A scene from the post-apocalyptic series The Rain on Netflix The health and economic crisis linked to the Covid-19 epidemic questions our ability to live independently. Stocks of food, maintenance of a vegetable garden, sanitation of water: survival techniques are known for eating. But what about mobility? In the event of a global collapse, is it better to have an electric car rather than a thermal one? From energy supply to maintenance, Automobile-Propre compares the autonomy potential of the two technologies.
Imagine a post-apocalyptic scenario in which the electricity grid goes out of service and gas stations go out of service. How to eat the food, tools, medicines and products necessary for survival if they are several hundred kilometers away? While the bicycle may be suitable in certain situations, the motor vehicle remains essential for others. Electric or thermal car, which would be able to operate in such a context?
Dry breakdown for internal combustion cars
The extraction of hydrocarbons is anecdotal in France. We produced less than 1% of our consumption in 2010. The country is therefore totally dependent on imports, subject to political, economic and technical uncertainties. A collapse would cause an inevitable disruption of supply.
If the reserves allow us to hold out for a few months by reducing our needs (the equivalent of three weeks of current consumption is stored on national territory), we would then have to deal without hydrocarbons. Especially since the modest production of fuels of agricultural origin (ethanol, biodiesel, biogas) would very probably be reserved for the military, relief and officials. The vast majority of thermal vehicles could therefore not operate in the event of a prolonged crisis.
Electricity, an energy that is easy to produce
More limited downtime for electric cars. Even without electricity distributed on the public network, these vehicles can still be recharged from alternative sources. Electricity can indeed be produced anywhere with very simple and varied means, unlike hydrocarbons. Thus, owners of houses equipped with solar panels will be able to continue charging their vehicle, for some after some technical adaptations. A modest 3 kWp installation, or about 20 m² of solar panels, provides on average between 7 and 11 kWh of electricity each day. Without a domestic battery, refueling a Renault ZOE should therefore require four to seven very sunny days. A very slow charge, but enough to have around 400 km of range, enough to go on an expedition from time to time.
The more experienced will know how to make their own wind turbine or hydro turbine from an old electric motor, easily convertible into a generator. Knowledge in the field of electricity and electronics is quite widespread among the population. Experienced handymen, electricians and technicians should be able to impart their knowledge to restore the power supply via very local means of production. Thus, it will even be possible to charge an electric car while pedaling, as the Finnish inventor Janne Käpylehto proved.
Maintain with the means at hand
As electric vehicles require less maintenance than their thermal counterparts, they are naturally more robust and durable. However, their maintenance techniques are not as well mastered as those of fuel cars. While many motorists know how to operate gasoline and diesel engines, few dare to dig under the hood of an electric vehicle, for lack of knowledge or fear of electric shock. However, the architecture of a battery-powered car is simple and contains far fewer moving parts.
Thanks to regenerative braking, it will not force the survivalist user to go in search of pads. Nor will it require him to find a container of mineral oil or coolant to check it. A severe failure of the engine or of a vital organ is, however, more likely to be repaired in a combustion engine vehicle, as mechanics, parts and suitable tools are widespread. A zero-emission model will require the intervention of a person with solid knowledge of electricity and electronics as well as components mainly manufactured on the other side of the planet.
Computing, a common handicap.
With tires, IT is a handicap common to both technologies in a crisis situation. With the exception of older models, electric and thermal cars both have on-board computers, calculators and digital sensors. They are therefore subject to the same hazards as any computer equipment. A virus, software bug or the explosion of an electromagnetic pulse bomb (EMP) could destroy any possibility of movement, especially in the absence of a seasoned computer scientist and a bit of a hacker around the edges.
Considering these advantages and disadvantages, the match of the vehicle most able to operate in an extreme crisis situation remains to the advantage of the electric vehicle. In fact, it is easier to supply energy, requires modest maintenance and presents less potential for breakdown. And you what do you think ? Do you prefer to rely on a thermal or electric car in a disaster scenario? Do not hesitate to vote.