Opinion piece from REI Expert Cora Moran
Over a million electric vehicles were produced in 2017, representing a 60 percent growth on the previous year, with further rapid growth expected in the industry. Electric vehicles have a number of benefits over conventional ones such as their greater level of efficiency, over 90 percent compared to around 15 percent for an internal combustion engine, and reducing air pollution. When the cradle to grave inputs required for an electric vehicle are compared to a conventional one they also have a substantially smaller carbon footprint, even if they are run on electricity generated from a largely fossil fuel based electric grid.
A number of different car companies have launched electric vehicles including BMW, Chevy, Volkswagen. Volvo have even committed that all their cars in future will be plug-in hybrid or electric vehicles. There is no doubt however that the company which has stolen the limelight in this burgeoning industry is Tesla. Famed for its charismatic CEO Elon Musk, the company has made substantial inroads into the electric car market. What makes this all the more unusual is that they are a new car company; in just a decade the company has gone from a small startup to a large player in the industry. Tesla have affected a sea-change in an industry prone to inertia, raising the bar for competition and persuading other companies to invest further in the market and increase the range, and number of electric cars available. So what makes Tesla so unusual? Some critics say that having a master showman at the helm resulted in buy in from investors with remarkably few results. This is largely a fair assessment. The company takes substantial risks, demonstrated by their error prone roll out of their new Model 3 car, which was their first mass market vehicle. However, even if it is hype it does appear to be working. After having obtained substantial investment, and through clever use of tax incentives, the company has been able to invest in the development of its own battery production facilities. Tesla are the only electric vehicle manufacturer that has in-house battery production, enabling it to ramp up production much more rapidly than its rivals. The company has also had remarkable foresight in future-proofing the business, designing vehicles so that they can be automatically updated, providing scope for cars to operate fully autonomously in future once suitable programming has been perfected. They are also rolling out a network of national charging points for their vehicles in the United States which should further embed the product within the nation’s infrastructure. International sales of their cars are starting to increase as well, with countries such as the UK putting in substantial investment into electric vehicle charging infrastructure. This should help with the adoption of electric cars internationally. Ultimately, whether the Tesla experiment succeeds or fails in bringing electric vehicles to the masses, the company has substantially affected the automobile industry and encouraged companies within the sector to adopt the technology. This should ensure the widespread adoption of electric cars as a general transition away from internal combustion engine vehicles which in itself is quite an achievement.
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