I remember back at the turn of the millennium when the subject of electric cars was just a footnote in the motoring world, a subject of no more than mere curiosity and a historical asterisk. The initial effort by General Motors to introduce an electric car in the market dominated by internal combustion engines came out unsuccessfully — such that by 2001, G.M.’s EV1 ceased production due to high production costs that made the EV1 commercially unviable. It seemed that the time for it was not ripe as the state of the technology as well as public consciousness on the dangers of carbon-emitting cars and vehicles was still pretty low and “climate change” was basically an academic subject talked mainly in the halls of the academe and not in the streets.
Consider that it took almost a full century for the modern car running on gasoline or diesel to gain world domination such that it was unthinkable for the ordinary man or woman of my generation to even conceptualize a car with a different power source. But then my world view took several shocks that made me realize that the next generation will come to love their electric car as much as I was thrilled and excited when I drove my first car and felt that surge of power under my feet.
This time with the electric car, first time owners have been publicly stating in both print and social media of how silent their electric car is — so between the roar of the engine and the buzz of an electric motor, our driving experience is going to change for sure and here lies the tale of how our cars have evolved from carbon spewing hulks to quiet eco-friendly transport.
So let me start with the venerable car manufacturing giant, General Motors, which tried more than 20 years ago to field its EVI electric car to an unsuspecting world. Today it has surprised the motoring world by announcing that that the company will aim to sell only zero-emission cars and trucks by 2035. GM’s chief executive, Mary T. Barra, said this in a press announcement that took everyone by surprise in a dramatic move that underscored GM’s love-hate relationship with electric cars going back decades. But under Ms. Barra, who took over in 2014, it has now come to a point of fully embracing the electric car technology. Her announcement, just a day after President Biden signed an executive order on climate change, blindsided rivals who usually seek to present a united message on emissions and other policy issues.
GM has already committed to spending $27 billion to introduce 30 electric vehicle models by 2025, and is building a plant in Ohio to make batteries for those cars and trucks. According to GM executive, Dane Parker, “Its decision, was based on a fundamental, dollars-and-cents analysis of where the auto industry is headed and the cars that it expects to become best sellers in the future.” “We are doing this to build a sustainable business,” said Mr. Parker, the company’s chief sustainability officer. “We want to have a business in 15 years that’s a thriving business”, he stressed. For example, in October 2020, GM unveiled a Hummer electric pickup truck, and within a day it had collected enough orders to account for all the trucks GM planned to make in the truck’s first year.
Not to be outdone, Ford Motors had announced that by mid-2026, 100 percent of Ford’s passenger vehicle range in Europe will be zero-emissions capable, all-electric or plug-in hybrid, and will be completely all-electric by 2030. Similarly, Ford’s entire commercial vehicle range will be zero-emissions capable, all-electric or plug-in hybrid, by 2024, with two-thirds of Ford’s commercial vehicle sales expected to be all-electric or plug-in hybrid by 2030. Recall that it was the legendary Henry Ford whose name still banners this American car manufacturing giant that revolutionized and in fact, launched the era of the combustion engine that captivated the world in the 20th century. It was Henry Ford’s mass-produced Model T that dealt a blow to the electric car that was earlier invented in the late 1800 and by the introduction in 1908 of the Model T, made gasoline-powered cars widely available and affordable. Now his heirs have turned full circle and literally stood the car industry in its head as it promises to make its electric cars a global standard for quality and affordability as much as the Model T has done for motoring in the previous century.
But what about Toyota, the world’s number one car manufacturer in 2020 by the number of vehicles sold? The Asian automotive behemoth has a long history of carbon-reduction initiatives and in 1997 the company launched the world’s first mass-produced hybrid electric vehicle, the Prius. Since then, based on the idea that “eco-friendly vehicles are only meaningful if they achieve widespread use and contribute to CO2 reductions,” or introduce sustainable vehicles practically, Toyota has undertaken to establish a full line-up of electrified vehicles―namely, hybrid electric vehicles (HEVs), plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs), battery electric vehicles (BEVs), and fuel cell electric vehicles (FCEVs)―and thereby offering its customers diverse choices. Worldwide electrified vehicle sales in 2020 was 1.95 million units (23 percent of Toyota’s total sales, or about one in four vehicles, is electrified).
So, there you are, electric vehicles are now the future of motoring and its growth could only grow stronger as governments around the world have been tightening restrictions on carbon emission with cars and trucks/ buses being a major culprit. More so the economics of electricity from renewable sources are becoming more practical for all households and the cost of electric cars, hopefully, becoming more reachable to common folks or motorists such as you and I.