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!

Mobile Phones and the Right to Search (and Privacy)

cnn.police

Earlier this year I wrote an article about whether the police had the right to search your laptop when you are passing immigration into the USA. The discussion has moved on however, and this week there is a Supreme Court case about whether the police have to right to search an individual’s mobile phone when they are stopped upon suspicion of having committed a crime.

Given the UK governments discussion about the stop and search powers currently in use, there are some serious questions to address here. We now carry our lives with us on our mobile devices. To call them phones is to do them an injustice, they are computers with the possibility of making phone calls. They have our medical, personal, business, banking and emotional data, and the question is whether this is public or private information if the police stop you.

Here in the USA the law has allowed police to search these devices without a warrant, although they could not search your computer in your house without a judge’s permission, and this seems to be an anomaly given changes in how we carry our lives with us.

The case before the court involves David Riley, who was pulled over for driving with expired license plates in 2009. When his car was impounded and inventoried, police found guns in the boot and decided to investigate further.

They looked into his phone and found evidence that he might be in a gang, they downloaded videos, contacts etc and some of this information was used to convict him.

Here in the US the case has been followed by journalist Nina Totenberg, and she has a fantastic account on her blog. You can either listen to her radio report or read a transcript of it. I have taken some of it below to give you an idea of how the debate is unfolding. The question is of whether a warrant should be required, but the following snippets give an idea of how wide the implications for the debate really are:

“It’s not just what can be looked at,” it’s the fact that information from cellphones can be downloaded and kept in “ever-growing databases.”

A person can be arrested “for anything,” including driving without a seat belt, and the police could search that person’s cellphone and “look at every single email” — including “very intimate communications” — as well as medical data, calendar and GPS information to learn everyplace the person has recently been.

People “choose” when they carry their cellphones with them — and thus they should have “no expectation of privacy” if they are arrested.

So some of the questions could be, when the police stop and search you, what do they have the right to look at? If you are then arrested should they need a warrant to search your mobile devices? Do you have the right to privately carry digital information?

Vehicle Reversing cameras, a real safety improvement?

Congratulations on a beach

Congratulations Jonny! You have the honour of posting Technology Bloggers 500th article – which is also your 125th! It is also the first post of Technology Bloggers fourth year. (Image Credit)

A car reversing cameraImage Credit
At the end of last month the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (USA) finalized long-delayed rules that will require automakers to install back-up cameras in all vehicles by May 2018. This was a long fought battle, the auto makers not wanting to be forced to adapt such measures.

And we must consider the costs, possibly between $500 and $900 million a year, to be borne by the purchaser, manufacturer and of course the state. The legislation is aimed at avoiding death or injury caused when drivers reverse over their own children or the elderly (the main victims in such accidents).

All well and good I say, maybe the rules will save some lives, and we should bear in mind that they did take 10 years to pass. But how many lives will they save?

A Typical view in reverse

We have to bear in mind that auto-mobile manufacturers estimate that upwards of 60% of all cars would have had the technology as standard by 2018, we are talking about the remaining 40%, so an incremental improvement on an already rolling ball. But how many people are killed each year in the USA in accidents of this type?

According to this article, fittingly enough from the Detroit News, 60 to 70 lives a year would be saved if all the fleet had rear view cameras, but of course as stated above 60% would have already had the cameras, so the legislation itself would save about 15 lives a year and save 1300 injuries. But how many injuries and deaths are there a year in the USA?

On average in recently in the USA there have been about 35 000 deaths and more than 2 million injured in motor accidents. According to the US Census Bureau most of those were caused by speeding and alcohol.

Now I would question the rationale of spending the amounts of money required to install cameras in all cars when the number of lives saved is going to be so small. We are talking about between 15 and 25 million dollars per life, when there may be better ways of spending this money and saving more lives.

If we look at the legislation in context, I think there are other questions that need to be asked too. The US government Distracted Driving website offers another bewildering array of statistics and related information, with mobile technology use once more taking the blame for accidents. But we might imagine that it is illegal to text and drive, but it is not in all states. Several states still allow you to send a text message while driving. Texas for example bans texting for bus drivers and novice drivers, and in school areas for everyone, but I can drive and text in Texas perfectly legally. Arizona only bans bus drivers from texting, and in south Carolina there are no rules about using mobile technology while driving.

Although road deaths have come down dramatically in the USA, those related to driver distraction have gone up. This could be related to changes in how the statistics are reported, or might be related to increased usage of mobile devices, I cannot tell that from the data provided in the census.

A table is available here that summarizes the current situation.

As a quick comparison in the UK you can be charged with reckless driving if you are involved in any accident, and texting and hand held telephone use is against the law. If you are eating or drinking however this can also be taken into account, and there is research that suggests that eating and drinking while driving can dramatically slow down reaction time. Check out this article in the Telegraph newspaper.

So I want to ask a serious question about this US legislation that we could ask about a lot of other legislation. Do these new rules really make driving safer, or do they make us feel that we are safer, or do they just make us feel that we are doing the right thing?

I don’t honestly believe that this legislation will really make driving much safer for anyone, although this is of course my own opinion. I am not making light of accidents that involve reversing over children or old people, but there must be plenty of more efficient ways of cutting down road deaths than this (like taking action to deter mobile phone or texting use for example).