Don’t get me wrong. I am all in favour of transforming our petrol-based car industry and putting it on a more sustainable path. But it seems to me the new enthusiasm about electric cars might need a good reality check.
The latest example of electric car hype comes from Germany, where the CDU-SPD government presented an action plan (“Nationaler Entwicklungsplan Elektromobilität”) to put one million electric cars on the road by 2020. Read about this action plan in Focus, Der Spiegel (“Koalition treibt Wahlkampf mit E-Auto-Plan”) and Handelsblatt. It is interesting to see that some of the media look at this plan as an election stunt from both governing parties.
The problem with electric cars is that they can only be as green as the source from which the electricity is generated. Do we really need cars on the road powered by new coal power plants? Is that climate-friendly?
Another issue is that it will still take quite a while before these cars will be commercialised and bought in big numbers. In the meantime, Chinese and Indians will continue putting more petrol-based cars on the roads and the contribution of the transport industry to global warming will continue to grow.
Last but not least, the batteries for these electric cars need precious metals like lithium and a rush for this metal could lead to new resource scarcities (see Wall Street Journal blog “Peak Lithium: Will Supply Fears Drive Alternative Batteries?”).