In Portugal two weeks ago for an electric vehicle project, I was lucky enough to be given the use of a Tesla Model S saloon for a day of driving north of Lisbon.
For those who are unacquainted with these monsters, they look a little like a Jaguar saloon, but heavier, wider and longer. They are large cars, with big low profile tyres, acceleration of 0-60 mph in 3.1 seconds, and a price ticket of €100,000. The only thing they do not have is that satisfying roar of a large, turbo-charged engine. Or any noise at all, for that matter, except for the whoosh of heavily compacted air, as it surges forward faster than you have ever experienced in a saloon car.
It raised the question in my mind whether there is anything that can stop electric vehicles from completely replacing the internal combustion engine? I have accepted the motor industry's received wisdom, that EV's, as they are now called, cannot compete because of the flaws with battery range, the slow charge speeds, even with fast charge, and the patchy distribution of charge points. These will certainly improve, so conventional opinion tells us, and the range will go up. But then, the argument goes, at what cost?
The price of EV's is prohibitively high, even at the bottom of the market with vehicles like the Renault Twizy. This argument concludes that hybrid vehicles, probably best exemplified by the Toyota Prius, at present - it certainly has forged a path where others have followed - will be a half-way house that will gain some traction in the market, but that the Internal Combustion engine will always be with us. But I am here to tell you that, sitting behind the wheel of a Tesla Model S cruising up and down the beautiful motorway leading from Lisbon to Torres Vedras, set in the hills made famous by the Duke of Wellington's formidable defensive lines in the Peninsular War, it was hard to see how the internal combustion engine will survive. EV's have the capability to be better performance vehicles in every way. Comfort, speed, handling, acceleration, noise, vibration, smoothness of ride. Whatever you want from a car, EV's can deliver. Range? The Model S already has a range up to 310 miles.
Of course, this technology is still work in progress, and EV's will not take over the world this year or next. But they surely will take over in time.