The Future of Transportation, Part 1: Electrification

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This article first featured in CYBR Magazine POST_HUMAN_ 01 print issue, click here to buy a copy.
Words by William Fairaday

Electric vehicles are here. Today. You can go buy one at your local dealership in most places, or you can make a reservation for a yet unreleased model, like you would buy seats at a sports arena. Electric vehicles or ‘EVs’ aren’t going to change the world in ten or twenty years, they’re doing it right this minute, and in their wake, the entire concept of personal and public transportation will be redefined through autonomous driving, underground freeways, and long distance vacuum tubes.

Since the debut of the General Motors EV1 back in the 90s, there has been an on going conversation about how electric vehicles would augment our current fleet of cars and trucks around the world. Now, I say “cars and trucks” loosely, because we’re talking about drive-trains, not necessarily the comfort cabins that rest there upon. The last few decades have seen the slow rise of electrification, and it looks like 2020 might just be the turning point for this paradigm shift in transportation technology and infrastructure.

Some might argue that electric vehicles didn’t “get sexy” until the debut of the Tesla Roadster in 2008, and others might argue that they won’t get sexier until the delivery of the new Tesla Roadster in 2020. Almost every day, I read about new EVs being announced, or that another major automotive company will be making long term investments in EVs over the next few years. They often include with these announcements a ball-park figure of how many new models will be electric. Time will tell how serious these legacy automakers are about converting to electrification of their fleets, but right now, the future it looking brighter than ever.

tesla electric car charging

Part of the drive that is pushing automakers to invest in EVs are the new clean-air rules being enacted by cities, states, and countries around the world. Most of the legislation beginning to be enacted is focused on a two times or less increase in global temperatures by 2050. Some locales are even more aggressive than that, looking at closer to 2030 or 2035. While we can all agree the twentieth century saw local infrastructure grow to accommodate the ever increasing number of vehicles on the road, we can see that the twenty first century promises to be little different. Here are some examples:

In the UK, London Mayor Sadiq Khan recently announced that the 2020 expansion of the ULEZ (Ultra Low Emission Zone) in the greater London area would be moved forward to April 2019, resulting in daily fees for any diesel or petrol vehicle to enter the zone. Additionally, staples to the London area, like the famous Black Cab, have begun to fully transition to electrification.

It’s no doubt that in the US, California has been a trend setter for decades, and continues to be, leading the way in electrification and legislation curbing carbon emissions. With a goal to be emission free by 2040, California as seen 300k EVs registered, but these new rules will see that number balloon to 1.5 million by 2025. Automakers have begun to take notice in the largest US market, and are beginning to announce new EVs to hit the roads before the 2025 deadline.

China, the worlds largest automotive market, as well as the leading polluter, has vowed to cap carbon emissions by 2030, and automotive sales are a huge part of that, as they’re now requiring ten percent of all new vehicles to be low/zero-emission by 2019, and twelve percent by 2020. While this equates to about four percent of total vehicles sold, its signalling to the rest of the world that EVs are the future of transportation in the worlds second largest economy.

While it’s not happening overnight, the transition to electric passenger and light duty vehicles has begun. Goals set by the Paris Climate Agreement and other such international agreements require consumers and manufacturers to rethink what transportation really means. Where are you going? When do you need to be there? How much should it cost? Do you need to own the vehicle you’re using? These are all questions that have begun to be asked for the first time in half a century, and the automobile has begun to rethink its answer to each.