The Electric Car Transition Likely To Parallel Model T

Ford Model T

OCT 8 2017 BY EVANNEX 38

Electric Car

Tesla Model 3


How long will it take for electric vehicles to replace fossil-burners? Observing the current auto market, one might conclude that it will take quite a long time. Of over a billion vehicles on our planet’s roads today, only two million are electric, and half of those are in China. Many consumers are not even aware that an EV is a viable option.

However, an analysis of past technological shifts indicates that, once a certain threshold is reached, the transition could take place at surprising speed. Back in the 1980s, when cell phones were massive and expensive, industry observers were predicting that, by 2000, sales might be about 900,000 units a year. In fact, sales that year were over 109 million. Seventeen years later, almost all the phones being sold are smartphones, with capabilities that would have seemed like the stuff of science fiction only a couple of decades earlier.

Kodak was one the world’s largest companies when it invented the digital camera in 1975. But, whether due to short-sightedness or the inescapable destiny of the Innovator’s Dilemma, it failed to capitalize on its new technology, and in 2012 it went belly-up.

*This article comes to us courtesy of EVANNEX (which also makes aftermarket Tesla accessories). Authored by Charles Morris.

Electric Car Transition

Fighting the transition to digital photography led to the demise of Kodak (Source: Faisal Butt)

When it comes to electric cars, experts have been saying for years that they would quickly begin to replace legacy vehicles once you could buy one with 200 miles of range for a price in the $30,000 range. Tesla has just reached that milestone with the new Model 3. Will 2017 be remembered as the auto industry’s “Kodak moment?”

Of course, cars are neither phones nor cameras. In a new paper, researchers from the International Monetary Fund and Georgetown University (via National Geographic) explore what might be a more apt comparison: the transition from horses and buggies to automobiles, which happened in the early 1900s. The writers of “Riding the Energy Transition” predict that over 90 percent of passenger vehicles in the US, Europe and the rest of the rich world could be electric by 2040.

Electric Cars

Growth forecast projected for electric vehicles (Source: National Geographic)

“We were surprised at how fast cars replaced horses as the main means of transport in the early 1900s,” says IMF economist Fuad Hasanov. “It happened in only 10 to 15 years in spite of the many hurdles.” In retrospect, those hurdles appear much higher than the barriers to adopting electric vehicles are today.

In 1910 there were few paved roads, and gasoline was hard to find – today’s vast infrastructure of refineries and gas stations didn’t exist. The price of a Model T was the equivalent of about $137,000 – almost double the price tag of a Tesla Model S.

A decade later, the picture looked quite different: the price of a Model T had dropped to the equivalent of $35,000, and governments and the oil industry were investing huge sums in roads and other infrastructure. In 1921, the Model T was selling a million units a year. By 1925 annual sales were approaching two million.The authors of the new paper point out that making the switch to an electric car is much simpler than swapping the bag of oats for the fuel pump was a century ago. Furthermore, there are several technological and geopolitical trends that are combining to turbocharge the gathering electromobility revolution.

Electric Cars

Tesla Vehicles Supercharging

One is the rise of China, which is struggling to deal with choking air pollution and has global ambitions for its auto industry. Another is the advent of vehicle autonomy, which some believe will make transportation so cheap that few will want to own their own vehicles anymore.

In a much-discussed study, “Rethinking Transportation,” Stanford economist Tony Seba and colleagues predict that 95 percent of all passenger miles will be traveled in autonomous electric vehicles by 2030. The shift will have little to do with climate change or government regulations – it will be a simple matter of cost and convenience.

Above: Tony Seba discusses disruption in the energy and transportation sectors (Youtube: Colorado Renewable Energy Society)

Stopping at a gas station to fuel a Model T was easier than feeding and stabling a horse, and the horseless carriage could go faster and farther. And no, people didn’t wait for their existing horses to die before replacing them with cars. Once the cost of a motorcar dropped to an affordable level, all those poor horsies were quickly shipped off to the proverbial glue factories (or, as we prefer to think, to a pleasant retirement in a pasture somewhere).

Although most consumers don’t realize it yet, plugging in at home is better than stopping to pump stinky gas and sending your money up in oily smoke. And if the predictions about autonomous vehicles come true (Mr. Seba is far from the only one making them), the millions of Camrys, Corollas, and Civics could disappear as quickly as all those mares and geldings did a century ago.

