Just drive it.

Should we hedge our bets on the automotive future?

The CEO of Mercedes Benz thinks so.
And interestingly enough, he thinks so on multiple fronts.

Should the company invest in electric vehicles or traditional petrol vehicles?
Should the company invest in autonomous vehicles or the purest’s piloted vehicles?
Should the company cater to the everyday commuter looking to ride share or should it cater to the affluent customer who is looking for status and quality?

His answer was a resounding – ALL OF THE ABOVE.
He’s got irons in all those fires.

The other undertone to his speech at the Frankfurt Motor Show this passed week was that of someone very displeased with the future regulations in parts of the EU to ban petrol-powered vehicles by 2040. He stated he would instead like the customer to decide with his / her wallet. He also mentioned the sustainability of electrical energy, and how that was not always a better alternative to the internal combustion engine.

That got me thinking. And researching. From a Canadian perspective.
Here’s the breakdown on average from 2015 (via Statistics Canada) of where our electricity is generated from:
59.3% Hydro
19.3% Fossil fuels
16.2% Nuclear
5.2% Renewable sources

Only 5% of our energy is generated using renewable sources. So although the electric vehicle will not emit any emissions into the atmosphere, the energy used to charge up that battery very well could have. Unless you have solar panels on your property off the grid, powering up your Tesla, and you never charge it outside your own home, you can’t claim to be emission-free, or much more environmentally friendly than your neighbour in her little 2 litre turbo.

If you really want to get nerdy about energy sources and the environment, you have to look at the entire life cycle of the product as well.
Where do those Tesla batteries go after they are used?
Where does all the spent nuclear waste get stored? And how long can we pile that up for into the future? I think of the Futurama garbage ball in space episode when I think of this issue…

The point is, it all gets really complicated really quickly.
And who knows where politics, technology and industry will be in 2040.
Mercedes is hedging its bets. Not judging one energy source as more valuable or more environmentally friendly than another.

Because things change all the time.
Public options shift.
Environments change.
Technology improves.

So, rather than judging each other based on what we drive, let’s just enjoy what we are driving today – right here and right now.
Burn that gasoline in your V8.
Charge up those Teslas.

Because it could all change tomorrow…

2 thoughts on “Just drive it.

  1. I am also confused about the combustion vs electric car issue! It is obvious, however, that there are many combustion vehicles already on the road, which should be driven until they are no longer useful before being sent to the dump and replaced with electric/hybrid vehicles.
    I am wondering though — isn’t hydro a renewable energy source? And potentially nuclear as well, although that one is debatable.

    1. An excellent question, which I debated with my colleague this afternoon! Our consensus was that I think you are right and that hydro would be renewable, but because it’s just added to the power grid along with the non-renewables, you can’t be sure where the energy comes from, and so anything you plug in can’t be considered renewable.

      That was our very non-scientific conclusion… 🙂

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