The current crop of electrics won’t be killing off the gas station any time soon. There is a potential battery technology, Lithium-air, that has the same energy density as gasoline. If scientists can work out the kinks, these could make electric vehicles that go as far a gas powered ones a reality. Unfortunately, we can’t predict when that will happen. Until the range problem is truly solved–and by that I mean the ability to charge at home and then drive at a minimum all day without recharging–I can’t see electrics replacing gasoline powered cars, though they could well take over some niches.
Electric cars need to compete on an even keel with gasoline powered cars, having similar costs and ranges, especially since the environmental benefits are minimal when their electricity is being generated by burning coal. According to The ‘electric cars aren’t green’ myth debunked , “using coal powered electricity electric cars do nothing to cut emissions, using natural gas electricity they’re like a top hybrid and using low carbon power they result in less than half the total emissions of the best combustion vehicle, manufacturing included.”
In BC, we generate most of our electricity with hydro-electric dams, so there are environmental benefits to be had. Unfortunately, we also have cold winters. By controlling battery temperatures, car makers have solved performance problems in cold weather. But electric cars can take twice as long to charge in cold conditions. Leaving an electric car out all day in sub-zero temperatures can also halve its range. Finally, using the car’s heating system, which is essential in Canadian winter, can radically decrease range. (Source: Electric cars during winter)
Another possible replacement for gasoline powered vehicles are hydrogen powered vehicles. Hydrogen is actually very low energy when burnt, but it can be used to generate electricity using a complex device called a fuel cell. Unfortunately, HFC powered vehicles suffer from range limitations similar to electric vehicles, though they can be refueled in less time (in about 5 minutes). Hydrogen fuel cells are relatively expensive to produce, as their designs require rare substances such as platinum. Then there is the fact that 95% of hydrogen is made from natural gas, generating large amounts of CO2. Producing hydrogen cleanly via electrolysis is not currently cost effective.