Do electric cars have a future?

Now that car chip tuning almost has become a branch of the automotive industry, and you can find internal combustion engines everywhere but bread knives, you may start wondering: what about electric power? The electric car seems to be considerably cheaper to operate, unless they come up with a crazy method of “reducing” the price of a vehicle, used e.g. by Renault with their Renault ZOE (you need to rent the batteries from Renault, the rest of the car costs up to 43000AUD; in general, it is a brilliant idea how to sell a semi-Clio dearly). However, if we assume that an average “lifespan” of a car can be up to 15 years, an increase in purchase costs hardly ever is compensated by savings on fuel. What is more, even Renault in their diagnostic stations do not offer places to recharge their ZOEs (several stations heroically offer one hour of free battery charge). There is nothing worse than the lack of infrastructure. In contrast to gasoline, which is widely available, electrical power is extremely hard to deliver in a jerrycan.

On the other hand, fuel-powered cars pollute the environment; the electrical ones seem to be somehow less detrimental. It is not that the pollution generated by electric vehicles is non-existent (they need lubricants, gear oils, etc., and these need to be changed or at least produced), but electric cars definitely win here. Or do they? The power necessary for recharging all eco-cars is supplied by power and CHP plants that predominantly use…coal. 

Electric cars then are “burning” coal, so in reality they are the equivalent of the first steam-driven vehicles. The difference is that those ancient creatures changed the energy from coal via heat into work, while the electric car uses a longer chain and adds e.g. the consequences of the transfer of energy (and hence, additional losses). When I plug in a ZOE and a Nissan Leaf to the wall, in my head I can hear a manager in the power plant shouting: “Terry, shovel more coal into the boiler, because a Mr Hipster wants to drive ecologically and needs to recharge his ecological lithium-yttrium-manganese-half-of-periodic-table-of-elements batteries which, when recycled, ain’t gonna pollute anything!”
It is not that I am against electric cars. I do see the point in creating avant-garde constructions, like Audi A3 e-tron. Hybrid cars also make sense. However, creations like Renault ZOE or Nissan Leaf are yet to serve as the future of the automotive industry. The ideas for supercars run on electricity, such as Tesla S or Tesla Roadster, are naturally very promising, but today an electric car with a distance range below 500 km will not be as convenient as a fuel-powered one.

PS: V-tech is just digging into Nissan Leaf (MEV01) ECU software. Chip tuning of an electric car can be done! True, it involves increasing the motor power at higher energy intake (but power in an engine car can also cost a lot when you speed up carelessly, as chip tuning reduces the fuel consumption only with moderate driving style and when it is properly made). Nissan Leaf can have 10 KM added, and it is possible to set how much power should be added and how to respond to the gas pedal in the Eco mode. So, perhaps it is the future after all?