*Editor’s Note: EVANNEX, which also sells aftermarket gear for Teslas, has kindly allowed us to share some of its content with our readers. Our thanks go out to EVANNEX, Check out the site here.

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38 Comments on "The Electric Car Transition Likely To Parallel Model T"

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I agree as I think we are about to hit the first inflection point on the S curve of adoption. The next three years will show crazy innovation and adoption.

Very interesting presentation.

Although the claim that EV power trains last 500,000 miles indicates he doesn’t know much about the battery in the Nissan LEAF. Makes me question the validity of the rest.

The Leaf was under engineered with no battery thermal management.

The Chevrolet Volt and Bolt EV, on the other hand, have over engineered thermal management systems and very conservative designs for their batteries. They should easily meet these drivetrain projections.

These aldesigns are at opposite ends of the spectrum, with the worst (Leaf) and the best (Volt and Bolt EV)… Most other EV offerings fall somewhere in the middle.

Powertrain has a definition for ICE technology but is looking for one as to EV’s. Question: how many ICE vehicles go 200,000 miles without needing: engine, transmission, exhaust, cooling, electrical, etc. replacement? How much does that add up to? Tesla and others have batteries going strong. To cling to the Leaf’s first battery is not a good example as many still have it. Mine was OK but I decided to replace it with a 2017 battery vs. buying a new car. That choice was excellent and this should last 8 years plus. So compared to ICE, any component replacement comes on top of gas/oil/services needed from day 1. EV’s do not need those in effect banking $$ for a battery replacement. Much cheaper and much better for the planet. Thanks

The Model T was a revolution. EVs are an evolution, with compromises.

Missing from this history lesson is the fact that Ford attempted to create an EV after the Model T, and failed–and that the Model T and other ICE carals ended up killing the nascent BEV market at the time, despite a lack of gasoline infrastructure.

We all unconsciously cherry pick the lies we tell ourselves.

Nope, except for the price/manufacturing line there was nothing special about the Model T.

Model T had no compromises? It sure billowed a lot more smoke and required frustrating process to start the engine. Horses has neither of these problems.

The Model T also was notorious for breaking down on long trips. It wasn’t very reliable at all. Fortunately, it was also built so simply that repairs were generally easy and fairly fast.

The Model T debuted in an age where there were not paved roads going everywhere, and journeys even by motorcar tended to be less than 25 miles.

Why it’s the Model T Ford made the trouble, made the people wanna go, wanna get, wanna get, wanna get up and go seven eight, nine, ten, twelve, fourteen, twenty-two, twenty-three miles to the county seat.

— “Rock Island”, from The Music Man; lyrics by Meredith Wilson

Horses require food even if you don’t ride them. The Model T didn’t.

Hand-crank starters had a bad habit of breaking people’s arms, too.

I agree about the lying cherries. Missing in this article is the fact that film was not replaced until digital sensors could meet or exceed the specs on film. Widely ignored in the “EV revolution” is the fact that ICE cars can be refilled in less than 5 minutes, and that virtually every corner has a filling station. While I agree that we don’t need the same number of EV chargers as gas stations, it needs to be north of what exists. Outside of Telsa, many CCS and CHADEMO chargers are poorly located and underpowered. For example, a huge portion of the CCS chargers (Bolt) in California are 24kW chargers, inadequate for long distance use. We can get to 15 minutes at %80 in the next tier of cars (Porsche or similar). You get rid of the %80 qualification by derating the car (stating its range only at %80). Its only a skip, hop and a jump to 5 minutes. People don’t want to hear excuses about why you can’t feed that much current, cool the cables or batteries at that charging level, or that it is dangerous. The general public’s attitude is “call us when you get there”. The… Read more »

Again focusing a “long-range” scenario (the rare scenario).

The common scenario is the daily commute. Most people drive no further than 30 miles from home on a daily basis. This round-trip distance is within the range of most EVs today.

On that basis, filling an EV takes 10 seconds (plug in once a day, to charge overnight) and every home (potentially) has a filling station.

Yep. Why all the focus on those once a year trips.
I hardly ever go out of the town in my car let alone a 300 mile trip. If I do I take a train.
EV’s are perfect for me – and 99% of commuters.

Lovely that this works for you, but it clearly doesn’t work for most people, or most people would have bought an EV.

