While it may seem unbelievable to some, the electric vehicle (EV) has been around longer than its gasoline fueled cousin. In fact, in the year 1900 some 40% of automobiles manufactured in America were powered by electricity. EVs are quiet, clean running vehicles that are easily maintained. In their early years they were considered superior to steam driven vehicles, which had to have their water supplies constantly replenished. Advertisements at the time promoted EVs as a fun, eco-friendly mode of urban transportation.
Before long, however, Ford's gasoline powered “Model T” went into mass production, and sales exploded. The EV was unable to compete and gradually vanished from city streets. As Peter Drucker once said, “the automobile industry is to the 20th century what the Lancashire cotton mills were to the 19th century. It is the industry of industries.” Gasoline driven automobiles grew into a backbone industry that fueled the spread of motorization from one side of the globe to the other.
But a century has passed, and now the spotlight is once again on the EV. Due to dwindling resources, increasing greenhouse gas emissions, and other concerns, countries have begun enforcing stricter environmental laws. From September 2014, tighter emissions laws will begin going into effect in Europe, led by the EU's “Euro 6” diesel engine emission legislations. Environmental regulations are also being introduced in China and other emerging economies that are promoting regional production for regional consumption. These countries are also encouraging citizens to purchase cleaner technologies by offering tax breaks and other incentives.
We have seen some rapid technological advances in recent years, and certain EVs are either already being marketed (plugin hybrids that can be recharged at home) or are close to being announced (affordable EVs and fuel cell vehicles). It is exciting to consider how Japan's leading manufacturing technologies can help to change the future of eco-friendly transportation.
From an environmental perspective, EVs are poised to make a major impact on future societies. They are becoming an increasingly popular choice in Russia, which is considered the world's fourth largest automobile market, after China, the US, and Japan. Through its auto sales subsidiary MMC Rus (MMCR), Mitsubishi Corporation supplied the Russian President's office with 70 “i-MiEVs” manufactured by Mitsubishi Motors. Last September, the cars were used during the G20 Summit in St. Petersburg. Mitsubishi Corporation remains committed to promoting greater use of EVs in Japan and around the world.
Article appeared in Asahi Shimbun's "GLOBE" feature of January 19, 2014