Electricity 6: Electric cars for private use vs. Electrifying public transportation

Continued from Electricity 5: My reluctance towards building electric cars for private use

1. Electric cars as private transportation – not really the “Green Guardian”

There are four main arguments which make me consider that Electric cars may not be the ideal solution environmentally and towards the general aspect of “Driving”. The latter applies not just to electric cars, but in general to all modern cars.

Firstly the electric cars have diverse issues and the biggest of it is the “Energy mix” factor. The automakers show enormous push and I assume “Lobbying” too to secure their market presence sooner, but is it really worth it? They propagate it as being environment friendly and sophisticated. A first world country like Germany can imagine of using electric cars in a healthy way as it’s constructively working on its energy mix. By 2038[i], it has planned to completely phase out it’s coal usage and I’m very confident that it will do so. It has already been showing its actions for nuclear to have it phased out by 2022 positively.  Expecting this behaviour to the rest of the world countries puts the “environmental friendly” tag of an electric car as questionable and miserable.

Secondly the infrastructure needed for charging stations and battery disposals and additionally the funding needed to convert the current petroleum (diesel & petrol) set-up to electric is unimaginable for an implementation on global scale. Can this infrastructure be developed for the whole world in a foreseeable amount of time and fast? Unfortunately the issue of CO2 does not pertain just to the first world countries. We need a world solution and immediate. Looking from this angle, the push from the automotive companies merely looks like a withdrawal symptom for them to give up their current revenues. A move to electric will just secure their revenues and would not help the world in any way.

Thirdly when so much money is anyways pumped into research of intelligent systems, why insist on the concept of a “Driver” still? Better scrap all the private transportation which in modern cars anyways are increasingly driven by the software. Rather let the software take over the whole “Driving” aspect. Yes! I’m talking about driverless cars. The last post discussed on the topic as an ethical issue in terms of accidents. Driverless cars wouldn’t have this issue and me as a beer crate user Gen 2.0 who is struggling to change my habit from manual cars, I can perfectly imagine being driven than being asked to be friends with an intelligent system. At least I have the hope of developing the habit and accepting to drive a modern car. My dad who never used a smart phone, will never be able to adapt to the modern driving which increasing needs us to interact with the software systems. A driving license in his case wouldn’t be applicable anymore to this case. A new driving license should not just teach “Driving” but also “Interacting” with the software systems.

The Fourth and final is the disagreement over “Drivertainment”. When so much focus is put towards increasing the entertainment quotient of the passengers and the drivers in the car, the risk of having the awareness reduced towards the surroundings increases. This is a safety critical issue and might lead towards much regulation for the drivers. The whole aspect of driving would turn out to be safety critical and very stressful which is exactly the opposite feeling of driving a manual car.

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On these grounds, I argue that Electric cars may not be that solution that will gain acceptance and may not be the ideal solution what we are looking for. Moreover I would argue that electric cars are a type of transition products or a temporary solution which will eventually lead to the real solution

2. Rationale behind “Electrified” Driverless cars – 

Refer to my blog post on where I discussed about “Transition products”. In a product spectrum life cycle, you also have crests and troughs of how a product variant is accepted in the market. It can split into three types – Standard products, Transition products and failure products. If a launched product fails, usually it will be removed completely out of the catalogue or fixed for its issues and will be re-launched in a different brand name – These are “Failure products”.  Meanwhile “Standard Products” have the longest life cycle in the market as people have accepted it. People are able to connect to some feature in the product that they find it hard to give up. Examples here are our standard petroleum cars. I would categorize Electric cars as a “Transition product”, as it has the capability to make the people change their habit, but does not promise universal acceptance. Usually such transition products facilitate the route to a completely new “Standard product”! In my blog post, I would have discussed on how tooth powder acted as a transition product helping people switch from lemon twigs to tooth brush and tooth paste concept.

The new Standard products given the current development could logically be the “Driverless cars”. The nature of driverless cars tackles issues software interaction and “Drivertainment” inherently. The issue of energy mix and Infrastructure will remain the same for this issue too. But rather than focusing the development of infrastructure for electric cars, developing it for driverless cars makes sense on the long run. A transition product like an electric car will be short lived. The infrastructure developed for this electric car will have to be partially scrapped and only a part of it can be carried over to the next spectrum which in this case is a “Driverless car”.

