Myth: Electric cars alone can replace oil

REALITY: Electric cars are not a near-term solution to our oil addiction problem.

Electric cars are the way of the future. Fewer parts in electric cars will eventually mean less cost. There are four critical issues that will continue to limit electric vehicles’ ability to impact oil consumption and the price of fuel.

Costly patents restrict the development of battery technology. Although EV technology will continue to improve, new technology to make EVs viable today is unnecessary. With that said, there is a very large component of the technology that is under current patent protection, which greatly increases the cost of such technology. As a result, battery technology costs in particular are much higher than the cost of raw materials. Until these patents revert to the public domain, electric mobility will be confined to affluent drivers.

The weak battery supply chain is another challenge. The ramp-up requires an increase in mining and processing investments that will only come with time. This will take decades, not years. For example, a Tesla currently runs on 6,800 battery cells. Eight billion of these cells are required to make a million Tesla vehicles. There is no such battery production capacity in the world and a million Teslas will not do anything to the price of oil or make a dent in the consumption of oil, the same way a million Prii did not do anything.

Technology adoption also takes decades. Usually, new technology like EVs, first appear in either specialty cars or in high-end luxury market. It is a slow process, between 10 to 20 years, for that technology to slowly make its way to every vehicle category and every class of consumers. Add to that the 5% – 7% replacement rate (i.e. only 5% – 7% of the car fleet get replaced every year), and we are looking at 30 to 40 years until the impact of that technology is fully felt.

In the U.S. where there is a car for every driver, not just every family, and where most people have access to a garage, charging infrastructure is not a big concern. However, in the rest of the world and in many cities where cars park overnight on the street, electric vehicles will not be adopted without a proper public charging infrastructure.

WE DO NOT HAVE 30 YEARS TO WAIT for open patents, ramp-ups and the adoption of electric vehicles! We need to get off of oil in this decade through the introduction of replacement fuels to the fuel market.