Daily we read of longer and longer range Electric vehicles. The impending release of the large 5 seat Tesla ‘S’ sedan, with a range capacity of over 500 klms and 12 minute fast charge capacity appears set to ensure the internal combustion engine obsolete!. Nearly every major auto-manufacturer is racing to produce some form of EV. Given the level of concern over global warming, carbon taxes, oil depletion, and increases in the price of gasoline, the future of EV transport, never looked brighter!
Or is it?
Yesterday, after driving over 1080 klm to reach a small and remote Australian outback town, I stopped to refuel my Lexus GS450h, (premium fuel at $Aus1.58 litre), at the local Shell service station. As I paid for the gasoline, and some other small items, I reflected on the important economic and social contribution the owner of the service station/mechanical repair business, (and his five employees), made to the life of this small community. The adoption of long range EV’s would see this service station, and its repair/small engineering business extinct. Just one more nail in the coffin of the viability of a small rural community.
As a long term advocate and investor in EV technology, I can’t help feeling responsible for contributing to the demise of these struggling rural communities, and accelerating the drift to the cities.
Later that evening, I read an article by Virent Energy Systems Inc, and Royal Dutch Shell Oil Ltd, concerning the development of a potentially revolutionary bio-fuel. This fuel could potentially replace oil based petroleum with a renewable, non pollutant fuel. This fuel can be produced by utilising existing oil industry infrastructure, from the refinery to the pump! Shell estimates production costs could be as low as $60 a barrel.
Fuel certification testing has established that no modifications are necessary to make existing vehicles compatible with the new fuel. The testing proved use of the new fuel caused no harm to even older vehicles.
In general, Bio-fuels production has been beset with problems relating to the difficulties of agricultural requirements to provide feedstock. Without massive taxpayer subsidies, bio-fuels have proved uneconomic. As a result, Bio-fuel has fallen out of favour in many countries. In contrast, rapid developments in EV technology has resulted in billions of dollars in investment pouring into producing vehicles such as the Nissan Leaf, Tesla, and GM’s Volt etc.
The EV seems to answer all the important environmental answers, with the bonus of an almost maintenance free vehicle. It’s true that the ‘long tail pipe’ argument is deployed by naysayers, but despite the source of electricity, the EV is still preferable to gasoline.
However, if Virent/Shell’s new zero-pollution, economic fuel becomes a reality, would anyone bother to continue mass producing EV’s? Has the EV, enjoyed its brief moment in the sun?
Virent/Shell’s development could be the most important discovery of the twenty-first century. The Virent process can be used to fuel all forms of transport, replacing diesel, aviation fuel, kerosene, petrol etc.
Virent/Shell believes economic sustainable mass production of bio-fuel feedstock is possible .