Battery Power is the future. The future for automotive transportation and the future for personal transportation. Right now, you are free to ponder the benefits of buying an electric versus a conventionally powered car, but soon depending on where you live that choice is probably going to be taken from you.
Several countries either have or are about to introduce legislation that will ban the sale of petrol and diesel vehicles. The UK and France will probably ban the sale of petrol and diesel cars beyond 2040 and Germany is poised to do the same. Essentially, any economy that doesn’t depend on oil revenue to survive is probably considering the best way to force its citizens to go Green.
Manufacturers such as Volvo have pledged to end the production of gas only cars with all of their models switching to full electric or hybrid from 2019. This follows a trend of companies jumping on the electric car band wagon hot on the heels of the sexy Tesla Automotive. Tesla, currently unrivalled in the premium car arena have just now launched their competitively priced “car for the masses” which will compete against the likes of the Chevy Volt, Nissan leaf, or the Volkswagen E-golf.
But the electrical revolution isn’t limited to cars. Advances in Battery technology have miniaturized the space needed to conceal a power supply, thus you will have already experienced kids (and grown-ups) whizzing past you on some kind of electric vehicle that looks to be far more dangerous than the rider has probably given the device credit for. Hover boards, scooters and skate boards, essentially anything that runs on wheels are already being fitted with an electric motor. It is raising many legal questions for governments whose outdated policies did not have the foresight to envision the capability of technology to strap a pair of motorized wheels to an 8 year old, hurtle him through pedestrian areas at 20 mph (32km/h) and run down old ladies.
The trend of motorizing things isn’t new, it’s just the technology. Before all this we were attaching tiny petrol engines to everything - “Mini Moto’s” (miniaturized motorbikes) or “Go-peds” (motorized scooters) were all the rage for about 15 minutes, but they had their day, and now it’s time for you - like me - to join the electric revolution.
I recently purchased a hybrid electric bike (E-Bike) and I am not going to lie, it is a miracle. It works for the main part like a normal bike but it has a small electric motor hidden away near the pedals that senses the torque or pressure you’re applying and electrically assists you – reducing your own effort. The European courts have possibly learned from past lessons and deemed that on an e-bike you can only be powered up to 15.5mph ( 25km/h.) This is the only real aggravation of an E-Bike. When you are pedaling along and exceed 25kmh the electric motor support stops and it immediately feels like you are cycling with the brakes on. This I put down to carrying the extra weight of the battery and the motor meaning my bike weighs 22kg, a bike with a similar specification but without a motor weighs around 15kg.
On the plus side though biking up hills and inclines has become an absolute joy! My commute contains three climbs, two short and steep and one killer that lasts for half a kilometer and leaves me breathless and legless at the top, but happily not anymore! Riding up these inclines is a breeze and the assistance has revolutionized my commute, not only is it now ten minutes shorter, I still arrive with a feeling of satisfaction from using my body, but without being drenched in sweat with “Bambi leg” syndrome.
So what are the downsides? The two main downsides are weight, and cost. The clearest giveaway that you are riding an E-bike is the embarrassingly large battery attached to the drop tube (seriously, it’s about the size of a loaf of bread) demonstrating to every person that you glide past on a climb that you are cheating. In fairness to you though, you have to cheat as pedaling this weight up a hill without the electric motor would be almost impossible. The second downside is that the bike is as heavy as it is expensive with most E-bikes retailing at around 2000 euros. So whilst I am cheating all the way to my desk, bike shops are laughing all the way to the bank. But I don’t care – I am really enjoying riding my bike again.
Electric bicycles are predicted to be an 11 Billion dollar industry by 2020 and this is the one thing I am torn on. By cycling, you are using one of the greenest and most efficient forms of transport humanity has ever created. Studies have concluded that humans on bikes can exceed the equivalent of 1000 Miles per gallon (423 km/l) at a steady pace but, joining the electric revolution will contribute to a higher energy usage among cyclists because you need electricity off the grid to charge a bike and at the end of its lifecycle you will have to discard the battery and its non eco-friendly contents.
So in green terms, electrifying things that were not already electric may be a step backwards for green minds, unless you are going to replace your diesel car journeys with that Electric Skateboard of course.