I’ve never taken a train anyplace, unless it’s been a subway into Boston. Every single time I travel, it’s by car, for hours. No EV can do that today.

I took a hiking day trip this last saturday with my family. Drove over 4 hours. Went far enough into the sticks that there weren’t even gas stations. Would have been stranded with an EV, but with my van? Ha, never even considered range. We just went, had fun, came back. The van won’t need to be refueled until next weekend.

80%+ of charging done at home.
No need to replicate gas stations on every corner.

Better already ??

Good grief! This article is completely clueless. 🙄

The article wastes a great deal of verbiage belaboring the point that during a disruptive tech revolution, such as the motorcar revolution (the Model T) or the cell phone revolution, year-on-year sales growth is exponential. When graphed, this shows the classic S-curve. And then there’s a graph accompanying the article which shows a “fast-adoption scenario” as an almost straight line!

The EV revolution, just like every disruptive tech revolution, will proceed according to an S-curve, and not a flat line on a graph!

Get it? Got it? Good!

P.S. — The Tesla Model 3 is not a $30,000 car. In fact, early indications are that the average selling price will be around $45,000-50,000. The TM3 is not the Model T of the EV revolution; it’s too expensive to qualify.

Indeed, a Model T would be $22.5K in today’s dollars. How would such a sticker price affect demand for the first mass-market EV?

If other auto-makers can produce an entry-level (but modern) offering at that price point, competetion will heat up fast.

If not, Tesla will own the world by 2040. ;^)


Well, this is nothing we didn’t all already know. I know so many naysayers right now that think that the EV is doomed. But that isn’t too discouraging since I remember similar naysayers for flat-screen TVs, digital cameras, and DVD players. In fact, I’ve been a naysayer myself on many products. And so far, I’ve always been right. But that’s because I’m able to look at a product and see what benefits it offers to the consumer, versus the compromises. And EVs offer a lot of benefits and very few compromises. And the great thing is, many of those compromises like price, range, and recharging options are getting smaller and less relevant every day. In 10 years time, or maybe even 5 years time, the ICE will have almost no advantage over the EV at all.

Exactly. Who in their right mind is going to buy a new ICE vehicle in ten years time?
You would have to be insane.

In Australia where people are eager to adopt new technologies electric / hybrid cars has NOT been one of them. Locally I find people confused & holding on to myths regarding electric cars. Sadly I predict it will be a slow up take rather than rapid as uneducated technically people stick to ICE while the few of us are on the fast track and personally I demand a lot more progress in EV technology – In wheel motors 4WD with torque vectoring. But manufactures are happy to keep building ICE vehicles which improperly serviced, allows them to sell more vehicles as replacements earlier and keeps crooked dealerships rich with consumers money. Sadly it is a slow road of electrification of ICE and then finally to EV’s only. Credit to Tesla, Renault / Nissan, GM & BMW for skipping all this middle ware CRAP in recent years.

Australia is hardly a good example for anything though is it?
You have climate change deniers in your government FFS!!!
Your country is committing national economic suicide by handing China a multi-trillion dollar industrial sector on a plate.
I don’t know if this is true but I heard from a friend that your government is even in favour of opening a new COAL MINE?!
So pardon the rest of the world if we don’t really take you seriously on any subject right now.

So true. Right at this point in history I am ashamed to be Australian. Our once great, innovative, pristine country is being run by unscrupulous, greedy people with no regard to the long term outcomes that a government should be viewing in the public interest.
The Adani(?) coal mine fiasco is an excellent point and a disgrace.
As regards EV adoption, much like the US, we have large distances to travel. The biggest impediment to current EV ranges (Tesla being the hugely expensive exception) is lack of charging infrastructure. I just can’t drive my Leaf 100km because I can’t realistically recharge when I get there. And 100 km is really a nothing type trip here.

I talk to people every day who get their news from Fox, and conservative radio. They “know” that GM stands for Government Motors, has been bankrupt twice (I guess once doesn’t sound bad enough), made an electric car in the 1940’s that charged itself, but the government stopped them from selling it, that an EV can’t make a 20 mile commute, because a newsman in NYC tried, and it died in a tunnel, and Obama shoveled taxpayer money to Tesla for free, blah, blah, blah. You can’t even get them to believe they work when they are standing right in front of one.

