The effects of the Japanese nuclear crisis on the EV industry

Effects of the Japanese nuclear crisis are expected to be felt across a number of industries, including the electric vehicle industry.

Concerns regarding the safety of nuclear power, raised by the ongoing nuclear crisis in Fukushima, Japan in the wake of the catastrophic March 11th earthquake, have led to a drastic reconsideration of the role which nuclear energy plays in the European energy supply.  This increased uncertainty is evident in the large scale antinuclear protests held across Europe, attended by tens of thousands in Germany as well as several hundred protestors who gathered in Helsinki in the tragedy’s aftermath.  The effects of this uncertainty may already be perceived in politics as well, following the defeat of her Christian Democrat party by the Greens in elections held this past weekend in the southwest state of Baden-Württemberg, a longtime conservative stronghold; German Chancellor Angela Merkel blamed the result on the energy debates sparked by the nuclear catastrophe.  Automakers and industry analysts are now beginning to fear that the rise of this antinuclear sentiment will have a negative effect on consumer adoption of electric vehicles.

Auto industry fears are motivated by the heavy reliance of the electric vehicle industry on clean energy, energy which, at present, is largely derived from nuclear energy.  Due to the fact that alternative energy sources, such as solar, wind or hydroelectric sources have yet to reach a stage at which they would be capable of replacing current energy sources, nuclear energy, which currently accounts for approximately 15% of the world’s electricity, remains the most significant source of clean energy.  Without a clean source of energy to supply electric vehicles their ecological advantages are drastically diminished, making electric vehicles hardly less emissions-heavy than those burning gasoline or diesel, in terms of their well-to-wheel, or lifecycle, emissions.   Consequently, industry analysts fear that this will lead to a decline in the attractiveness of electric vehicles and make consumers far less likely to invest in the more expensive vehicles, particularly if they lack a clear ecological advantage.  These developments could lead to a significant increase in CO2 emissions in the future.

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