The automotive industry has fed my entire career. I have talked about horsepower, fuel economy, and marketing strategy so often over the last 30 years that sometimes it all blurs together.
That said, I find what’s going on in one small-but-growing end of the industry incredibly fascinating: electric vehicles.
Despite low fuel prices and insatiable consumer demand for SUVs, creating what could be viewed as a hostile environment for these products, zero-emission electric vehicles are finding a stable foothold.
Arguably, this is due in part to government regulations and tax incentives, but also automakers spending billions of dollars in research jockeying for a competitive edge with the powertrain of tomorrow. Moreover, the public sector is stepping-up with support for the infrastructure needed by the vehicles of the future.
I’ll give you an example. Recently, my team was testing a pre-production Ioniq EV in the streets around Toronto and were astounded by the number of charging stations available. Customers hesitant to leap to an EV will quickly find their concerns about finding a charge port groundless.
But for some, an EV won’t be the answer. On a recent business trip, I used Uber to experience this disruptive force. As it often does, my conversation with the driver led to my work and, specifically, the growing chatter on electric vehicles.
She wanted to reduce her environmental footprint, but had concerns. After we spoke of limited range and lengthy recharging times, she exclaimed: “An electric car could be great for commuters, but I would never buy one. I wouldn’t make any money waiting for the battery to recharge!”
She had a point. Luckily, I had heard this before. I suggested the Tucson Fuel Cell Electric Vehicle we have been leasing in Canada since 2015. It’s a zero-emissions SUV, generates electricity from hydrogen and oxygen, refuels in less than five minutes, has a range of over 420 kilometres, seats five and has a fully useable cargo area.
“Hmm…” she mused. “That could work... if I could fill it up.”
Therein lies the rub. Here was a customer interested in making a difference, but neither option was a possibility because of limitations with the product or infrastructure.
While I personally believe fuel cells are the better long-term solution, both technologies have a place in an ecological, carbon-free, sustainable future. The transformation of transportation is under way, but both will require society to make a change, either to the electrical grid to handle the growing number of battery vehicles seeking electrons, or to our existing refuelling infrastructure by adding hydrogen dispensers in accessible locations.
After three decades in the automotive industry, I am more enthused than ever being a major part of this innovative, progressive sector as it grows and takes hold.
So, to all car enthusiasts with gasoline in our veins, may I suggest we get a transfusion?