A few days ago (18th of October 2023) I had the pleasure of hosting a discussion with Frank Abkenar the Ex-Director of Global Powertrain Ford Motor Company, about The Future of Electric Vehicles & Global warming.

We covered various topics, such as:

– How long it will take to replace all Internal Combustion Engine (ICE) vehicles,
– The effect in the medium and long term on the climate change,
– The investment & electricity power requirement for such a change
– Autonomous vehicles and the future
– What government can and should do in order to speed up the process

It was an absolute pleasure to chair this event and learn from such a high-profile person in the industry. Unfortunately, not everyone was able to attend the event and a few people have asked me for a recording or summary. As the event was not recorded, I provide you with my own summary of the discussion and the event.

I should add a quick disclaimer “This is my recollection and understanding.” If you were present and understood differently and wish to correct me, it would be a pleasure and I look forward to any additional info that I might have missed.

On the subject of the future of Electric cars, Frank explained that there is no doubt that the future is electric. The question is not if but when and at least in what we consider personal/private transport. He mentioned that there is some resistance from the public and that some view this as a government agenda but that in his view it is a good move and only a question of time.

The shift towards electric cars is already on the way. Some countries are ahead of the game and some lagging behind. Electric car sales have plateaued at the moment at roughly 8% and there are, of course, many obstacles along the way to the electrification of cars. It took over 100 years for the car industry with the internal combustion engine to get to where we are today. For electric cars, we require many facilities and infrastructure including additional power plants and the provision of electricity power to every required point.

For this rollout to take place, it is obvious that governments, municipalities, and town halls need to invest a considerable sum of money into these infrastructures.

Looking at the short term he mentioned that hybrid might be a way forward. In particular, the cost of a battery for one electric car could create 8 batteries for 8 hybrid cars. Battery technology is improving and as its use increases newer technologies should remove or replace their need for rare metals with other less harmful and more available minerals. In due time the recycling of batteries should be addressed and recycling plants for batteries and waste materials is another requirement.

While some countries have started putting a deadline for the transition from fossil fuel vehicles to electric, Frank acknowledged that this might take longer than some governments plan. The change is not going to be as fast, the infrastructure is not all there and there are 1 billion non-electric, vehicles on the road today. To change this there needs to be incentive for the end users to change their vehicles and investment from the governments for these incentives. Given the current financial situation of many Western countries and their levels of debt, incentive plans and buybacks of ICE cars are not a feasible option or in any case a slow process that would mean a longer timeline for phasing out ICE (fossil fuel) cars.

Equally, as for the effect of electric cars on global warming, he noted that the current carbon emission from current fossil fuel cars is an accumulation of CO2 emissions from the past 30 years or more. It will take an equal or longer amount of time for the same amount to be removed from the atmosphere and we should understand that the transition and benefit are not immediate, but rather progress over time.

We discussed the fact that even with electric cars there will still be the need for electricity production, which for example in China is produced from coal, so the emission is not totally removed, but reduced and localized.

Some heavier vehicles particularly in the transport industry will continue to use fossil fuel because current battery technology is too heavy and inefficient and electric cars for the foreseeable future are more for the private, personal, and smaller cars, or buses & vans with predictable or routine routes.

Finally, we discussed autonomous cars which Frank thinks will be some time from now and to be mostly in predictable environments and controlled routes.

It was an absolute pleasure hosting this event and learning from such a knowledgeable person in the industry. This whole discussion started over a bottle of wine (or the second) while Frank was in Spain on holiday and he kindly agreed to give us his time and hold a free discussion session at The Pool Marbella. I would like to thank our host The Pool and guest Frank Abkenar for this insightful session.