The Electric Future

Today I present to you the first in a series of posts on electric vehicles! Everything you’ve ever wanted to know about driving an electric car – because since September, I have been!

An electric car charging

EVs (or BEVs) are the future. Hydrogen, fuel cell, biofuel and battery electric drivetrains all offer exciting opportunities for the future, but it’s the electric car that’s gathered the most momentum so far. In the first 6 months of 2019, around 800,000 fully electric cars were sold globally, a figure that’s increasing exponentially each year. Those 800k cars added to the 3.3 million electric cars already on the road at the end of 2018.

EVs being the chosen form of future transport is largely down to one man and one company – Elon Musk CEO of Tesla. In fact, it’s the Tesla Model 3 that’s been credited by many as the driver (if you’ll excuse the pun!) of EV adoption growth.

Since its release, it’s dominated the market in the United States and was the 9th best-selling car in 2019. That’s not the 9th best battery electric vehicle (it was the most popular EV) it’s the 9th top-selling car overall! It tops its class selling more small and medium-sized luxury cars to the USA market than Mercedes and Audi combined.

Sales of electric cars in general have been rapidly gathering momentum around the world. Norway is leading the way, where 42% of new car sales in 2019 were BEVs.

The Netherlands is also a trailblazer in the electric future, with the Tesla Model 3 (a fully electric car) claiming the most sales of any car in 2019. In December, 54% of new cars sold in the Netherlands were plug-in electric vehicles (different from battery electric vehicles, as this also includes PHEVs) up from 15% in 2018.

The UKs electric market is also gathering pace, with 7.3% of cars sold in 2019 having a battery and electric motor – so this includes BEVs (100% electric vehicles), PHEVs (plug-in hybrid electric vehicles) and HEVs (hybrid electric vehicles). The BEV market share has more than doubled from 2018s 0.7% market share to 1.6% in 2019 – with 3.3% of cars sold in December fully electric. That could skyrocket next year, as Benefit-in-Kind tax (BIK) becomes 0% on EVs from April.

95% of Global New Car Sales Will Be Electric in 2030 - poll of 174 EV owners

In my final article of the 2010s, I made some predictions for 2030. One was that in 2030, 95% of new cars sold (globally) would be battery electric vehicles (EVs). I’ve polled 174 current EV owners to get their view on the 95% prediction and turns out, on the whole they agree! The majority (53.5%) think it is likely, with only 28 people saying it’s very unlikely.

You could argue that EV owners are a biased sample, as they’re already living the electric future and won’t want to go back to owning an ICE (internal combustion engine) car, but it’s important to take into account that they are living the limitations of owning an EV too. They understand the challenges of charging, range and existing (breakdown, servicing etc.) providers not understanding the technology.

Based on my knowledge of current uptake, I believe 25% of global new car sales will be EVs by 2024. Bloomberg analysis indicates it won’t be until 2028, with it taking another 10 years until EVs finally de-throne ICE (internal combustion engine) vehicle, topping 50% of sales. In my view, that’s overly pessimistic and I think Bloomberg will be surprised by the rate of acceleration this decade.

We’ll have to wait and see.

Exhaust fumes coming out of a car

Many countries have already moved to ban internal combustion engine cars, with Norway leading the way, phasing out petrol and diesel new car sales by 2025. The country is set to have all cars running on green energy in five years time. The UK has also set a target – albeit a little less ambitions – of 2040 for the ban.

Data suggests global charge point installations have started to rise significantly, 80,000 units installed globally in 2012, 180,000 in 2015 and 630,000 in 2019. Tesla currently have 1,800 Superchargers installed around the world with over 15k individual stalls (or pumps for you ICE fans!) although as these are paid for by Tesla funds, they’re exclusively for Tesla cars.

