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Autonomous Vehicles

Published on October 6th, 2018 | by Jesper Berggreen


Danish Conservative Prime Minister Thinks Climate Council Is Too Conservative, Doubles Electric Vehicle Goal

October 6th, 2018 by  

It was something of a surprise when Danish Prime Minister Lars Løkke Rasmussen announced this week that Denmark will phase out gasoline and diesel car sales to make room for up to 1 million electric cars on the roads by 2030. The number 1 million was a surprise in itself because only a few days earlier the Danish Council on Climate Change released a report recommending a total of 500,000 electric cars by 2030 to pave the way to the end goal of a fossil fuel free nation by 2050.

The Danish Council on Climate Change is an independent body of experts that advises on the transition to a low-carbon society, and Chairman of the Climate Council Peter Birch Sørensen explains why the report was made:

By 2050, we must have a completely fossil-free transport sector, and that’s why we have to start doing something now. In the case of electric cars, it requires short-term incentives that lower the price of an electric car at the dealer. It also requires benchmarking for years into the future, so that the policies can be adjusted accordingly. The sale of electric cars in Denmark is still far too modest when comparing with our neighboring countries, and in order to get started, it is crucial that we as a community send a clear message to both customers and dealers that the electric car is the future.

Niels Buus Kristensen, transport expert and member of the Climate Council, elaborates:

Denmark should follow the example of several other European countries and set a goal to end sales of new cars powered by petrol and diesel by 2030. Electric cars are expected to be widely available at that time and if we want a fossil-free transport sector by 2050 without having to trash otherwise well-functioning cars in the years before that, it is necessary to end the sale of petrol and diesel cars in due time.

The report itself includes comprehensive information and predictions on the development of electric vehicle sales in the country, and even though this is a small market, you might find it interesting to see the charts below that I have translated.

Denmark is well-known for a completely incomprehensible taxation system on cars in general, and on electric cars in particular, and this graph shows the consequences of that over the last few years:

Image credit: klimaraadet.dk – Annual sales of EVs in Denmark (Total car sales annually approx. 220,000)

2015 was the last year with no sales tax on EVs, and Tesla Model S accounts for almost all sales. Clearly, something has to change, and to motivate that change, the report set out to investigate lifetime emissions of different types of vehicles:

Image credit: klimaraadet.dk – Emissions based on 200,000 km vehicle lifetime

Now, it’s very important to note here that the report assumes a lifetime of any car to be 200,000 km (124,000 miles). As most CleanTechnica readers are very well aware, it is in no way reasonable to assume electric cars will last only as long as internal combustion engines and drivetrains an order of magnitude more complicated and service-demanding.

But even with a strong bias against the all-electric vehicle in this case, it has half the lifetime emission as the closest rival. A few reasons why the potential emission reductions will be much greater: The electric grid gets cleaner every day, batteries can be recycled as opposed to fuel, and electric car manufacturing costs will eventually get much lower than internal combustion engine car costs can ever be due to the difference in complexity.

It’s unclear why the Prime Minister did not stick to the half million EVs by 2030 but instead went for the whole million. There could be a couple of reasons, like, now the opposition can’t bet higher, because that would seem ridiculous, and thus he holds a strong card in the coming elections. Or, maybe he actually talked to some really smart people who thinks that almost all new cars sold by 2025 will be electric and autonomous. What happens if when Mobility as a Service kicks in about that time? A replacement mayhem of the current fleet of 3 million cars in the country will begin, and by 2030 almost all passenger miles will be autonomous and none of the current cars with dinosaur slurping engines will hold any value, to anyone. In this case, yes, 1 million electric autonomous cars will probably be a minimum requirement to satisfy customer needs. Nah, it was probably the election goodies he was thinking of…

Anyway, the final graph from the report shows how the council predicts the composition of the car fleet in the next 32 years, and it’s clear that they have not given the autonomous technology much thought. As electric car share closes in on 100% by mid-century, they believe the total number of cars are even more than the current 3 million, even without a single drop of fossil fuel being combusted. I think not. I think car manufacturers are becoming increasingly aware of the fact that they will be selling mostly miles in the future, and not so many cars.

Image credit: klimaraadet.dk- Prediction of EV market share (current total cars in Denmark: 3 million)

A lot of parameters are to be factored in here before any meaningful prediction about the future number of cars being sold each year and total cars needed in a Mobility as a Service paradigm can be put forward, with useful autonomy clearly being one of them, but allow me to remind you of one single such parameter that we tend to overlook: motor mileage. Tesla is aiming for a 1 million mile guarantee on its motors. We are not talking probable lifetime here, we are talking factory guarantee only. We have seen 100,000-mile guarantee on internal combustion engines sure, and those engines can probably run for 300,000 miles before they are scrapped. But, with electric motors, we are talking millions of miles a piece, with one moving part.

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About the Author

Jesper had his perspective on the world expanded vastly after having attended primary school in rural Africa in the early 1980s. And while educated a computer programmer and laboratory technician, working with computers and lab-robots at the institute of forensic medicine in Aarhus, Denmark, he never forgets what life is like having nothing. Thus it became obvious for him that technological advancement is necessary for the prosperity of all humankind, sharing this one vessel we call planet earth. However, technology has to be smart, clean, sustainable, widely accessible, and democratic in order to change the world for the better. Writing about clean energy, electric transportation, energy poverty, and related issues, he gets the message through to anyone who wants to know better. Jesper is founder of Lifelike.dk and a long-term investor in Tesla, Ørsted, and Vestas.

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