by Gianfranco Scalabrini
What is your point of view on electric mobility?
Views on electric mobility are diverse, ranging from ardent supporters who see e-mobility as the salvation of ecology, to major opponents who consider it the ‘hoax of the century’.
Electric mobility often sits at the center of heated debates, fluctuating between the utopian vision of a world completely free from emissions and skepticism about its true sustainability. Reality, as often happens, lies in a gray area, full of nuances and complexities.
First and foremost, it’s crucial to recognize that electric mobility is not a monolithic solution, but a concept encompassing a wide range of technologies, applications, and challenges. From pure electric vehicles (BEVs) to plug-in hybrids (PHEVs), each type offers a different balance between environmental benefits and practical usability. Technical challenges, such as battery range and charging times, are constantly being addressed through technological innovations, but remain critical factors in consumer purchasing decisions.
Electric mobility, more than being a mere question of technological innovation, emerges as a significant geopolitical and competitive battleground internationally. It’s essential to note how the transition from traditional to electric mobility is redefining global power dynamics, influencing not only the automotive market but also the production policies of the countries involved.
Government policies, charging infrastructures, and economic incentives vary greatly from country to country, directly influencing the adoption of electric vehicles.
Moreover, the potential rise of electric vehicles represents not just a change in the types of vehicles on the roads, but also a significant transformation in how energy is produced, distributed, and consumed. This shift requires strategic planning and substantial investment in energy infrastructures, including power generation, distribution networks, and charging stations.
Finally, it’s impossible to ignore the socio-economic debate surrounding the electric automotive industry. On one hand, there are significant economic and innovation opportunities; on the other, issues related to sustainability, mainly concerning battery recycling.
In the following lines, we attempt to structure elements that allow the reader to build their own point of view, focusing on 6 fundamental axes, to stimulate reflection and answer some questions.
Competitive Dynamics of Business
Are the components necessary for battery production (Lithium and rare metals) more or less geopolitically concentrated compared to fossil fuels? Do they facilitate free competition or strengthen oligopolies?
Does the balance between the higher efficiency of electric motors compared to thermal engines and the increased weight (at least 30% more vehicle weight) close positively or negatively?
The future footprint of energy generation (how the necessary energy will be produced), combined with the demand of electric vehicles (when they represent 30-40% of the vehicle fleet), which marginal technology will intersect (can it be met with renewables, or will coal-fired plants need to be reactivated)?
The disposal of batteries (assuming they will be about 20% of the circulating fleet, a few million a year in Italy), what percentage of recycling can be realistically expected (will 90% of components be recycled, or only specific parts)?
Given the battery life of about 7-8 years (vs a car’s lifespan of about double), what future cost of the battery (accumulated kWh) should we expect to make electric mobility economically sustainable for users?
Considering an average stay at a gas station of 4.5 minutes vs an average time at a charging station of 60 minutes, is it believable to imagine a future where charging stations are about 13 times more than pumps (80 times more than the number of service stations)?
There is no absolute truth, but only scenario analyses. Each person, based on their own convictions, can develop their own point of view on each of these 6 axes, without passively absorbing others’ slogans on such a debated topic.