Indeed, it’s time to give Santa’s reindeer a break, so this year, rumor has it, they’re just along for the ride as Santa goes electric, pleasing both the animal welfare watchdogs and environmentalists who would be keen to see this go down with a minimal carbon footprint.
And what better year than 2016, when electric vehicle poster boy Elon Musk, of Tesla Motors Inc., is being wooed by President-elect Donald Trump. It would seem almost inevitable that Santa would go electric, now that electric vehicles are preparing to enter the mainstream in a very big way.
But every major transition like this comes along with its challenges, so this is what is in store for Santa as he purportedly prepares for his first magical magic-less around-the-world sleigh ride, powered by lithium-ion batteries.
The Charging Challenge
Santa will still need to bring his reindeer along for back-up—so we’ll call this a hybrid. Anything else might not be safe as he will be traversing regions where EV charging stations are either rare or entirely non-existent.
Japan will be the shortest stop, and the easiest. As of May this year, the country has more EV charging stations than it does regular gas stations. Nationwide, there are 40,000 places he could charge up. So it won’t likely be over this part of East Asia that the sleigh starts to sputter and the reindeer have to take over. The charge-up in Japan will have to last a while, because for the rest of Asia it will be touch and go, and however you do the math, there’s no avoiding the harnessing of the reindeer over the rest of the continent. Over Africa, it’s reindeer all the way. Related: Oil Traders See Market Balance By Mid-2017
Over Europe, he’ll have to charge in the Western portion, where charging stations are increasingly common, but risks running out of juice over Central, Eastern and Southeastern Europe. This may result in a necessary zig-zag pattern that sees Santa putting on extra mileage as he skirts in and out of areas with charging capabilities.
Over the United States, Santa will have only 9,000 public charging stations to tap into, so he’ll have to plan accordingly.
Electric Sleigh, Take II
It’s not the first time that Santa has toyed with new technology and tried to go electric—but it is the first time the world is really ready for it.
Back in 2009, General Electric (GE)—known for its, well, imagination—unveiled the work it said its team of scientists and engineers had done towards modernizing Santa’s sleigh. The team said it would employ a number of new technologies including an electric traction motor with MEMS switching technology to occasionally allow Santa to transfer the sleigh’s power away from the over-worked reindeer, powered by GE’s Durathon battery, which can function under extreme temperature conditions.
They also said they would introduce air-traffic management technology and more aerodynamic sleigh blades.
This is what Santa’s new, ‘smarter, greener’ sleigh was supposed to look like:
That was seven years ago, though, and things have changed quite a bit.
Back then, everyone was still highly skeptical about the electric vehicle. It cost too much so it wasn’t accessible to the mainstream, there wasn’t sufficient infrastructure for it to make sense, and, well, it just seemed like another one of those futuristic ideas that are only suitable for super heroes—or Santa.
Not so, today.
This year was really the year that electric vehicles could realistically claim to be mainstream, and much of the fanfare centered on the unveiling of Tesla’s Model 3.
Unveiled on the 31st of March, it sold some 325,000 cars in advance orders in the first week, making it the “biggest one-week launch of any product ever.” Related: Saudi Use Of Solar Could Boost Its Oil Exports
It will change the world because it is the first hard indication that the tech-driven energy revolution is not only pending, it’s arrived. The Model 3 and its stunning one-week sales success—apparently achieved without advertising or paid endorsements--brings the electric car definitively into the mainstream, and there is no turning back now. The competition is now heated—and intensifying—in this segment.
Now it’s a race to ensure that the charging infrastructure keeps pace with EV cars sales.
With infrastructure in mind, Santa’s first stop state-side might have to be California, where they just unveiled the first EV DC fast-charging station capable of 350 kW output.
But the good news is that by next year, Santa might need to rely on reindeer much less, as five major automakers have joined forces to bring into being 400 ultra-fast charging stations for EVs in Europe.
If even Santa’s onboard, it’s indeed a merry Christmas for the EV industry, and promises to be a stellar New Year as well.
By Charles Kennedy of Oilprice.com
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