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Monday, March 06, 2006

Peak Oil News - Your First Electric Car

Mitsubishi's plans to build a lithium-ion battery-powered electric car with a top speed of 93 mph and a range of 93 miles, offers a clean (and cute) alternative to gas-guzzling, but may not be available until 2010. Depending on how you look at things, 2010 might seem like a long time to wait, especially while distressing signs of economic collapse and chronic oil shortages loom large on the horizon. A lot can happen in 4 or 5 years, but new technology is accelerating rapidly at a rate that fuels promises of many amazing and wonderful new products over the next decade. Electric cars could be part of the mix, ...

...that is, if nothing untoward happens to halt the progress of industry in the meantime!

The hitch of course comes with the growing awareness that there is evidence that we face an equally rapid depletion of the world's oil reserves, just as more and more cars, trucks and other vehicles overwhelm and clog roads everywhere with increasingly unmanageable levels of traffic congestion.

In short, 'We have a problem, Houston'.

Tom Whipple writes in the Falls Church News Press, "Whether peak oil arrives with a bang or just sort of sneaks up on us, it is highly unlikely that ten years from now there is going to be enough liquid fuel to power all the world's cars, trucks, buses, planes, trains, and boats."

"If world oil depletion comes as soon, and supplies of liquid fuels disappear as rapidly, as [experts] suspect, gasoline-powered cars and light trucks will soon be museum pieces. Liquid fuels, be they from conventional oil, tar sands, liquefied coal, or cellulosic ethanol, will be in such short supply, they will have to be restricted to 'vital-to-civilization' uses such as farming, mass transit, railroads, and countless kinds of heavy industrial equipment."

"Thus it seems obvious that cars and light trucks will have to run on electricity if they are to run at all. Electricity is nearly universally available. Its availability can be quickly increased either through conservation or by building new generating stations— hopefully using renewable fuels. Unlike hydrogen-powered vehicles, EV technology is here now, it’s cheap and likely to get cheaper, and significant improvements in electric cars such as much better batteries and in-wheel motors may soon be available."

The transition from the liquid fuel cars and light trucks to electrically powered vehicles is not going to be pretty and will take decades. Worldwide, there are now over 600 million cars and over 200 million trucks and buses. When it comes, peak oil will be a worldwide phenomenon and is likely to arrive with little or no warning. Thus, except where governments move to subsidize fuel, prices will inexorably ratchet up and up and up.

At each price increase, some share of the owners of these 800-900 million vehicles (especially those that can not pass along the fuel costs) will park their vehicles and begin a desperate search for alternative forms of transportation.

Sales of liquid fueled cars and trucks will have nowhere to go but way down. Whether the worldwide automobile industry will be able to respond to this challenge is an interesting question. Collectively, we have trillions of dollars invested in the current vehicle fleet. Perhaps with a little ingenuity, some portion of this huge investment could be converted to electric power and not be simply left to rust along the roadside, or on driveways, or in parking lots.

As there seems no realistic alternative, the demand for electric vehicles will quickly overwhelm the ability of manufacturers to produce. As this will be a worldwide problem, filling domestic needs are likely to take priority, so exports may slow for a while. The need for personal transportation will be so great, the manufactures resources so limited, and personal wealth so reduced, luxury vehicles are likely to disappear for a time as the industry strives to produce utilitarian vehicles in large quantities.Welcome to peak oil!

Source: Falls Church News-Press Peak Oil - A Turning for Mankind

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