Is the U.S. on the cusp of a clean energy revolution that will fundamentally change how we live, work, and get around?
That’s exactly what entrepreneur and lecturer Tony Seba argues in his book, Clean Disruption of Energy and Transportation. His multi-pronged predictions include: all new energy will be provided by solar or wind, all new mass-market vehicles will be electric, and all of these vehicles will be self-driving or semi-autonomous — by 2030, or maybe sooner.
Seba explained his breathtaking vision in a recent conversation with John Farrell, who leads the Energy Democracy Initiative at the Institute for Local Self-Reliance. He pointed to a series of factors, including falling energy storage costs and fast-moving innovation in the auto and renewables industries, that he says will reinvent day-to-day life in America.
A decade ago, iPhone and Android devices met with skepticism when they made their debuts. The market hadn’t seen multifunctional devices like them, and they came at a premium price. But over time, smartphones proved their value and found their way into average consumers’ hands. Prices dropped, and slow-moving competitors suffered. In the end, iPhone and Android spurred a total market disruption.
Now, the electric vehicle industry is on a similar trajectory, in the early stages of a new market transformation. The same is true for power delivery, and electric utilities — notoriously averse to shifting market dynamics — face an existential crisis if they refuse to adapt.
“Disruptions happen from the outside,” Seba said. “Usually incumbents either don’t see their disruption coming or they don’t see it coming quickly. They usually deny it ‘til it’s too late for them to do anything about it.”
Electric Vehicles Unlock Unique Benefits
At the crux of this budding revolution are the benefits electric vehicles offer compared with their gas-powered counterparts, and consumers are beginning to bite.
Tesla, the pioneering luxury electric vehicle maker, reported a year ago that roughly 400,000 people had put down a non-refundable $1,000 deposit on its forthcoming Model 3, considered its first “affordable” car.
Tesla’s brand has a certain cachet that puts it at the forefront of the conversation, but electric vehicles in general are becoming more popular as battery costs decline and they can travel farther between charges. Electric vehicle technology now outstrips internal combustion engines on a number of fronts, Seba said, amping up their appeal.