//// Sci-Fi Predictions About EVs; Did They Get It Right?
From the surveillance state to 3D-printed organs, it sometimes feels as if we are already living in the future science-fiction writers once imagined. But what did sci-fi have to say about the future of transportation — and how accurate were those predictions? What do today’s futurists think is in store for the next 50 years?
Electric-powered vehicles were invented in the 1830s, much earlier than most people imagine. By 1900, 28 percent of the 4,192 cars produced in the United States were powered by electricity. Soon after, though, the gas-powered Model T came along and — for a time — the idea of electric cars was mostly relegated to sci-fi novels and movies.
The 1930 movie Just Imagine envisioned 1980 with sky highways, complete with aerial stop signs. In 1985, Back to the Future II gave the 2015 version of Marty McFly a hoverboard. John Brunner’s 1968 book Stand on Zanzibar predicted a 2010 filled with cars powered by rechargeable electric fuel cells, along with satellite television and laser printers. (In the book, the United States is led by President Obama, the European Union exists and marijuana is decriminalized, among other uncanny prophecies.)
The 1888 story An Express of the Future imagines people riding at superspeed in air-driven tubes, an idea remarkably similar to Elon Musk’s hyperloop concept. In the 1990 movie Total Recall, taxis are driven by a humanoid robot, not too far a departure from autonomous vehicles. But not every prediction is spot on; the flying cars predicted in dozens of books and movies have yet to materialize.
Many science-fiction writers spend considerable time researching the latest scientific advancements and emerging technologies. Futuristic predictions rooted in the reality of the time have generally proved more accurate. Forward-thinking companies including Google and Apple have even hired science fiction writers to conduct lecture series for employees and meet with research departments.
So, what do today’s science-fiction writers see for the future of transportation? Author Elizabeth Bear sees less need for personal ownership of “stuff” as a solution for a post-scarcity economy. This could manifest in an explosion of sharing networks, from cars and bikes to clothes and tools. Ken Liu thinks automation will transform the transportation industry but believes the trucking industry will transition before personal vehicles.
Futurist Thomas Frey is also behind automation and thinks — based on increased usage — each driverless electric car will replace 30 traditional cars. He also believed fleet owners will become the primary influencers of car design and EV range will exceed 1,000 miles per charge by 2027. (He actually has quite a few predictions — 25 to be exact — about the impact of autonomous EVs.)
Researchers at the International Monetary Fund and Georgetown University recently presented another prediction based on the quick demise of the horse and buggy in the early 1900s: more than 90 percent of passenger vehicles in the U.S., Canada, Europe and other rich countries could be electric by 2040.
As for those flying cars? We’re still waiting.
//// Electric Vehicles in the News
Electric cars are making news across the globe. Catch up with these five headlines:
- UPS delivers on an electric vehicle strategy. UPS recently announced plans to deploy 50 plug-in electric delivery trucks, designed in collaboration with Workhorse Group, Inc. The trucks — expected to have a range of 100 miles between charges and provide nearly 400 percent improvement in fuel efficiency — will be comparable in cost to conventionally-fueled trucks.
- Storied design firm will create a luxury electric “hyper car.” Italian firm Pininfarina has spent nearly a century designing Ferraris, Maseratis and more. Now, they plan to develop an EV to attract buyers who treat automobiles like art. Interested? The car is expected to carry a price tag of around $2.5 million dollars — with a production run of fewer than 100 models.
- VW logo will change to accommodate the electric car era. The VW logo has remained generally consistent since the 1940s, with only minimal adjustments. But it’s due for a tweak next year, a strategic change planned — in part — to refresh the brand after the diesel scandal. The logo will be ready in time for the carmaker’s aggressive EV push, starting with the I.D. hatchback in 2020.
- Lyft chief strategist wants to save the world with autonomous EVs. His work with the ridesharing company is his way of combatting climate change — with autonomous, electric, shared rides with shared ownership. The company is currently working towards the goal of providing at least 1 billion rides per year by 2025 in self-driving electric vehicles.
