One of CleanTechnica’s first rate, well written, most fascinating articles this year was one by Maarten Vinkhuyzen, who wrote, “A perfect storm is brewing above the automotive industry. Three hardly grasped phenomena are working together. Just like a real storm, when the conditions align in the best/worst way, we get a devastating superstorm. These phenomena (or events) are the Osborne effect of delayed demand, the technology (cost) curve of battery prices and other technology, and the S-curve that describes market acceptance of new technologies.”
Maarten discusses, among other things, a coming car recession. For those of us walking many days as pedestrian, the idea of a car recession sounds like an exquisite clean air dream. Yet, for those supporting the old, falling-away, lingering-too-long (like stale smoke) internal combustion engine industry, this represents an intense pressure of change and question about what to do next.
Once you transition to electric, you wonder, what took so long! Perhaps it was the upfront cost. Now, the thought of money constantly flowing out of your pocket at a smelly, toxic gas station is abhorrent. How did you ever live like that!
Initially, when you get an electric car, you do feel like you are moving in a different time-space continuum than the gas cars. Literally, it feels like a time warp. Modern life is here, the future is here. Yet, we see — and we breathe — the last century, the fossil fuel century.
Policies, politics, misinformation (including directly from dealers themselves) confuse people and slow the forward motion. For how long? The perfect storm is brewing, as we see from countless Tesla sales updates needed to break up the many wheels of the propaganda machine. It is brewing. We know people want electric, even with the false narratives sent their way from those meant to be facilitating the transition.
Automakers are barely lifting a finger to sell #ElectricVehicles, while they hold onto the same false narrative that consumers are uninterested. 500+ volunteers surveyed 900+ dealerships in our new nationwide #RevUpEVs report: https://t.co/Js2Zp4Lklu pic.twitter.com/Y6O7utMg31
— Sierra Club (@SierraClub) November 23, 2019
Maarten’s wonderful piece leads us into the front doors of the revolution, but what collapses along with the manufacturers of gas cars? Under Maarten’s article, well informed CleanTechnica commenters added to the story. One person explains and foresees a tsunami of transitions.
“One very likely shock is city policies, such as diesel bans, low-emission zones and mandates for bus and taxi operators,” James Wimberley argued. “[If I recall correctly], 30 local authorities are actively considering or have firmly adopted such measures in the UK alone. The combination of negligible costs and wide popular support may turn the movement into a tsunami. It will push many hesitant car buyers off the fence.”
As this perfect storm or tsunami hits, though, what else can spin? Also, aside from costs coming down and performance improving, what other factors can make an EV the more practical, more appealing choice?
Webb Deneys has an idea: gas stations disappearing. “Agreed, excellent article. I’m also interested in ancillary impact — e.g., when does a gas station in an expensive urban area become unprofitable and close, placing more demand pressure on ICE vehicles? What about positive feedback loops crushing used car values?” The latter is something Capital One has already started noticing and writing about. The former is what we’ll spend the rest of this article on.
Disappearing Gas Stations
With electric, even without an in-home charger, you can plug in at home. Many people don’t realize this. You can plug into a normal plug. Typically, even the convenience of parking at work, or at a store on the way home, can make lack of any home charging a non-issue. (I’m going on 4 years of that myself.)
More neighborhoods, parking lots, shopping areas, city facilities, and libraries are adding chargers. They are often more convenient than looking for the next gas station.
Gas station anxiety will be the new anxiety. Commenter “Wallace” supports Webb’s initial thoughts on this. “My understanding is that we’re already seeing gas stations exit cities. The value of the land has become so high that owners are cashing in and shutting down. That’s certainly happening in some cities in Australia. As sales drop; closure will accelerate.”
When Will Gas Station Closings Pressure Laggards To Go Electric?
Recently, I visited NYC’s West Village, where pedestrians live, alive and vibrant, except when it’s too wet cold or they’re very tired late at night. Then they take taxis, Lyfts, and Ubers. I wondered how soon it will be when those services and car owners will switch to more EVs. So, I checked PlugShare to examine charging infrastructure. I did not notice one gas station in the West Village.
Indeed, in that small area, the public has many charging choices nearby and only one gas station.
Lyft and Electrify America may continue to improve urban charging needs. Lyft drivers in the Denver area will have access to 7 Electrify America stations provide a total of 30 chargers. Surely, Lyft wants the same in NYC.
What happens as we have a more widespread education about the total cost of ownership of EVs, about environmental concerns, about technological advances, and about drops in price (especially for used EVs)? EV charging stations will grow in number, gas stations will become less common.
As gas stations become less common, and it takes a couple or a dozen minutes more to go get a refill, more people will think about switching to an electric car they can charge at home, at work, at the store, etc. Which will lead to more gas station closures.
No need to go on.
Auto Workers Know It
The human downside, despite the large net positive for humanity, is that people will lose jobs. People will have to find new jobs or new industries to work in.
Other than diminished gas stations and related jobs, jobs in the auto world will shift considerably. Some unions admit that they already recognize this. CNN Business reports, “Statements from both IG Metall and the United Auto Workers union concede there is little point in trying to stop the growth in electric vehicles.
“‘There is industry consensus that EVs will increase their market share, it is just a matter of how quickly this will happen,’ said a white paper prepared by the UAW. The union thinks it can fight any move to transfer work building electric cars to low-cost, low wage suppliers. …
“IG Metall, the German union for most of that nation’s autoworkers, estimates that 75,000 German jobs building engines and transmissions will be eliminated by 2030. It is calling on the companies and government to help manage the job losses through retirements and retraining.”
These auto industry representatives are increasingly pushing for automakers to make sure that people working in these gas/diesel-engine and related jobs have new jobs at the companies as the industry transitions.
Featured image: Lily enjoys a neighborhood charging station, Zach Shahan | CleanTechnica. Remaining images: Plugshare screenshot and West Village, New York City, by Cynthia Shahan | CleanTechnica