There is a lot of talk these days about the introduction of the electric vehicles. Debates and more debates in which defenders of the new model of mobility appear.
Spain is a country of contrasts. In a very short time, we have gone from having a sun tax’ with sanctions for self-consumption to a draft regulation proposing to penalize with 30 million euros those petrol stations which do not have a 22kW charging point for electric cars.
The announcement of a possible ban in 2040 on the manufacture of vehicles with combustion engines has triggered some alarm and confusion both in the car industry and in those economic sectors that depend directly or indirectly on the use of this type of vehicle.
Even so, it should not be forgotten that the lines set out by the Government in the draft of this new law are not isolated measures in the international environment, but rather make progress in meeting the objectives set by the European institutions for 2030 and the commitments that Spain acquired in the Paris Agreement in 2015.
Surely it will be difficult to find someone who disagrees that Spain is complying with these agreements; who is against the beneficial consequences of these kinds of measures for the environment, in short, who is opposed to leaving a better world for our children. A personal reflection increasingly recurrent to those who, like me, are just a short time away from being a father for the first time and which undoubtedly affects the way we think about the future. So if we all agree on how beneficial this change of model can be, where is the problem?
It’s mainly a matter of time and form. We come from the most absolute darkness in terms of renewable energy and electric mobility. We were standing, as if that new current were not with us; but that does not mean that the same thing was happening in the rest of the world, in fact, quite the opposite. In Norway, for example, 29% of their cars are electric, and they plan to have 100% of the car fleet by 2025. And also well known is the case of Tesla, which in the United States has increased its sales extraordinarily, reaching the top 5 of the best-selling cars. It has undoubtedly been a driver of change and a demonstration that it is possible.
And in Spain, where electric cars still sound far away, suddenly there are plans for 2040 that affect fundamental sectors of the economy such as the automotive and oil sectors and that have generated alarm and confusion. The timeframes on which the government’s draft Climate Change and Energy Transition Act speaks do not seem out of place, but neither has there been a process of dialogue that allows everyone to go in the same direction. And I emphasize that both those two sectors, as well as those that manufacture technology (in this case renewable and electric charge) and the end user, we agree with the final objective. And this should help.
We must put the Government’s proposal to limit the manufacture of fossil-fuelled vehicles to 2040 into an international context. Other countries have even more restrictive dates, pointing to 2030 as the year limit for change.
Between this, and the fact that electric vehicle prices are going to start falling gradually as sales volumes increase, much sooner than we think, the manufacture of combustion cars will start to reduce their activity, mainly because there will be no potential customers to buy them. It will be a natural flow of change, which will have no other date than that marked by the market itself, i.e. the end user.
With regard to loading infrastructures, as the number of combustion cars decreases, and we are talking about a deadline of 2050, 32 years from now, they are going to undergo a great change. Gas stations face the challenge of adapting to a new technological era. And this adaptation inevitably passes through renewable energies; that service stations are capable of self-sufficiency from their own energy “well” through solar panels at a very low price, and, gradually (until 2050), abandoning the sale of fuels to the public.
Throughout this process, the Government must act responsibly. During the last ten years we have gone through a tough desert road in the photovoltaic industry, marked by inadequate subsidies, subsequently cancelled retroactively leaving the sector and many investors in ruin. So let’s learn from the mistakes of the past, let’s help give the necessary push for new technologies to take volume, and can help manufacturers and users, and let’s continually monitor the market to see when it’s time to cut them for the sake of system sustainability.
On the part of the technology manufacturers, I think we’re ready. There have been many years of work, investing effort in research and development, manufacturing solar inverters and energy storage systems, to, today, be prepared for the supply of power stations and charging poles, and face the great change that lies ahead.
The introduction of electric cars is becoming a reality in many countries in Europe and in a short time, with the possible fall in the sale price of this type of vehicle, this will also be the model of majority mobility in our country. We must not turn our backs on a technological change that proves unstoppable and we must propose solutions that benefit everyone.
Javier Tomás, Director of the Corporate University of Power Electronics