Future of Electric Cars

So what is the future of electric cars? Good question and the answer will depend upon who you ask. Some believe that all vehicles will eventually become electric. Others think that EVs will only be a stepping stone to another, better technology. Most agree that however you slice it, the battery and how fast battery technology advances will determine the future of electric vehicles.

Not All Batteries Are Equal

There are several types of batteries for electric cars. Most people know of lithium-ion, some are probably aware of Nickel-Metal Hydrirde (NiMH), but most are not aware that fuel cells are also a type of battery.

Various forms of li-ion batteries have been and are being developed and tested. Lithium-iron Phosphate (LiFePO4) is currently the most common battery being used in electric vehicles (hybrids, all electrics). The trouble with any type of chemical battery like li-ion or NiMH is that they can only store so much power and release it so quickly.

This means that there is a size and weight limit to the batteries you can put into a passenger car before they became too heavy and begin negating their own gains. In other words, the batteries eventually cancel themselves out as they no longer increase range.

The price of batteries is also high and will likely remain so for quite a while. Not just the purchase price, but the overall price. Li-ion batteries have a limited lifespan when sued as an EV power source and will require replacement. Even best-case scenarios put this at every 7 years (many say 5) and at a cost of about 25-50% of the electric vehicle's overall price tag. That's not inexpensive.

It's for this reason that most major car manufacturers are looking into fuel cells (mainly hydrogen) as an alternative to batteries. A hydrogen fuel cell vehicle is basically an electric car using H2 and a fuel cell as its battery. Instead of plugging it into an outlet to get more electricity, you refill a hydrogen tank.

Although HFCVs are currently very expensive, that is changing fast and will continue to do so. Most are gambling that they will become cheaper than battery electric cars - and the odds aren't as bad as one might think.

Range Anxiety

Much of the future of electric cars is social rather than practical or technological. Several generations of people ahve gotten accustomed to the idea that they can drive 200 or more miles without refueling and that when they do refuel, it takes only a few minutes and they're on their way again.

With battery electrics, the recharge takes hours and technologies that require only a few minutes to recharge enough battery to go more than 100 miles are only theoretical right now. Battery swapping is another solution that may work, though it too has its limitations.

So.. the future of electric cars is very much dependent on a lot of factors. It's most likely that several options for electrified driving will exist (not just battery electrics) and that more locally-based infrastructure for refueling/charging will be had.

It's an exciting future to think about however you slice it!

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