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3. Classic Public transportation – Still a viable option!

All the fuss of the automotive industry is still over “private transportation”. Electric cars wouldn’t change much if it still will be sold to private customers. The usual argumentation for private transportation is the sense of privacy, flexibility and the ability of reaching places not covered by the public network. All are valid and there is one more argumentation above all – Status symbol! I will avoid discussing on Status symbol as it’s a cultural and psychological issue and is out of scope here. A friend of mine from Rome mentioned that the Italians in Rome avoid public transportation as apparently it makes them perceive to be lower in class.

Apart from status symbol, to address the other three issues, let’s assume a locality with 1000 people. On today’s standards, this place will have easily 500 privately owned cars. Can privacy and flexibility be covered with less than 50 cars which can be rented as necessary? It is imaginable. Either a start up or the government can organize to own and maintain these cars and rent out as needed. The village where I live in Germany has a train connection to a bigger city 40 km away every half an hour. But there is no connection the nearby villages. Only possibility is a car! We have the necessity to drive to these villages at least 2 times a week. We can imagine renting a car for these purposes.

The third point is that the public network does not cover all the places. I made a simulation on what if public transportation is organized to cover the entire network available in a city. I took a city approximately the size of Stuttgart. Stuttgart has about 1500 km of roads and roughly half of its population of 0.63 Million people own cars.

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Picture 3 – Stuttgart Stats

I took references from multiple websites to estimate infrastructure, operational and overall costs of trains, trams, buses and cars. I wanted to calculate two numbers – the cost of ownership per person for privately and publicly owned transportation units and their respective CO2 Emission profiles. The final result is shown below. I have published a simplified version here. If any of you is interested in the details, please write in the comments. I can forward you the detailed excel calculations behind.

4. Electrifying Public transportation – Numbers show real promise!

Under classic public transportation I assumed getting rid of private transportation i.e. private ownership of vehicles completely. In this section, I made an assumption on what if such a wholesome public transportation uses “electrified units” exclusively! This may be driverless in the near future. If the push should happen in this direction, it may be a win-win situation for the automotive industries and the governments too.

Automotive companies can diversify into building infrastructure for driverless cars and compensate for their loss with petroleum cars. This will be an amicable solution on the long run too. All their efforts to vigorous lobbying for electric cars can be saved. After all, if their pitch for electric cars is being environment friendly, we need a better product. Which leads me to ask why not “electrifying public transportation”?

Government cannot restrict movement of population! It has to facilitate it in a way that it both cost-effective and has the least environmental footprint. The table below compares four logistics systems through which movements can be facilitated.

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(1) Calculations based on a reference network of 1500 km – Comparable to Stuttgart city 

(2) Cost per person per month. Including all costs – capital, operational, Maintenance & Infrastructure, disposal or recycling

(3) Private cars – costs are per person owning a car/ Public transportation – cost per capita i.e For a 3 person household with 2 cars – a car will cost 1072€ and Public transportation will cost 402€ 

(4) Emissions in Million tonnes of CO2 per year; including gray energy & energy for disposal/ recycling; Assumed population 0.63 Mil people; No.of cars: 1 for 2 people i.e 0.315 Mil cars. For calculations, the gray energy for electric cars are assumed to be the same as petroleum cars. There exist arguments which claim that the battery production for electric cars consume high energy and they increase the overall Gray energy for electric cars, This claim needs validation and thereby ignored for the calculations above.

(5) The operational costs includes the same cost of labor as with drivers too. As the programming needs for driverless cars might be higher, a future driver might be a costlier resource who is just a monitor sitting somewhere like in an Air traffic control. If cost of labor can be reduced by a certain extent, this will decrease the cost per month too


As you can see in the above simulation

  • Electric cars do not make sense financially for a private use, but will have about 32% emissions reduction in a country like Germany
  • Phasing out all the “private option” and switching to public transportation would reduce the financial burden per person or household till up to 75% and emissions can be reduced up to 81%
  • Having a combination of “Public transportation” and “electric units” will better the financials by 83% and emissions can be reduced till 94%

Point 2 can be technically implemented immediately on the governments’ will. In the blog post on CO2 emissions I have mentioned that we are emitting 30 billion tonnes of CO2 every year. Of this one-fourth are just contributed by vehicles i.e. about 8 billion tonnes CO2. Switching to public transportation completely could reduce the emissions 1.5 billion tonnes. That’s 6.5 billion tonnes CO2 lesser on a Global scale!

