The electric car is going to take over the world. Soon.

I certainly hope that forecast proves correct. That post is from Y Combinator partner Geoff Ralston. In his post Geoff raises an interesting “tipping point” argument:
When 10% of the vehicles on the road are electric many of them will go out of business.
What is the logic that connects 10% EV penetration to “many gas stations out of business”? Other possibilities are the gas-pumping retailers get more physically concentrated (which has been happening in most geographies that we know); the retail price of petrol goes up; automated gas pumps become accessories to other retailers (supermarkets are common gas pumpers in NZ).
I agree with Geoff that consumers will react strongly when it becomes really inconvenient to refuel. It’s above my pay grade whether that is 25% or 50% EV penetration. When does the refueling “tipping point” effect grow large enough to offset the (decreasing) EV price premium?
What else might bend the curve of EV adoption? It wouldn’t surprise me if self-driving cars were a more direct cause of an inflection in EV market penetration. I think automated taxis are likely to explode in the cities that have favorable density, travel patterns and demographics. And I will eat my hat if the robo-taxi companies chose to deploy fleets of ICE vehicles. If I’m right about the growth of robo-taxis these fleets could contribute EV growth promoters like:
1. Building out fleets of Robo-taxis drive down the EV cost/benefit so much it promotes private adoption.
2. In urban zones the market for private autos shrinks as people find they prefer using over owning. So total EV penetration goes up with the shrinking ICE denominator.
Even if the EV takeover is slower than Geoff hopes we can look forward to a much cleaner and more convenient future. EVs are essential: the road to a low carbon economy goes through the electrification of transport.

5 thoughts on “The electric car is going to take over the world. Soon.

  1. I find this hard to believe.  Most of the profits of gas stations isn’t from fuel, but the associated convenience store.  C-stores are ready-made hubs for delivery systems, or automated taxicabs could go past a pickup window at a C-store to grab the order you placed when you left work.  Such orders could easily include hot food.

    What happens when a gas station loses much of its fuel business?  It has pump islands that are easily converted to charging for taxi stands.  I doubt very much that the businesses will die; the business model will be overturned while the business goes on.

  2. That makes sense to me. Gas stations will morph into other functions that capitalize on their location. To your point regarding parcel pickup, I understand in the U.S. Amazon is siting their lock boxes in convenience stores.

    Do you agree that robo-cars could turn out to be an EV accelerant?

  3. Sorry, I don’t have any enthusiasm for electric cars except for limited applications -perhaps taxis. Shutting down gas stations only makes driving more inconvenient for those of us who are using convenient and current technology. Until someone develops an electric vehicle which has a range of hundreds of miles per charge AND can sustain the simultaneous operations of heater and defroster in winter weather the electric vehicle will remain what it is today: an expensive, rich man’s toy heavily subsidized by millions of less prosperous taxpayers the chief purpose of which is to increase the self regard of those who drives it. Fred

    As of 01/11/2015, please note new email address:


    • Things became inconvenient for people using horse-drawn vehicles when stables started getting scarce.&nbsp: But by that time, not all that many people cared.

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