A black Tesla is waiting for the light to turn green, as I head for home after my day's work at the Neste head office. It looks like a predator hunting for prey in the middle of aging station wagons and slightly dented smaller cars. It is the rush hour, and the stream of cars heading towards Ring Road I seems to be endless. The global traffic volume is beyond comprehension. So are emission volumes.
The light turns green. The Tesla accelerates silently like swung by an invisible spring. Other cars follow more slowly.
Electric cars evoke inspiration and raise discussion. We have waited for their final breakthrough for years. When will the price of batteries go down? When will there be a reliable number of charging stations? This wait is now more topical than ever, as it seems that the development is finally picking up the pace. Prices are close to a level which consumers find acceptable – and this is good.
We estimate that in 2030, roughly 10 percent of all cars in the world will be electric. According to Elon Musk's vision, this figure will be 100 percent in 2050. This would be wonderful, even though, according to current estimates, there are many questions related to the excavation and recycling of the lithium required for batteries. Of course, renewable fuels also face a similar problem. At present, there simply is not enough waste or sustainably collectable biomass so that they could supply all the traffic in the world.
The conclusion is a simple one: the future is hybrid, where some vehicles will use conventional fuels, some renewable fuels and some electricity.
As concern for the environment increases, we cannot afford to put all our eggs in one basket. We need to support environmentally friendly solutions on all fronts. To reach the ambitious emission reduction goals, we will need a significant increase in biofuels and electric cars that use carbon-free electricity.
The more time we spend on setting electricity, renewable fuels and other environmentally friendly energy forms against each other, the more uncertain our future will be. Instead of waiting for our vehicle pool to modernize, we have an opportunity to promote clean traffic using cost-effective means. Of these means, distribution mandates and fuel taxation which encourages us to reduce emissions are the most cost-effective ones.
What impact electric vehicles and discussion over diesel has on the business operations of Neste has also raised concern among some. The fact is that approximately 70 percent of all diesel is used by heavy vehicles, and the demand continues to increase. At the same time, air and sea traffic that attract massive volumes are only beginning to open up to low-emission and renewable fuels. In addition, renewable plastic produced using the same technology is an innovation that has an unlimited potential, both in a commercial sense and in combating climate change, as demand for plastic continues to increase. So, the answer is no. Neste is not worried about electric cars and discussion over diesel emissions. What we are worried about is climate change.
Let's get back to the rainy intersection. As the light turns green again, I head for the Ring Road, as there is a service station right around the corner where I can refuel my hybrid with 100% renewable diesel. The Tesla has already exited the corner and passed out of sight. The technology under the hood may be different, but the direction is the same.