Short blog posts, journal entries, and random thoughts. Topics include a mix of personal and the world at large. 

Are we sure about electric vehicles?

Somewhat surprising news from Porsche today when it announced the next generation Macan sports-utility vehicle will be entirely electric. The current lineup of petrol engines will be no more. It seems the Taycan sedan is but the first salvo in an all-out assault on electric vehicles for the company in Stuttgart.

The announcement came as a surprise to me because the current Macan is the best selling Porsche car by some margin - 1/3 of all Porsches sold annually, a veritable money printing machine. To switch the motive power of their most popular model to completely electric within one generation is quite a strong bet: that our immediate motoring future is electric.

My question is: are we sure about this?

Due to marketing forces I can’t understand, much of the auto industry is shifting focus to electric; the upstart Tesla have really started a revolution (pun fully intended) indeed. Manufacturers are either already producing fully electric cars (Jaguar i-Pace, Audi e-tron, BMW i3/i8, etc) or are actively gearing up to make them (Mercedes Benz, GM, Honda, etc). The discussion doesn’t include hybrid powertrains anymore - that is so early 2000s. Rather, the industry is poised to ween itself off the internal combustion engine.

There is one marketing force I can understand: money. Innovation brings customers to the showrooms, and for better or worst, Tesla have made electric cars the glamorous thing to own. Much like television makers jumping from 3D to 4K and soon 8K, enticing people to upgrade for no practical reason (3D is dead, and 4K programming is not the least ubiquitous), automakers are seeking a similar splash in a super mature industry. They see Tesla causing Apple-like frenzy with each vehicle launch, and they want in on that action.

Outside of money, where is the impetus for electric vehicles exactly? People want to make the argument of zero emissions, but don’t batteries need to be mined and produced? Energy generation in cities and countries - to charge the cars - surely isn’t free of pollution. Even if I were to grant that electric vehicles are cleaner in aggregate than the petrol counterpart, the massive infrastructure overhaul required to accommodate this new mode of “fueling” isn’t going to be inexpensive, either.

Not to mention charging times have yet to even come remotely close to that the traditional gas station. And plenty of people don’t live in quarters that can easily integrate vehicle charging. My apartment of no parking garage sure isn’t one.

Obviously a huge part of this is me simply being a curmudgeon about electric cars. I grew up on and adore the petrol combustion engine, and it will be a sad day indeed when that technology is left to the history books. These latest wave of news just makes it seem like that day is right around the corner. Automakers have switched attention to electric at a much faster rate than I had expected and wanted. Porsche plans to have half of their vehicle lineup be electric by 2025, and that really isn’t that far away.

It’s good to see, then, not all manufacturers are abandoning the petrol engine: Mazda will soon mass-produce a compression-ignited gas engine - the Japanese company have yet to produce even one hybrid model. Meanwhile, Toyota isn’t yet convinced on the idea that electric vehicles are the bright future other automakers are so dumping R&D money into.

Wouldn’t it be hilarious if electric cars turn out to not be the future of motoring.

Ah yes this is much better.

Ah yes this is much better.