The future is electric

Back in 1991 I worked at McKinsey & Co, a management consultancy. Because of my working class background (or perhaps my engineering background) I was most of the time assigned to projects at industrial production sites far away from both my office and my home. When I occasionally got back to the office the new hire sitting at my desk would ask me if I was a new hire.

The same year we were expecting our first child. To keep in touch with my pregnant wife from the outback I bought my first mobile phone, an all analog Storno (Motorola). It was mobile in the sense that it would kind of fit into the pocket of a suit jacket. When I made my first phone call back home from the car I got a rare glimpse of the future; I became convinced that everybody would eventually get a phone like this. I bought some Ericsson stock and eventually made a decent profit.

That was the future then.

It took another eighteen years until I got a similar epiphany the next time. I wrote about it here. Unfortunately Spotify wasn’t yet public at that point so there were not shares to buy.

Today I make a new prediction: the future of transportation is electric.

Admittedly I’m not the first person making this prediction but still only a few percent of the cars are actually electric so we are nowhere near that future. And I’m perhaps talking more about my own gut feeling than the objective circumstances.

This summer was the hottest I’ve ever experienced. I undertook a massive landscaping project during my vacation. The builders that built our guest house during the winter had left the garden in a total mess. The temperature was around 30 C most of the summer so it was a bit of a struggle.

I also continued taking my dressage lessons. For two months the temperature never went below 28 C during those classes even though they were in the evening and there was always a minor sandstorm in the paddock. In days like that the horse drank 50 liters of waters.

The grain harvest was half the normal.

I know one summer isn’t a trend but you’ve all seen the long term trend. It says there will be more summers like this in the future. That is not a good thing. If we let this continue then major parts of the planet will become uninhabitable.

This is the obvious “push” reason to go electric.

The “pull” reason is that it’s quiet, smooth, powerful and I never need to visit a gas station except for the odd car wash or hot dog, The equation: F = B x i x l has a very high efficiency ratio in the electric engine (“Bil” incidentally means “car” in Swedish). It’s what I would call a “canonical engineering solution”. It should also be cheaper to service with fewer moving parts and the fuel will be some 2000 – 3000 SEK / year which is comparable to my gas bill for one (1) busy month with my old car.

I don’t want to get too self-righteous; I kept my old SUV to pull the horse trailer when going to the vet or to competitions. I still can’t do that with the small electric vehicle. But I haven’t once started the SUV since I got the EV some three weeks ago. More than 95% of my local transportation needs are probably covered by the EV also taking into consideration that I almost always take the (electric) train when going to Stockholm and other cities outside the immediate range of the EV.

The EV is still in some ways inferior to the gasoline powered car. It’s range is shorter and the batteries are clunky and expensive. But it is inferior in the same way that hydraulic excavators were inferior to cable operated ones way back (see Clayton M. Christensen’s The Innovator’s Dilemma for this story). Today of course virtually all excavators are hydraulic.

The future of transportation is for sure electric.

The past giving way to the future.

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