EU, Go Electric!


Modern, Eco-friendly, Caring? Slave, Eco-fanatic or just EU sheep?

Opinions of drivers of Battery Electric Vehicles (BEVs) are various. When something new is coming, there are always pioneers, who have to buy it and be the first. At the same time, there are many refusals who cannot accept something new and firmly stay for the well developed and proven old stuff. My article is about the general outlook on mandatory electrification attacking us in upcoming years.

When it has started?

The first idea of BEVs already mentioned in 1830. The first locomotive was built in 1837 as prototype, where batteries needed to be regularly changed. But the first real electric car with charging batteries was built around 1890. Both initiatives came from Scotland.

General publicity of electric cars was in the beginning of 20th century especially in US, till Henry Ford produced a better performing fossil fuel car going much faster and much longer distance.

Afterwards the major activities link to electric passenger cars were muted almost for the whole rest of the century.

It was a paradox, Japanese Toyota started to be active with electric engine for passenger cars in the end of 20th century with its hybrid phenomenon Prius. It obviously provoked American Tesla to start with production of its Model S. Beside ugly Nissan Leaf and some small European Peugeots, there was almost nothing to choose at least on the EU market. But the milestone year 2015 came and VW dieselgate scandal occurred in US. That was the moment when automotive industry survived an automotive earthquake. VW Group and other especially EU brands completely reworked their future plan of mobility and killed especially diesel engines in their development plans, replacing by BEVs massive development.

For sure, the main Go Electric initiative is not based on some car manufacture scandal. One of the main initiative is EU CO2 regulation plan. It is about certain defined scope of actions. Lets concentrate in this article automotive relevant 15% CO2 emission pollution part, coming from passengers and LCV cars in EU (as described by EU Parliament in 2018).

It has been defined a target to decrease CO2 from passengers and LCV cars till 2030 by 37,5%! (reduction from the 2021 starting points). There is an assumption 2021 will end up on the level 95g/km = 4,1l/100km in case of petrol cars. That would mean CO2 target 2030 appx 60g/km = appx 2,6l/100km fuel consumption. For sure the calculation for brands, manufactures, quotas definitions are much more complicated, but lets keep it simple.

In order to meet EU target, it is obvious it cannot be reached by a standard combustion engine car (ICE).

Controversial EU approach

Before I comment the consequences from the measures, which are going to be implemented for drivers of passenger cars, let me remind original wording of EU parliament.

How it was stated: 

"Transport is responsible for nearly 30% of the EU's total CO2 emissions, of which 72% comes from road transportation. As part of efforts to reduce CO2 emissions, the EU has set a goal of reducing emissions from transport by 60% by 2050 compared to 1990 levels." (detail on attached charts)

In other wording, if the EU CO2 target for passenger cars and LCVs for 2030 is met and others CO2 producers would remain unchanged, final impact on EU total CO2 would be appx 8% from total CO2 emissions. That would not be a small number if we consider as 100% effect only by decrease of fossil fuels reduction, which is of course not a case.

Looking from the world perspective this EU28 measure for passenger cars based on 2019 figures would mean impact on global CO2 emission production just 0,64%!!! From this perspective its marginal issue, but theoretically if all pollution areas do the same it would have the desired impact. But let me take it from different angle. General EU value of life, dependency and productivity. Its time to think about who will take over the general production lead in future and what is the consequence for EU?!

Its not only about the CO2 emissions from fuel consumption.

CO2 emissions for massive batteries production are not discussed with the same attention. Environmental impact of battery production (mining of metals especially), recycling, demolition are also with plenty of hidden question marks.

As it was stated by EEA, energy for production of BEV vehicles is appx. 70% higher compared to production of ICE car.

EEA stated that estimated share of energy production for BEV consumption in 2030 will be appx 4 - 5% of total electricity production!

Where the energy for electricity production comes from? 

Lets look on perfect example from Germany.  Germans are going to shut down all their nuclear plants by 2022. Up to now nuclear energy was substential part of domestic energy production. They announced and believe in renewables in future. But dependency on energy import from abroad is significant. The source of the supply I do not want comment as the chart below comments it clearly. So the question is, how Germans are going to build enough energy to replace nuclear plants and feed their BEVs production and running consumption?

Does really EU know all consequences with transformation to electric?

Above described basic analysis mainly from EU official sources show only limited positive impact of BEV technology for passenger cars. On the other side production and running of BEVs could have negative general environmental impact and quality of EU citizen life. It has to be loudly mentioned, BEVs are tailpipe emission free, but not carbon free! Carbon-free mobility depends on many other factors that none of the BEV manufacturers meet.

Besides almost neutral CO2 impact (taking into the consideration zero emissions of BEV usage vs. higher CO2 emissions electric energy production as well as BEV itself production) there are other relevant environmental issues as eg. cobalt, samarium, neodym and other metal mining.

EU car producers are mainly financing from EU cars sales. Future of BEV will therefore be depending on EU sales potential. EU customers have always bought modern, well designed and especially practical cars. And the question is if it is just BEV for future?  

I can imagine BEV as a niche segment of small city car for citizen having possibility charge at home/office. But natural environment in EU automotive market should be according to me about reliable and comfortable hybrid cars (HEVs) or plug-in PHEVs. At least before an alternative technology is developed. Simply because that will solve a mobility issue combined with low emission effect. If natural environment. But what is natural environment? It is just market without artificial governmental BEV supports.