If you are already using the public transportation, you are really the “Green Guardian”. You buying electric will not make you one. You are already one!

Given the option, walk and bike wherever possible! – That’s really “Going green” and “Going healthy” too!

No to private Electric Cars! Yes for Electrifying public transportation!


If you like my posts, please acknowledge your motivation by Following/ Liking/ commenting on this blog. Thanks for reading

Credits: This topic over electric cars owes much to the discussion with my friend Mithun Kashyap. “Electrifying public transportation” was his terminology

Recommended Reads:

1. https://electrek.co/2019/03/20/chinese-electric-buses-oil/

2. https://business.inquirer.net/267764/how-europe-is-faring-on-renewable-energy-targets/amp




Electricity 5: My reluctance towards building electric cars for private use

Continued from Electricity 4: C02 Emissions: the Endgame

  1. The discussions on an electric car

Electric cars are a growing fad. Now it has become often the discussion with friends and acquaintances on whether it’s time to switch to an electric car. My wife and I have one diesel Corsa now. As we are living in the outskirts, car is a must for our daily necessities. The nearest supermarket is 10 km away. We have no option, but personally we are fans of public transportation. I love using that time for reading. After all, it’s a luxury to be driven too. We don’t need a private car and a chauffeur to have this luxury. In any case, we do consider shifting to a bigger city sometime. This will make the need for a car redundant. If this is not coming soon enough, we are planning to exchange it for a new car. Almost all the auto makers are offering a decent exchange premium for diesel cars[i].

Tax benefits are great. Financially, although still a bit costly, electric cars have become very much comparable to a regular car.  Let’s take Hyundai’s 2017 model Ioniq as a reference which is categorized under a lower middle class segment in ADAC Website. The base model costs 35,500€. I compared it on the same website with an Opel Insignia Grandsport Diesel which is in the middle class segment and costs 30,660€. A middle class costs 5000€ cheaper than a lower middle class segment. Yet, the yearly taxes of about 214€ falls out for the electric version and you might get a discount if you give back a current diesel car. In any case, financially an electric car almost makes sense. With every passing year, costs are getting more and more affordable. Operating costs of an electric are cheaper with the latest models. Insignia needs 5,8 litres per 100 km which is about 7.25€. Hyundai Ioniq needs 11.5 kWh Per 100 km or 3.45€ per 100 km.  The higher capital gets compensated with lower operating costs. I assume that the maintenance costs are similar too. From the finance side, I can’t say anything against electric cars.

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Picture 1 – ADAC

Still my greatest stubbornness is towards the feel of driving a car. I’m 30 years old and I grew up in the part of the world which loves manual cars. Both my wife and I love driving. The feel of driving is so relieving that when I tried driving an automatic car once, it felt simply like playing a video game and using a joy stick. The robustness and the feel of the mechanical parts were completely missing. I have never driven an electric car. The pick-up of an electric car can be amazing, but I can’t imagine if it can replicate the feel or offer a similar satisfaction as a manual car.

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My father-in-law has an old VW Golf for many years now in Bosnia & Herzegovina. He once used a beer crate instead of the seat, as he somehow felt, that a crate had better ergonomics. For such a guy, driving the new Astra what his daughter selected was out of question. He simply hates it. He loves his Golf, even if it takes forever and some hard ratting before it is parked. In comparison to today’s cars, I grew up with fairly mechanical cars – Tata Indigo, Opel Corsa and the finest one was Honda city. Once you sit in the car, you become part of the car. The transmission and wheels just feeling like extended limbs and of course the motor is the heart. It vibrates to your beat! I don’t like racing or going fast, but simply driving around is more than satisfying for me. Especially a night drive with a mild melody. When I visited my cousin who grew up in Canada, he asked me if manual cars are existent still. In Canada, Automatic has become a norm that he did not even have an idea that there are still many countries crazy about manual cars and Germany of it all! The new gen might not even know that manual cars existed once and that the world came into existence with Adam and eve driving an Automatic!


Picture 3 – Not my FIL!

