MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif. -- Electric cars will be great, says Alan Shaw, CEO of biofuel maker Codexis, particularly for drivers that may not be born yet.
"One day we might get there," he said during a roundtable discussion at the Western Energy Summit taking place at NASA Ames in Mountain View today. "But the existing infrastructure supports the internal combustion engine. That is not going to change lightly. I'm not sure if it will change in our lifetime."
"Oil and gas and diesel are the fuels of today and the internal combustion engine is the transportation of choice today," he added. "The internal combustion engine will stay, although the fuel will change... The electric car for me is a bit of a dream."
Well, there's a way to make friends. Shaw makes some very good points, even if they may not sit well with everyone or may be a bit pessimistic. Electric cars are expensive, batteries still need to be technologically enhanced, and swapping out the existing car infrastructure will take years. Some cars go for 30 and 40 years. After Californians drive them, many go to emerging nations where they drive on for decades.
"One day we might get there" with electric cars, he added.
Others, such as the Director of Sustainable Development in the R&D division of the Environmental Protection Agency, pointed out that these "new" fuels to replace oil, diesel and gas will take years too. Biofuels only make a fraction of the world's liquid fuels and U.S. is already behind, by many estimates, in meeting its goals for cellulosic ethanol.
Shaw actually agreed with this. It will take $50 billion to $100 billion in investment for the U.S. to meet its renewable fuel standards. Startups just don't have that. Ultimately, biofuel companies will have to link up with petroleum giants. The consolidation process will begin soon.
It will be like musical chairs.
"There are so many chairs. When all of the chairs have gone, there is nowhere to sit," Shaw said. "When all of those investments [from large oil companies] are made, that could be it... The large industrialists will really drive this sector."