The year 2018 has started with a rush of news stories, on the revolution in electric mobility. From auto makers rushing to announce their electric vehicle plans, to governments and global bodies announcing intentions and prescribing deadlines for a shift to electric vehicles.
From being seen as the panacea to global warming, to reducing dependence on fossil fuels, to even the whole economics of vehicle ownership, electric vehicles have a lot to live up to.
Obvious questions, like the logic of electric vehicles in say, a country that gets over 80% of its electricity from non-renewable sources, or managing the transition from the relatively labour intensive industry that the current auto sector is, to the vastly fewer jobs that will be created in an electric scenario, have all been ignored.
But perhaps no omission is as glaring as the studious avoidance of the battery question. For the whole scenario of success for this industry, whatever be the extent of it, depends on the evolution of the batteries that are powering these vehicles. Be it the range of the vehicle, the weight , safety, and even availability of raw materials and hence the cost of the batteries, the industry needs a breakthrough in technology, and real fast. A breakthrough in terms of efficiency in terms of storage or cost of production will do far more for the industry than any well meaning policy initiatives.
For not only powering electric vehicles, batteries will have an impact way beyond the transportation sector, with their potential to store excess production through millions of electric vehicles and help balance the grid, thanks to the stop-start nature of a lot of renewable energy options in solar and wind, for instance.
Even industry leader Tesla has struggled to meet production targets, mainly because of issues with battery production. However, as always with Tesla, that has only lead to a more ambitious roadmap, and the hope that the problem will be sorted out. At this stage, it looks like it will be nothing short of a miracle to achieve that.