Electric vehicle revolution.
Sales of battery-powered cars and trucks are booming. Will they rule the streets anytime soon?
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Electric cars have become the hottest cars on the market. That’s the demand for battery-only vehicles, with some buyers forced to make a down payment months before their cars hit the market.
The Electric vehicle revolution is picking up in Europe will account for 14% of all vehicle sales in 2021, and China will account for 9%, ahead of the US with 3%. But U.S. automakers are rapidly electrifying their fleets as the industry invests $500 billion worldwide in new equipment and technologies. “This is probably one of the greatest industrial transformations in the history of capitalism,” Volkswagen Group CEO Scott Keogh told The New York Times. “Big investment, big mission.”
Eliminating tailpipe emissions remains the main reason for the switch to electric vehicles, but electric vehicles are growing rapidly. With their futuristic designs and high-torque engines, electric cars are now widely regarded as powerful, high-tech and cool — even a status symbol.
The all-electric Lightning version of the Ford F-150 pickup truck is the fastest F-150 ever made. It sprints from 0 to 60 mph in 4.4 seconds and can tow up to 10,000 pounds. Ford had to limit bookings to 200,000. “We’ll be able to sell whoever we can make,” a Ford official said. Tesla’s Cybertruck, which starts at $39,900 and looks like a sci-fi movie from decades ago, generated 250,000 orders within days of its debut.
Not only do EVs save owners an average of $500 a year in fuel costs, but vehicle prices have dropped 10.8 percent over the past year. Some buyers prefer electric cars — without an engine under the hood — to offer a second trunk. Others like the ability to use the battery as a portable generator and power source.
On a full charge, the Mini Cooper Electric can go 110 miles and some Teslas can go 373 miles.
GM says its next-generation lithium-ion battery will have a range of 450 miles. But there are many variables, including speed and even the weather, because heating an electric car without the heat output of a conventional engine requires a lot of energy. So the biggest barrier to EV adoption is “range anxiety” — the fear of running out of battery, especially on long journeys.
There are now about 50,000 charging stations in the United States. Last year’s infrastructure bill provided $5 billion to build 500,000 charging stations, but it will take years to get there. Expensive chargers can fully charge an EV battery in 15 minutes.
In France, where the grid relies heavily on nuclear energy, driving an electric car can reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 96 percent. In the U.S., electric vehicles emit an average of 200 grams of carbon dioxide per mile, compared with 385 grams for the fuel-efficient Toyota Camry and 636 grams for the gasoline-powered F-150. The benefits are already evident, as Southern California, which has embraced electric vehicles, has seen a 4 percent drop in NOx emissions from passenger vehicles.
Extracting the lithium, cobalt and nickel needed for modern batteries also requires large amounts of energy and water, although scientists say oil drilling and pipelines have a much worse environmental impact.
Replacing the 280 million cars and trucks on U.S. roads will take years and a major cultural shift, but automakers plan to fully electrify their fleets by 2035.
More than a dozen electric vehicle and battery plants are planned in the U.S., including four new GM plants in Michigan and others in Georgia, Kentucky, North Carolina and Tennessee. FedEx, Walmart and Hertz have placed huge orders for electric vehicles. Changes haven’t happened so quickly since the Model T rolled off the assembly line.
Industry analysts say it’s only a matter of time before “battery safety” becomes the geopolitical priority of “energy security” it is today. Countries and companies are racing to gain control of mines in resource-rich countries such as Bolivia, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Australia and parts of the South Pacific.
Prices of lithium, cobalt and nickel have skyrocketed, and China — whose government is investing $100 billion in new industries — controls 80 percent of the lithium-battery supply chain, including factories that refine the virgin metal used in batteries.
Even with Tesla and Panasonic’s giant battery manufacturing plants in Nevada, and other automakers planning plants in the South and Midwest, the U.S. could be forced to outsource battery manufacturing to Chinese companies.
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