A Tesla Supercharging station witha  red Tesla Model X an a silver Tesla Model S

In order for EVs to be a viable form of transport, destination charging infrastructure is critical. Unlike fossil fuel-powered cars, it’s rare you need to “fill-up” an electric car while out and about, since charging at home and work gives most people enough juice to do their daily driving. Rapid roadside chargers are important too (like Tesla Superchargers, the IONITY network, and Ecotricity) especially for those looking to do more than 200-miles, which is the range of most electric cars.

Over the next few months I’ll be sharing my experience of driving an EV, debunking EV myths and explaining key terms. Hopefully, if I do a really good job, I might even persuade you to make the switch yourself!

I don’t speak Dutch (yet)

Dutch Humour

Ik spreek niet Netherlands.

This week I moved to the Netherlands after 3 years in the USA. It is not the first time I go to live in a country where the population speaks another language however. In 2000 I moved to Italy.

I must admit that I sometimes fail to see my own limitations. I was under the impression that after a year or so I would be able to speak Italian. It would just soak in through the skin, like osmosis, and come out in perfettamentally formed sentences.

Alas after a year I was just about able to order a cappuccino at the bar, so I had to ditch the osmosis strategy.

I enrolled in a school for foreigners wanting to learn Italian. 6 hours a week. I continued for 4 years, and became remarkably good. 3 years in the USA and my Italian is now a little rusty but I can still speak very well, and at least me English ain’t as pour as it were thanks to an American education.

So 3 days in and how is the Dutch learning plan unfolding you may ask. Well experience taught me something, because I tend to only make the same mistake about 50 or 60 times before I learn, so I am not going to try osmosis. I took some lessons in the US before coming, and I was going to enrol on a course.

That was until I discovered Skype and their new toy, the voice translator.

Now this technology may be still under development, but Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella and Gurdeep Pall (the vice president in charge of Skype), demonstrated the technology last week. Watch the video here. There is a demo and an explanation of how the technology learns, including a description of its brain like capacity to relate one language to another, improving both.

It’s quite an incredible demonstration. Until the end of the conversation when a couple of errors creep in to the translation I was sure it was all a fake. Given the fact that so many of us work via computer today, a reality that is sure to expand even more, I think this technology could be a real breakthrough.

Now early stages in technological development means a 15 year history in this case, far longer than my foray into foreign languages. And technology develops quickly, the translator may even be on the market by the end of the year. My brain is not so quick, I will still be on chapter 3 of the first book by the end of the year. And I am sure that within a year of its release the technology will become completely mobile, I will be able to buy a battery operated portable translator and wear it like a fake moustache under my Google Glasses, by next summer I will be fluent!

The development of this technology may however also have the downside that it might help people avoid learning another language, and lead to a reliance on technology that might then make face to face interaction more difficult. Also we may miss out on the great advantages that speaking more than one language brings to an individual, the respect that other people have for you if you learn their language, the ability to appreciate a wider perspective and even more importantly, understanding the Dutch sense of humour.

Alternative Food Networks

Jonnys poster-page-001
Today I am delivering my poster at the International Responsible Innovation meeting in the Hague, Netherlands. As you see above it is about alternative food provisioning networks both in Italy and the USA. The poster was prepared with Utrecht University anthropologist Cristina Grasseni. Food sovereignty and social sustainability through solidarity economy networks: a case study of responsible innovation describes how grassroots networks are rethinking the core elements of contemporary society: the market, the commons, and the role of the individual as citizen, consumer, and producer. From “political consumers” to “consumer-citizens”.

The presentation is based upon fieldwork conducted in Italy and the USA that aims to provide data about concrete examples of real-world, bottom-up, responsible-innovation attempts in the field of provisioning for the family. Much of the Italian research is described in Grasseni’s latest book that I reviewed as part of my food series, while the US data is as yet unpublished and out for its first airing.

The Netherlands government has been at the forefront of responsible innovation research for several years now, as it has funded the project that this conference relates to. In some ways it has made the country a hub for European researchers in the field, and I myself will transfer this year to Utrecht to follow developments first hand.

Readers who wish to review the extended abstract can find it here.