According to me, EU car producers will be always step behind Japanese and Koreans producers. The point is Asians have universal mobility solution for the globe for now and also for future. They are able to produce crazy BEVs for EU needs. They can produce ICE for Africa, South America or major part of Asia and get incomparable financial results compared to EU producers focusing especially on EU artificially created market place. So who has better chance to survive?

Who can buy a BEV?

Artificially EU customer will be forced to buy a BEV. Simply, because EU producers will be forced to offer especially BEVs. There will be companies, receiving better taxation and various other benefits to purchase a BEVs.

Drivers using them for working purposes will be partly satisfied, because it will have nice acceleration and especially because it will not cost them anything. User will not own them and charging will be on company account. The long distance driving freedom and charging issue will be weighted by company benefits obviously. And EU mainstream get use to it.

Private customers will hardly prioritize BEV in upcoming years.

The life with BEV is not easy. In fact driver is behaving according to BEV. If I would exaggerate, driver becomes a slave of BEV.  Making a stops for coffee when BEV needs. Parking a car, where possible to charge. Plan the trip according to BEV needs. Driver will need to be extremely patient in terms of finding a free charging station. 

Generally charging station network is separate topic and it would be difficult to imagine transformation of current urban areas to charging forests. And if BEVs is not the right direction? Will the charging forests disappear again?

What about the first users: I have noticed a funny moment on social network showing automotive proffesional, "enjoying" a cup of coffee and sitting beside her new electric company car plugged to a charger with comment: "a new BEV philosophy is allowing me to stop for a moment and relax during my long journey"...

Do you belive, this is a benefit of driving a BEV? 

BEVs are expensive and also will be expensive. I do not mean just purchase price, but especially total costs of ownership! BEVs will cost significantly more compared to standard ICEs or Hybrids. Charging costs especially for fast charging will be higher compared to fuel costs. And the most important part is the lifecycle. BEV will be made just for appx. 10 years as batteries (producers usually guarantee 70% battery capacity) will be in many cases integral part of the car. What does it mean? If you own car for 5 years, you usually sell it as used car, get 40% of new car price and buy a new one. In case of BEVs it will be completely different. 5 years of BEV usage means a middle of its lifecycle, that means residual value will be significantly lower compared to ICE. 

On top of that safety is a big question even for experts. Nobody has publically tested what happen if BEV have serious accident or so called thermal runaway of batteries and starts to burn. If dangerous liquid from batteries get out. Even current emergency system does not count with BEV accidents as confirmed by random local municipalities check.

BEVs are not customer demand driven at all!

Another issue is the weight of the car. Small city ICE car can have even below 1tonne. The same BEV will have appx 300-400kg more. If you drive current SUV, BEV SUV will be like a small truck. That means completely different braking distance, behaving in curves, etc.

I could describe many other open questions of BEVs, but it is not an intention of this article. Many of BEVs are just a pioneers and car producers are discovering what they can and cannot afford. Its clear, that their first generations of BEV will have many issues, mistakes etc. It would not be fair to point it out.

Do we need an "European Henry Ford", to save a freedom in mobility?

My intention is to think about the future mobility, future of European automotive industry and future of European products competitiveness.

The article is also about the legendary European leadership in the field of living standards. Many years EU was the territory with better life value compared to the rest of the world. The BEV intention is a next piece of puzzle how EU regulations can disadvantage EU from the competitiveness on globe and make next generation of EU citizen less happy.  BEVs are building barrier against freedom of traveling, hardly developed by our parents and grand parents. Producers know it. Smart, well-educated and experienced people working in automotive know perfectly all concerns. Many of them purchased for their own last  high performance purely petrol cars. I have met several top managers who ordered BEV as company car and returned it after several weeks, simply because they could not accept so many compromises linked to BEV usage. 

I cannot and I do not want to judge decision of car makers to go electric. They are forced to produce it. I am past several years wondering how top managers of EU car producers could accept such a suicide of automotive technology developed during last decades and could accept full transformation to electric in future with so many open questions. 

It is clear we have to be responsible about our planet for future generations of our children. There are many of initiatives regarding CO2 emissions regulation in transportation which perfectly make sence eg in aviatons or heavy duty trucks worlwide. Even in passangers cars sector. To change old fossil fuel cars and replace it by modern hybrids or low emission ICEs makes perfectly sence globally. 

I try to provoke a discussion about future orientation of European automotive industry & business and especially competitiveness. I try as much as possible support initiatives against pure and blind BEVs direction as announced by a lot of EU makers.  I try to open discussion about compromise and environmental friendly alternatives as proven modern hybrids or low emissions petrol ICE cars to secure freedom of traveling and discovering for next decades. Why just hybrids or low emissions ICEs? Its a subject of my next article, experience and recommendation.

At the same time, I would love to see EU representatives elaborate a motivation scheme for the car producers to develop a CO2 emission free technology with the same benefits for a user as Henry Fords ICEs. The cars securing life on our planet for the next generations and securing the freedom of transportation as we and our parents have enjoyed so far. 

I know, I'm not alone for whom traveling and freedom in mobility is a strong life value.