I read a TechCrunch article today about how much it would cost to convert all fuel vehicles into electric vehicles. According to the article, Philip Greenspun calculates it will cost us nothing to convert to electric cars, but I beg to differ. He deduces that for the cost of annual vehicle fuel consumption, everyone in the U.S. can have an electric vehicle instead of a gasoline-powered one. I do like the math and it would be great if it were true, but there is one major problem with electric cars. Current battery technology cannot support it, because the range that an electric vehicle can travel on a full charge is quite limited. Another problem with current battery technology is that batteries take a relatively long time to fully recharge.
What do you do if you’re on a road trip and your battery is running low on charge? Even if battery technology improved to allow for a five-minute full recharge, where would you go to recharge? You can recharge at home for intracity commuting, however, you still need a recharging station when you travel further distances. Unfortunately, there will be no incentive for entrepreneurs and corporations to build recharging stations because electricity is so much cheaper than gas. It would take pennies to recharge your electric car so it will be up to the government to provide public recharging stations. There would be significant capital investment and there would never be a return on that investment. I think the cost to put an electric car in front of every house is much higher than Philip has calculated.
Although there won’t be anyone rushing to build recharging stations, there is definitely a bright future for improvements in battery technology. It will be the key to improving hybrid vehicle technology as well as fully electric vehicles. The electric double-layer capacitor is one type of technology that shows a lot of promise. Eventually someone will start to mass produce a highly efficient energy storage device and it will change the world. When this happens electric cars will be much more viable and it will open up new markets. At a minimum, the majority of vehicles (if not all) will be hybrids that incorporate the new technology. Only then will we be able to wean ourselves from our addiction to petroleum.