;o)

          CAFE –

          “The CAFE achieved by a given fleet of vehicles in a given model year is the production-weighted harmonic mean fuel economy, expressed in miles per U.S. gallon (mpg), of a manufacturer’s fleet of current model year passenger cars or light trucks”

          Sound like fleet average to me. What am I hearing incorrectly?

          What are you not grasping about the need for vehicle manufacturers needing to sell enough high MPG vehicles to offset sales of low MPG vehicles?

          It may be that the MPG average for all vehicles may not be dropping. New car sales have been hurt by the recession from which we are still recovering. People are driving their older, less efficient cars longer. And mileage is likely falling as those vehicles age.

          • BTW, did you look closely at the 2011 and 2012 average mileages in the table you posted?

            There’s a very small increase for light duty vehicles (481 to 483 gallons per year) and a more significant increase for motorcycles (51 to 58, 0.4%) but all other categories improve except one which stays the same.

          • The key metric is 253 million cars and trucks of all sizes. Folks who buy EVs probably had efficient vehicles to begin with. Folks driving light duty trucks and SUVs will sadly buy a slightly more efficient one. There’s over a billion cars and trucks on the road worldwide. Fossil fuel use for transportation is going up both slightly here and more so elsewhere. Not good for the climate given recent NOAA et al data.That said, we have our work cut out for all of us. All 7 plus billion of us.

            DOT will produce 2013 report this spring. It’s pretty cool stuff.

          • Quote : “Folks who buy EVs probably had efficient vehicles to begin with. ”

            Not me. Traded in an old gas car I’d been keeping running while the EV’s were still nowhere to be had, and the first time I could order one that fit my commute budget, I did, and after a 9 month wait, been thrilled with my Smart ED ever since.

            Some people (like me) who want to drive electric don’t see any value in hybrid technology.

            While I rent a Prius on business trips (because you mostly can’t rent an EV yet), I would never personally drive one, what a piece of crap to drive. Efficient to be sure, but nowhere near as fun to drive as an EV.

            Looking forward to replacing my ridiculously powerful and inefficient Mercedes SUV when a comfortable long range EV for $50K (used or new) is available.

          • No Bob.

            The amount of time between refining a gallon of gasoline and diesel and burning it in a car or truck is quick. A refinery doesn’t want product sitting in tanks too long. Remember, refining is local. Crude oil is global. Production volumes at the refinery is the most accurate measurement of what’s being burned in cars and trucks.

            I showed you this from the EIA link. The amount refined versus refined products being exported and imported to the US. We burn most of the refined products. Sure we send some to Central America and a bit overseas. But not much. Like 4 percent.

            Your graph on crude oil imports versus exports has nothing to do with the subject of my comment: the amount of gasoline, diesel and jet refined and quickly burned respectively.

            You don’t think that crude oil goes directly into gas tanks do you? If you do, I’m sorry. I forgot you’re not an engineer.

          • That data is from US DoT and EIA and good to 2012. It’s also the same curve for gasoline supply as the EiA one above, except compressed in time and truncated on the vertical. I do a lot of data interpretation and presentation. The drop, due to the 2007/2008 economic collapse, is simply accentuated.

            I saw “Road Warrior” and “Mad Max” so I know a lot about the state of Australian education system. Gasoline and diesel supply for US transportation is going up again as of 2013 through Jan 2015.

            US gasoline is now $1.99 in Chicago and about that, maybe a bit more, on average. That’s mainly due to our own crude oil production going crazy from North Dakota and Texas shale fields and continual increasing imports of tar sands from Canada. Over 3.5 million barrels per day total and 2 million barrels per day of that bitumen tar sands.

            Gasoline is cheap mainly due to PADD II refineries modifications and back online to take all that crude. The US had something like 10 refineries under major modification to process Canadian tar sands. Shale oil is light, and easy to refine for the many smaller refineries. The oil US use to import is going elsewhere, that’s why its cheap all over. Crude oil is not simply cheap because the US has plateaued its gasoline usage.

          • The price of oil therefore the price of gasoline, is global. Not country specific. The cost of a barrel of oil is getting hit by both the supply and demand side.

            “Four things are now affecting the picture. Demand is low because of weak economic activity, increased efficiency, and a growing switch away from oil to other fuels. Second, turmoil in Iraq and Libya—two big oil producers with nearly 4m barrels a day combined—has not affected their output. The market is more sanguine about geopolitical risk. Thirdly, America has become the world’s largest oil producer. Though it does not export crude oil, it now imports much less, creating a lot of spare supply. Finally, the Saudis and their Gulf allies have decided not to sacrifice their own market share to restore the price.”


          • That’s about what I said. I should have said gasoline is cheap in THE US, mainly because of PADD II refineries modification complete. Yes, gasoline price is dependent on crude oil price. And other things. However, the most recent US dip in price is due to opening up of the midcontinent bottleneck, both refining and transmission. Keystone XL is old news. 11 million bpd of pipeline construction went on during the Keystone debate. Much of that capacity is complete. Crude production in the US, while a lot, is a fraction of the world’s crude production.

            US production is around 9 million bpd. vs. 89 million barrels per day worldwide – or 10 percent. Our consumption is about 19 million barrels per day or 20 percent. Asia/Oceania is about 30 million bpd or 30 percent – and growing.