Quite amazes me how, in any age, people are willing to listen to people who – because they are talking about supposedly future events, cannot by definition be proven wrong. Where he dips into slightly factual areas he’s already been proven wrong, eg: 500,000 miles on a Leaf with little maintenance. Gasoline cars initially were the environmentally friendly modes of transportation in their day (of course, they couldn’t compete with ELECTRIC rapid transit – something which most cities STILL do not have the equal of what they had 100 years ago – but then I put most of the blame there on Big, Bad, old GM; who single handedly bought up almost the ENTIRE electric infrastructure in the entire country and took it eventually out of service). Horses, breeding horse flies, etc exacerbated dangerous sewage conditions in large cities, and it wasn’t until the gasoline powered vehicles, along with Adequate Sanitary Sewage systems, greatly increased logevity from 45 years to 75.5. OF course, today doctors like to take credit for people’s newly refound longevity in cities, but a 3 1/2 decade increase is mainly due to clean water, meat inspection, Sanitary Sewage systems (even if the East river STUNK for… Read more »

For the authors: Don’t believe everything you find on Wikipedia (or EVannex)

$900 in 1910 → $22,428.17 in 2017

How wrong the “naysayers” can be is best shown in the s.c. The Great Horse Manure Crisis of 1894″

“New York had a population of 100,000 horses producing around 2.5m pounds of manure a day.

This problem came to a head when in 1894, The Times newspaper predicted… “In 50 years, every street in London will be buried under nine feet of manure.”

Now we can only smile…

The process ‘horse to car’ looks very similar to ‘ICE to EV’ now, first small vehicles, some day cargo:

“The change did not happen immediately, rather it happened function by function, with freight haulage being the last. Motorised haulage did not take over from horse drawn haulage in the US until the 1920’s.
Cars were cheaper to own and operate than horse-drawn vehicles, both for the individual and for society. In 1900, 4,192 cars were sold in the US; by 1912 that number had risen to 356,000. In 1912, traffic counts in New York showed more cars than horses for the first time.”

Australia is hardly a good example for anything though is it?
You have climate change deniers in your government FFS!!!

And you DON’T?? You need to ask Trump about climate change- idiot.

This article misses in so many areas it is hard to decide where to begin: 1) For people who don’t read car forums and/or aren’t into technology or as impressed by the EV driving experience as us the main advantage EVs offer for the ~50% of people who have a place to charge at home is the convenience of skipping gas station visits and 2-3 time per year oil changes. I doubt the mass market will pay a big premium for that. 2) As EV adoption spreads, it will put downward pressure on oil prices which will eat away at the operating cost advantage EVs have. In some areas of the US which have above average electricity costs 50 MPG hybrids such as the 2018 Camry, Accord and Malibu are already pretty competitive with EVs in costs per mile. Basically as EVs spread a negative feedback cycle will occur which may slow adoption. 3) Modern ICE power trains for at least the reliable makes only need oil changes and perhaps 2 spark plug changes over 200K-300K miles. By 300K mill of typical (IE mix of highway and city) many expensive things on a car independent of power train are probably… Read more »
Yes, there is some hyperbole on all sides here. IN the presentation Seba said one of the disadvantage of ICE’s compared to EV’s is that they have ‘Differentials’. Last I looked, all teslas ever made had one or two of them per car. And he shows off a Roadster, as an early example of a super-reliable car, when in fact the Roadster in my case was by far the least reliable car I’ve ever owned. I don’t know that the Leaf is totally horrible, or that it ‘lacks thermal management’ entirely. At least the later models had interior ‘churner’ fans to minimize hot spots and maximize heat dissipation. By the same token even though I own a gen 1 voltec and also a BOLT ev, I still must reserve judgement as to whether these are ‘over-designed’. Looking at the batteries – parts of it seem to be a bit delicate, but ‘knock on wood’ so far I’ve had no problems with either car, and neither car is shy about running the refrigeration or electric heater to keep the battery comfortable. When In Syracuse at a public charger, Brian and I noticed that the ENTIRE 6 kw available from a docking… Read more »
This article appears to be missing a very very massive point of adoption of new technology. IT MUST BE BETTER THAN WHAT IT REPLACES IN EVER METRIC THAT MATTERS. People judged cars, for all their initial quality concerns, to be better than horses. Faster, longer range, more working capacity, more convenient, etc etc. The same metric was applied to digital cameras. Better resolution, more pictures, no film, and essentially zero cost per picture. Smart phones, does everything, dumb phone, makes phone calls and plays snake…we chose smart phones. Right now, BEVs take longer to charge, have very short ranges, cost a lot more initially than an equivalent ICE car, cannot easily be used for long term travel, have dubious reliability records (Thanks Tesla and Leaf), and massive depreciation. You will not see that S-curve take off UNTIL every one of these metrics is BETTER than an ICE car. Right now the only advantage they hold is they are marginally cheaper to power (highly dependent on where you live). Once BEVs provide the same range, the same “fueling” convenience, better reliability, equivalent depreciation, and better ride quality and performance at the same or cheaper price than an equivalent ICE, THEN, and… Read more »

