Categories
Electric Vehicles Series Technology

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!

Categories
Environment News Science

Carbon Emissions and Aviation

On Sunday I will be lifting off into the wild blue yonder once more for a quick scoot across the Atlantic from Boston to Dublin and on to Milan. This is a rather regular occurrence nowadays. Flying is part of my life and for the kids, who have been on more aircraft than trains.

The environmental impact of all of this folly though is tied up in a rather controversial debate. On the one hand we have those who say that airline carbon and pollution emissions is minimal, others disagree. It seems that between 2 and 5% of possible global warming type emissions come from aviation. Not a lot we might think, when we bear in mind that 10% comes from car use, and about 17% from agricultural food production, but we all eat, we do not all fly.

This year the European Union was to start taxing airlines on their carbon emissions, in line with the way they tax other industry on theirs. This might seem fair to some, not to others, particularly large airlines and countries. Here in the USA a law was passed to state that US airlines could not participate in the scheme, and so could not pay the tax. China, India and others followed, and so the scheme has been postponed.

A Modern Jet Engine
A Modern Jet Engine

So back to my flight on Sunday. Between us, I and my family will produce about 12 metric tons of carbon dioxide in our time in the air. The average European produces about 10 a year, Americans more like 19 0r 20 and the average African about 0.3 tons per year.

Oh to put things in perspective the global average is 1.3 metric tons per year per person, and the 1.1 billion people who live on the continent of Africa produces about 7% of the emissions that the 0.6 billion population of North America produce.

So taken in terms of people and not percentages, flying is extremely polluting. But people are not going to stop flying. The aviation industry is ever expanding, even vegetables fly nowadays.

One way that aircraft engineers are trying to cut down on emissions is to design lighter and more fuel efficient engines. Weight is a big problem in flying, and it is our old friend 3D printing who might come to the rescue.

A company called CFM International, a joint venture between GE Aviation and the French company Snecma, has created the LEAP engine — an acronym for “leading edge aviation propulsion” that the company hopes reflects just how innovative the new aircraft component is. LEAP has many futuristic features, including a 3-D-printed nozzle, the part of the plane responsible for burning fuel.

3D printing allows engineers to produce objects in materials that either would be too expensive or impossible to make using conventional techniques, and they can use lightweight materials or ceramics as is the case with the new CFM engine to substitute heavy metal parts. Check out this article in CNN for details.

Over the last couple of weeks an aeroplane has made a trans America flight using solar power, and this is just part of its round the world trip. A whole new concept in low carbon emission flight, although currently a bit slow.

Another possibility is to use organic jet fuel. Although this may seem strange, as long ago as 2009 Air New Zealand conducted a test flight using an organic jet fuel mix that seemed to demonstrate a 60% cut in carbon emissions.

Here is a link to an article in the New York Times about aviation and carbon developments and some more data about carbon emissions in Africa if I have tickled your interest. And as always, I am all ears.

Categories
Business Computers Internet News Smartphones

Taxing the Smartphone

On Monday a report was released in France that contained the suggestion that a tax should be levied on Internet devices in order to raise money to promote and protect French cultural production.

A Tax Paid Phone
A Tax Paid Phone

For several years France has had a policy of taxing broadcasters and spending the money on supporting its own film and entertainment industries, but revenues are falling. The problem seems to be that many more people are accessing their entertainment via the Internet and therefore not contributing to its production cost.

The Lescure report as it is known suggests a tax of between 1 and 4% on any Internet capable devices (smartphones, eBook readers and games consoles included), but as we might imagine many of the producers of these devices are not happy about the proposal.

Money has to be raised to maintain the entertainment industries, but many of the companies that provide access to this entertainment are not based in France and do not contribute. They probably don’t want to either, and so we come across the same problem that I wrote about last week, collecting national taxes from international corporations based in another state is never easy, and borders are porous.

The proposed tax would replace one already in existence upon storage devices. Currently tax is levied on blank CD’s and memory sticks as well as computers with hard discs.

The manufacturers complain that the price of the devices would rise leading to fewer sales, although the author of the report argues that such a small percentage increase would make little difference, and would not even effect the home job market because most of these devices are assembled overseas. A 1% tax would raise something of the order of 90 million Euro a year.

The problem remains though. As our sources of entertainment move away from pay TV, publicity funded channels and national subscription systems such as the BBC, money is taken away from the producers and associations that represent and fund these industries. Some see the fact that Google and Apple amongst others are operating outside the tax system and are not contributing to the industries that they make their money from as unfair, and hope that this change in tax law will go some way to evening out the field.

The Wall Street Journal goes into a little more depth on the matter in its free online edition.

I wonder if France takes this step if others in the EU will follow. There are many different ways of making money through so called free downloads as we all know, but the money ends up in the pockets of the provider and not the producer and the industries involved are feeling the pinch. Maybe this needs to change.

Categories
Business Internet News

Taxes on Internet shopping

Here in the US the Senate just passed the Marketplace Fairness Act, and it is causing a great deal of debate on all sides.

I want you to pay taxes
Pay more taxes on your online goods

In the USA each state can levy its own sales tax. The rate is not equal across the states, for example here in Massachusetts I pay 6.25% sales tax on my new fridge, but if I drive to New Hampshire I do not pay anything. You can check out the differences on this interactive tax map.

The legislation described above aims to make Internet sellers collect the taxes due to the buyer’s state, something they are not currently required to do. At the moment I order my fridge from a New Hampshire based Internet retailer and I don’t pay any tax. In theory I should go and pay the state myself, but with online sales worth billions there is no enforcement and no queues (lines) outside the tax office.

Retail outlets argue that this gives online sellers an unfair advantage, but they in turn argue that the collecting and payment of state taxes under the new proposed regime would be expensive and extremely complicated. If they sell me the fridge here it costs a certain amount, they have to collect the tax and pay it to Massachusetts, but my friend in Florida pays a different amount and the tax is paid to the state there. Now this might not be too complicated a system for Amazon to manage, but a small Internet based retailer might not have the technical expertise or personnel to carry it out.

The proposed bill does exclude traders who sell under a million dollars of goods, but in today’s world that could still be a very small organization.

The technical difficulties of collecting the taxes through any other means seem insurmountable though, and the problem is very much related to the idea that borders can be controlled. States have different laws about selling many things, but if these things can be bought on the Internet and shipped to an individual house I cannot see how these rules can be adequately enforced. Is it a form of smuggling to buy something that you cannot get in your own state?

The result of the bill (if it passes although it does have bi-partisan support) will be that local sales tax will be levied at source and so the fridge will cost more. Maybe this is just and fair, maybe it will choke some smaller businesses, who knows?

What do you think?