Season 8 -  The electric car

Episode 4 -  Will our children remember thermal engine cars?

After three episodes of weighing up the two types of car, we’ve arrived at a clear conclusion: the electric car is much more revolutionary than its thermal engine competition. All the facts, data and experts support it. And without political will, there would be no revolution in the world of transport. The sector is too big, and requires too much industrial, regulatory and infrastructural support to be able to evolve without the goodwill of political elites. Without the construction of cycle paths, there would be no mass adoption of cycling in urban centres. Without a well-maintained and well-managed rail network, there would be no replacing medium-haul flights with night trains. Without the European press, electric cars would never be pitched as a better alternative to thermal engine cars. You get the idea.

In the countries of the Global North, this electric car revolution is already largely underway. In France for example, as Bernard Jullien, automobile specialist and economics lecturer at the University of Bordeaux explained to us last week, the rate of renewal of the French automobile fleet should make it possible to achieve carbon neutrality within 35 years. That more or less takes us to 2060. Perhaps in 2050, progress will accelerate thanks to lower prices, increased awareness or more effective state incentives. But in any case, it certainly won’t happen in the 15-year window that European authorities are hoping for.

On the BRICS side (Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa), the landscape is more varied. In Beijing, subsidies for the construction of electric cars are pouring in. To the point that, when some of them arrive on the market in Europe, the European Commission sees red as they believe the competition is unfair. Under these conditions, it’s hard to estimate when the complete switch to electric power will happen, but the determination and resources of the Chinese government could see it compete with the EU member states.

Bernard Jullien doesn’t think Brazil will be far behind. “Brazil’s fleet of cars is more up-to-date than ours,” he says. “Its green renewal should take around twenty more years, but they will get there.” Obviously, for less economically developed and industrialised nations, things will differ again, and probably be much slower. Unless of course certain countries – those with the most powerful car manufacturers – manage to develop products to adapt to their needs. Without a crystal ball, we estimate this transformation will have happened by 2080.

In 2080, when the electric car has been adopted by the North and the BRICS:

  • Temperatures will have increased so much that Washington's climate will be humid subtropical - the equivalent of Mississippi, which is 800 kilometres further south.
  • Paris’ climate will be like that of Marseille, and Marseille will be like Tunis (1,080 kilometres away). It’s like cooking the planet, rotisserie-style.
  • Millions of climate refugees will migrate within their countries or cross borders to escape the heat. But they might travel in electric cars.
  • This is a big one - you won’t need to cross a border to get to another country - only walls, barbed wire and checkpoints.
  • The “extreme storms” we’re seeing in the southern hemisphere at the moment will have become part of daily life. Electric cars will be equipped with studded tires, so they don’t get blown away by winds.
  • The world’s population will begin to decline and there will be a surfeit of electric cars. We will turn them into works of art, street food stands and housing for climate refugees.

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