- Uber’s main competitor in India promises to rollout 10,000 electric taxis. Ola aims to deploy three-wheeled electric rickshaws in several cities over the course of the year on the way to hitting a 1 million vehicle target by 2021.
//// Meet an EV Driver: Tom Lesnak
Tom Lesnak’s journey from gas-powered cars to a fully-electric garage has been strategic and purposeful. He first tested the drive electric waters with a hybrid in 2010, graduated to a plug-in electric in 2013 and purchased a pre-owned Tesla Model S in 2016. Happy with his experiences, he decided to reserve the buzzed-about new Tesla Model 3 at the end of 2017 and took delivery in March 2018. (He planned to sell the Model S but his wife had other ideas, claiming it for herself.)
The hybrid was Tom’s training ground, helping him learn how to make the most out of his electric range. “It almost became a game,” he says. “I knew I was really hooked when I quit paying attention to the price of gas as I drove by.” With longer range EVs and the public charging options provided by the Clean Charge Network, he can talk to potential EV drivers about range awareness instead of range anxiety. And he loves the reaction he gets when he tells people his Model 3 can go 315 miles on a charge.
He believes the Model 3 will demonstrate how EV range and technology is becoming ever more affordable. Between new model offerings and the increasing availability of pre-owned vehicles, he is happy the buying public will have many more EV options to choose from. As for his family, they drive their electric vehicles everywhere, stopping at the Supercharger in Independence for a quick charge.
Tom loves the technology behind EVs, especially the ability for cars to consistently upgrade through a simple software download. “Every time I get the notice that a software update is available, I’m like a kid on Christmas Eve waiting to see what new features are going to be in the latest version,” he says. “It’s kind of like getting a new car every time it updates.”
And he loves the EV community in Kansas City, which is growing every day. “There is a lot of curiosity out there and part of our responsibility as EV owners is to help educate the public,” he says. “It’s amazing how freely EV drivers share their real-life experiences — often to the point of offering test drives in personal vehicles.”
Tom travels for his job and is always on the lookout for the EV amenities within the cities he visits. Kansas City stands out. “I can safely say that the Kansas City metro seems to be so far ahead in terms of available EV infrastructure that it almost becomes a selling point for people coming to our region,” he says. “It wasn’t all that long ago that an EV sighting was a rarity, and now it seems commonplace as you drive down the street.”
Interested in being profiled for our next issue? We’d love to hear from you.
//// KCP&L Special Buy on the 2018 LEAF
For a limited time, get a special price on a 2018 Nissan LEAF— $3,000 off the sales price, plus up to $7,500 additional off in federal tax incentives. This offer is available to all eligible KCP&L customers and employees. But the special deal isn’t available forever, so take advantage today!
//// Resources and EVents
KCP&L Clean Charge Network members and their families attended the second annual EV Day at the Kansas City Zoo on April 22. They enjoyed brunch and a day strolling around the zoo, in addition to a peek at a few Tesla Model 3s and the 2018 Nissan LEAF.
Want in on events like this? Join the Clean Charge Network today.
- Art of the Machine Car Series — Electric Vehicles
May 20 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Kansas City’s River Market
Check out a few electric vehicles — or bring your own — at the beautiful River Market! This well-attended event is always a wonderful opportunity to help spark the EV revolution. Contact us if you’d like to participate.
- MindDrive Future Fest
June 2 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Swope Park
Join in on a day of innovation and education from remarkable non-profit MindDrive. Check out the latest in electric car technology at EV Alley, watch pros compete in a drone agility course or visit the kid-friendly STEM zone.
- Art of the Machine Car Series — Electric Vehicles
September 9 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Kansas City’s River Market
We’ll be kicking off National Drive Electric Week with another session at the River Market.
We’re always looking for places to spread the word about EVs. Have a suggestion for where we might go next? Let us know.