All the modern cars are cool, technologically superior, fast and silent! I hate them. I don’t feel the engine anymore. I learnt that in many modern cars, the engine sounds are just simulated to give you the feel. You are not feeling the actual engine performance, rather a software vibrating or playing sounds accordingly. May be this is my beer crate equivalent. I may belong to the small part of the population who really likes to drive manual petroleum cars. And a significant other part would just want to go from Point A to Point B. Eventually, looking at a big picture, we need to see what makes sense to the environment and accordingly switch to electric or whatever. It’s a hard habit to develop. But the environment cannot be damaged for the sake of my hobby and people with similar feel. We may be even taxed higher for such personal necessities or given a separate ground to practice our hobby. But for a public use, going green is a must. The question what bothers me: Is an electric car really this green solution?

  1. The real issues with electric cars


The infrastructure for battery fueling stations needs to be developed still. With a diesel or benzene, you can just reach your destination with one tanking or you can easily find as many bunks as needed. For an electric car, currently you have to plan your journey in a way that your route passes through the stations. Else you might need to be towed away. This makes the average time spend on the road longer and in general is inconvenient. For a use within 100 km radius, an electric car looks fine. Anything above a certain kilometer level, based on the model, makes the planning aspect cumbersome. VW and many other automakers have already given announcements of building country wide charging stations. I assume that this problem is already being addressed and it’s just a question of time till we forget that this problem even existed at the first place.

Battery Recycling/ Disposal

Disposal of Electric car batteries is coming to the fore as a looming issue. On one side I hear the infrastructure being developed for charging stations but hardly anything for battery recycling or disposal. Apparently car batteries after use in electric cars could last for another 7 to 10 years. They could be used for household and other secondary application purposes[ii]. This is good, but are the houses and the markets made aware to facilitate this usage. Once this extended life form is complete, an orderly recycling and disposal has to be organized as the volume of such batteries resulting in the dump will be huge and it’s too big of a risk to get them into a landfill.[iii]

Increased Software Interface

As beer crate driver gen 2.0, one more thing which bothers me is the feel of the engine. This argument is not just restricted to electric cars, but to all the modern cars. As mentioned above, when I say that the modern cars simulate the sounds, the actual feel of the engine is missing i.e. a feedback mechanism to the driver is non-existent in the classical form which is simply “the feel”. When everything is silent, anyways we don’t feel anything. All the software developments head more towards simulation i.e. the driver will have lesser connection to what actually is happening to the system. An example to this case is my company car in the pool – a ford C-MAX. It sends me it’s judgements on the display screen. From time to time it shows on the display and beeps “Driver Alert, Time for a coffee break”! I would scream back at the car saying. “What the hell! Either you take over completely or let me drive completely. I know when I’m getting tired”.

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When a significant part of decision making is handed over to the car’s software and cut from the driver, in case of an accident, this will lead to an ethical question of who committed the accident – the driver or the car? By giving more authority to the car (software systems), the reliance on the driver’s judgement of the atmosphere and system is going less and less. Is this healthy? My claim is purely a “claim of feel” and has no scientific backing. If anyone has support to my hypothesis or feel, please offer support here. My argument coming especially in the tragic times of the Boeing 737 MAX accident is a valid one and it needs to be addressed with any modern vehicles. The nature of an electric car will make this factor very important, as this car will likely have higher software interface.

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Emissions Profile

The awareness of the environmental footprint of an electric car is growing. People started to understand that it’s the source of electricity that determines if the electric cars are really green. If a country generates energy with Coal and says that it wants to become environmental friendly with electric cars, it has changed nothing. Coal plants emit about 1001g of CO2 per kWh. A Hyundai Ioniq in this set-up will emit about 115g of CO2 per km. When we compare this with a diesel car which emits about 132g CO2 per km, the situation hasn’t changed much. The German electricity grid network has an energy mix from Coal, nuclear, wind and other sources that the mix collectively emits 568g CO2 per kWh into the atmosphere. In Germany, Hyundai Ioniq will emit 65g CO2 per km. It’s still a good deal, but is it the best?

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If you like my posts, please acknowledge your motivation by Following/ Liking/ commenting on this blog. Thanks for reading

To be continued: Electricity 6: Electric cars for private use vs. Electrifying public transportation

Credits: This topic over electric cars owes much to the discussion with my friend Mithun Kashyap. “Electrifying public transportation” was his terminology