Why EVs and AVs will be everywhere sooner than you think

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By Mark Nunan, Chairman at Sarginsons

We can all be guilty of shrugging off the “disruptive” – and experts are more guilty than most. Speaking in 2016 about the advent of driverless cars, Stanford lecturer and author Tony Seba recalled the failure of McKinsey & Co to predict the scale of cellphone adoption in the mid 80s. Experts said 900,000 people would be using cellphones in 15 years – in reality, it was closer to 109 million.

And history is repeating itself once more. Since Seba’s predictions in 2016, countless experts have wrung their hands over so-called blockers to the ubiquitous use of self-driving vehicles. 

Bryan Salesky, chief executive of start-up Argo AI, whose autonomous vehicle technology is being used by Ford and Volkswagen, says driverless vehicles are “way in the future”. Speaking to the New York Times, Salesky said the delay is down to unpredictable human behaviour on the roads while these cars are tested. Right now, prototypes of autonomous vehicles need to have driven billions of miles to adhere to regulations. But humans, who quite often like performing nonsensical acts such as cycling the wrong way down busy streets, are outsmarting AI for longer than originally anticipated.

This is a fair concern – but we’ve overcome far bigger problems in a shorter timespan. As Seba reminded his audience in 2016, it only took 13 years for New York commuters to abandon their horses for cars. 

Battery charging times are well on their way to being reduced too. Researchers have found a way to rapidly charge lithium-ion batteries – allowing cars to be charged in as little as 10 minutes

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Experts also worry about infrastructure – or the ability for drivers to charge their car at leisure. It will be a long time, they warn, before cities are able to support the kind of infrastructure needed for multiple charging points. But at Sarginsons, we can already see this problem solved tomorrow – not in 13 years. We are currently developing a groundbreaking technology with electric charging manufacturer Char.gy – charging points that can either mounted onto lampposts or separate charging bollard units. They will draw energy directly from the electricity supply to lampposts. It is innovative solutions like these which will very quickly be taken up by progressive councils working to reduce emissions.

Experts today say it will still take a decade for electric and autonomous vehicles to be used by every household – whether they are owned, rented or both. But I think it will take far less time. Admittedly – some markets will be disrupted sooner – China, Brazil and anywhere with crushing problems of overcrowding and pollution on their roads. This would be a huge missed opportunity for the UK – which, post-Brexit, could stand to take its place among the countries embracing this change. Alan Tovey, industry editor at the Telegraph, says Prime Minister Boris Johnson needs to look at Norway if he is ever to lead the UK into the revolution. The government’s company car tax reductions that make all-electric company cars both free of personal tax and tax-deductible for corporation tax from April 2020 will have a huge influence on electric car take up, but the Budget in March will be crucial.