Kodak’s main problem with profitability is that FUJI FILM ate their lunch on almost all levels of product lines. Better resolution and much cheaper.

Perhaps Kodak could have survived a bit longer with a stronger transition to their Digital Technology, but the same forces that killed Kodak killed many other disparate businesses in the states.

If the auto industry was not considered so VITAL a national resource, the same thing would have happened to Ford, GM, and Chrysler. ALL got bailouts, including Ford and Harley-Davidson, but quietly.

Chrysler as far as I can see was basically given to Sergio’s Boss.

Just look at the transition from traditional lighting to LED lighting. The conversion happened WAY faster than anyone ever imagined and is mainly responsible for the fall/stability in electricity usage globally. I remember reading a report years ago saying that if we did not convert to energy efficient lighting — then the EV revolution could never happen due to capacity.

Since many EVs will end up charging in the evening when electricity usage is at a minimum — grid stress will not be as much as an issue as many believe.

There are many good points being made here, but there’s one that I don’t think has been mentioned… which, in my opinion will drastically speed up the adoption rate. Resale value. Today, and maybe for the next 2-3 years I would consider buying an ICE… and still be able to dump it into the market when I’m was ready to get rid of it. Once we get into the early 2020’s however, with a dozen or more good EV’s to choose from (when EV’s reach mainstream acceptance), the perceived resale value of an ICE will vanish, and it will be a hard choice (and gamble) to buy one. It’ll be a buy it to drive it into the ground decision because an EV market with any significant momentum will drive ICE resale values off a cliff. Also, as far as advantages over ICE’s… performance is one (and it’s a significant one). Another big one is not dropping 40 or 50 bucks every time you stop at that gas station. It’s not just the convenience of plugging it in at home. Imagine never paying for fuel again. I may be wrong, but I wouldn’t underestimate that advantage (even if your electric… Read more »

Resale value? You must mean a 5 year old LEAF with a few bars missing. They still have resale value by me, but not out west.

You’re 100% right. Today’s EV’s won’t have much resale value. We haven’t reached that tipping point. In fact there’s going to be a a few years (hopefully not more) when both EV’s akd ICE’s have poor resale value. EV’s because they are advancing so quickly, and ICE’s because they are a dying technology. I do believe though, that once your neighbor has an EV, orcoworker or family member and talks about never having to “fill up” the demand for EV’s is going to skyrocket. There may be a cultural acceptance thing as well… like smoking indoors. Bringing your ICE into the city may be obnoxious.

EV’s are just another car. Sure they have benefits over an ICE, but fundamentally they are the same thing. A real disruption would occur if the mode of transportation changes. Autonomous vehicles have the single biggest chance of doing this. Now imagine the change of this came to pass: Something like the quad copter that we see, it has been improved such that it cannot fall out of the sky, but rather glides to the ground in the event of any failure. It can travel 200km/h, and fly for 300km. But that is much further in reality than a car because it is straight line, not following all those curves. Once in the air there is no congestion like on a road, there are no ‘roads’. It is super easy to fly because all you do is plug your destination in and out flys there, then optical recognition finds the closest parking space and lands there. If this was about $20k-$30k then it is easy to see many people getting this. The daily commute would be greatly reduced. Long distance trips would be faster and more direct. It would really be a revolution in travel. Cars would go the way… Read more »

I think it’s much simpler than what most ppl think. EVs are (much) more efficient and thus will be cheaper to own in the long term. With charging time already less than fueling time (with consideration taken of the ratio of home charging), EVs will soon be superior in all aspects including purchase price (since the EV is a much simpler construction than the ICE).