Why not a Tesla in every garage? Because a present-day, state-of-the-art lithium ion battery to store the energy equivalent of 50 liters of gas (about 400 kwh), would weigh around a ton, cost something like fifty thousand dollars, and require several hours at a fast-charging station to recharge. What is more, it would have an environmentally unfriendly embodied energy content equivalent to about 20 tons of fossil fuel.
|The E100, a GM-built electric car that sells in China
for five thousand dollars.
That a large proportion of the work force in Europe and North America spend many hours a week commuting, illustrates perfectly the limitations to human social intelligence. The layout of Western cities is the result of planning without thought for either energy-use efficiency or the care of the human soul.
A typical Western city, is, in other words, a botch, a stupid aggregation of buildings, roads, bridges and tunnels built in a largely ad hoc fashion in response to development driven by profit maximizing builders, usually in collaboration with venal municipal officials.
The thing now should be not to replace cheap efficient gas-powered automobiles with Tesla-type electric cars that do not yet exist at a price most people can afford, but to begin rebuilding cities to minimize both commuting distances and the need for frequent escape to remote places to relieve the stress of urban life.
It is probably too much to hope that existing cities can be largely re-constructed according to a rational design for human health and energy efficiency. Rather, the way forward will be to construct new, engineered communities connected by non-stop, high-speed public transit to commercial, industrial and financial centers in adjacent pre-existent mega-cities.
If the all-electric car ultimately dominates in the urban space, it will surely be not in the form of a Tesla, but in the form of a modified golf cart, with a small battery, a top speed governed to the posted limit, the capacity to pick-up power by induction from the road bed, priced at ten thousand dollars or less, and most likely made in China.
General Motors, in fact, currently produces such a low-cost electric vehicle in China for sale in China. Will it be for sale in the North American market or Europe anytime soon? Not, likely, so long as folks continue buying Volts and Bolts and Leafs and Teslas for thirty thousand dollars and up. But someone may soon force their hand: a British company better known for vacuum cleaners, perhaps.