Movilidad eléctrica y sus alternativas

The decarbonization of transport will be achieved thanks to a combination of technologies including electricity, renewable fuels, or hydrogen. For electric vehicles to be a competitive alternative, they will need to solve some technological challenges.

The challenges of electric mobility are well known. They are mainly cost, battery range, and charging infrastructure.

The cost, which depends directly on the battery, is the main challenge of electric vehicles and largely determines the other challenges. If, for example, batteries were cheap enough, it would be theoretically possible to have any range based on the amount of storage. Similarly, if electric vehicle prices were competitive with thermal vehicles, they could extend to the point of resolving the repayment of charging infrastructure.

From 2008–2010, when interest in electric vehicles resurfaced, until today, the cost of batteries has dropped dramatically. There are two main factors: technology and economy of scale. Currently, electric car prices are not that far off from thermal car prices, although they still have some way to go.

In recent years, cost reduction has slowed down, which is interpreted as both the evolution of technology and the effect of economies of scale being exhausted. The next significant drop in cost is expected to come from a leap in technology, most probably a new generation of batteries.

Electric vehicle manufacturers have to divide the cost reduction between making the vehicle cheaper and giving it greater battery range.

Many current electric cars exceed 500 kilometers of nominal range, partly due to improved technology and cost reduction (as explained above). More than enough for normal daily commutes but not enough for long trips. It must be taken into account that the battery range of electric vehicles is greatly reduced in travel conditions (highway, air conditioning, etc.) compared to the nominal one.

The charging infrastructure continues its development alongside that of electric vehicles. There are elements at play here: the number of charging points available and the speed of recharging.

Private charging, at homes, grows directly with the number of electric vehicle owners. It is limited by the difficulty of old buildings not being able to have electric vehicle charging installed or whose residents' associations are not willing to make modifications. Meanwhile, single-family homes as well as most new buildings can have them installed. Recharging at home is always “slow”, taking several hours.

Meanwhile, recharging in public places, such as service stations, shopping centers, etc., has the greatest challenges in electrical power availability and the existence of a fleet of electric vehicles large enough to guarantee that the facilities be paid off. Recharging in public places should preferably be fast, capable of being completed in under an hour. Public infrastructure is expected to grow at the rate of the vehicle fleet. Likewise, the availability of greater rapid public charging infrastructure encourages the purchase of vehicles, so that both elements reinforce each other.

Until relatively recently, it could be said that electric vehicles competed against themselves. In other words, if it is too expensive to be competitive, it will have to be made cheaper with technology and economies of scale, but in the meantime the proposed solution is to subsidize them, as it was considered practically the only way to decarbonize transportation.

However, there are alternatives. Renewable or net-zero emissions fuels have already been developed enough to be a real option. The great advantage of these fuels is that they are chemically the same as conventional fossil fuels. Which means they can be used directly in the same vehicles without modifications and without the need for additional supply infrastructure to the existing one.

Movilidad eléctrica y sus alternativas


The interesting thing about renewable fuels is that during their production they can absorb the amount of CO2 that will be emitted in combustion, so that the resulting CO2 emissions balance is zero. Regarding local polluting emissions (CO, NOx, particles, etc.), modern combustion engine vehicles have solved the problem and currently have minimum emissions levels: pollution in cities has more to do with the age of the park than with combustion engines themselves. The great challenge of net zero emissions fuels is the cost, which is still higher than conventional fossil fuels.

Electric mobility is not the only possibility to achieve zero-emission transport. To compete with other alternatives, it will have to solve challenges mainly related to cost, battery range, and charging infrastructure.