            This impacts other markets. For example, US use to get a lot of crude from Venezuela (OPEC). This is a heavy crude like Canadian tar sands bitumen. Now we refine Canadian tar sands over that messy mess goo. This forces Venezuela to find other markets. Venezuela, btw, has one of the largest proved reserves on the planet. However, Middle east and African oil is lighter and cheaper to refine.

          • Peak gasoline consumption in the US was 9.3 million barrels a day in 2007. Peak gasoline consumption in the US in 2014 was about 8.82 million barrels a day. I’m fairly certain, although I could be wrong, that 8.82 is less than 9.3.

          • You may be right and wrong. The problem is how petroleum products are tallied. The accounting changed due to the industry changing from vertical integration of production (drilling), refining and marketing to more horizontal. This happened around 2007 or so. It allows for independent refiners and marketers like Tesoro and Valero to make money without being a crude oil producer. Majors like Exxon, Chevron, etc. decided to focus on being proved reserve banks, more than refiners. Funny, I was just looking at this issue on EIA’s website.

            The best data on consumption of gasoline and diesel (burning) is DOT vehicle data. It takes them about 18 months to complete an annual report based on individual motor fuel sales (at the pump) from all 50 states.

            I will admit one thing. While gasoline exports have sort of increased since 2008, diesel exports have gone crazy. So I am saying Mr. Bob Wallace is kind of right.

            None the less, US gasoline burning dropped chiefly due to the economic collapse in 2007/2008 and has slowly been inching up. It’s now surpassed 2007 levels. I’ll find the DOT data.

          • The best way to figure out gasoline use up to first week of January 2015, is to take the motor gasoline produced from refinery data, minus the motor gasoline exported.

            From DOT:

            Miles traveled: 3.031 trillion
            Fuel consumed: 176 billion gallons
            MPG: 17.2

            Miles traveled: 2.968 trillion
            fuel consumed 168 billion gallons
            MPG: 17.6

            Yes there is a drop, but it seems to have flattened out. DOT doesn’t have 2013 data.

            Efficiency gain (2007 to 2012): 2.3%
            Less miles traveled: 2.1%
            Less fuel used: 4.5%

            So basically less fuel is due to half less miles traveled and half vehicle efficiency improvements.

            Hopefully 2017 data will see a much higher efficiency improvement. If the economy continues to improve, this may be lost due to more miles traveled.

          • We’ve got a couple of things happening. Regulations are going to make efficiencies improve over the next ten years. That’s a done deal. As we crush the older, worn out, less efficient cars of the 2000s and earlier they will be replaced with more efficient models. We’ll cut demand as long as we don’t more than double miles driven.

            Then we’re seeing something happening with younger should-be drivers. They aren’t driving as much. Youngsters are taking much longer to get their licenses and are not buying cars like previous generations have done. It may be a function of the recession but it seems to be a cultural shift.

            As boomers retire we may see their driving increase for a while. They’ll take that trip to Yellowstone/wherever that they always wanted to take. And they finish those trips and age into driving a lot less. Another limited time bulge.
            As we pack more people into cities, imrove public transportation and put more people into electrics oil demand will drop.

            Best to not be overly concerned about short term moves in the data. Look at the longer trends. My take is that oil demand will be down a lot over the next 15 years. And from 2030 to 2050 we will largely replace oil for transportation.

          • OK, want to see a graph of fuel consumption?

            Gas down, diesel up a bit.


            From 2012 to 2013 there was a small increase in fuel consumption, 2.5%. That’s expected to hold flat for 2014.


            Rising CAFE standards will work against those manly trucks increasing fuel consumption. Many of the cars and trucks heading to the crusher are going to be 15+ years old and inefficient. Each year going forward our new vehicles will be required to be more efficient. We’re doubling CAFE requirements over the coming decade. (54.5 MPG by 2025.)

            Perhaps you’re not old enough to recall how CAFE standards caused manufacturers to heavily discount their economy models in order to meet fleet average limits. It was commonly believed that companies such as GM were selling their most efficient models for no profit or even taking a loss in order to be able to average in larger numbers of efficient vehicles.

            I’m thinking that EVs are going to get some extra pushing if demand for pickups and SUVs stay high. (But I’m also suspecting this is a short term spike in less efficient vehicle sales caused by what is likely to be a short term large price of fuel decrease.)

            Airplane fuel use is down.

            “Between 1980 and 2000, jet consumption grew at a compound annual rate of 3.6 percent. If fuel demand had continued to grow at the same rate, it would now stand at just over 1 billion barrels per year rather than 516 million.

            Instead, consumption has been basically flat or falling for the last 13 years, though it showed signs of stabilising in 2013.

            Crucially, the downturn appears to be mostly structural rather than cyclical. Consumption remained flat or continued to fall even as the economy recovered from the post-9/11 and 2008 recessions.”


  • I really like the no tailpipe emissions, had an cordless lawnmower for two years now, it is really quiet and has enough power to do my whole lawn.

  • Remember… the automobile in general had a 100 year prior false-start.

    The steam car predates the gasoline internal combustion engine car by 100 years.

    And Internal Combustion engines are to Steam boilers, as Lithium Ion batteries are to Lead Acid.

  • If we’re serious about climate change, the gas mobiles have got to go.

Comments are closed.