Will we have a Roaring Twenties?

Electric cars Jan 22, 2021

The World has gone quiet, caught unprepared by a deadly new virus. Hospitals are full, schools and businesses closed, social gatherings banned and masks enforced (with pockets of resistance, particularly in the US). Brave medical workers are racing to develop a treatment and the Government has scrambled to pivot from rebuilding ties with Europe towards basic hygiene and public health campaigns.

It's 1920, the peak of the Spanish Flu pandemic. Still reeling from the war and without effective anti-viral medicine, this pandemic killed an estimated 50 million people, 25x more than Covid-19 to date. But coming into the twenties there is light at the end of the tunnel.

Posters from the Spanish Flu pandemic 1918-21. With no NHS yet to protect, other familiar slogans included: Stay at Home, Save Lives, Wear a Mask, Wash your Hands, Maintain a safe distance from others.

Lockdown exhaustion and eagerness to return to normality coupled with mass-production and an economic and cultural boom to kick-off what we now know as the Roaring Twenties. Social norms and fashions were re-imagined, radio became popular, and dance clubs and jazz exploded onto the scene: Louis Armstrong, Blanche Calloway, Duke Ellington, Bessie Smith.

The electricity grid rapidly grew as new industries for mass-market goods chose power instead of coal. Cars, a luxury before 1920 with 0.5m in the US, expanded more than 50x to 27m by 1930. One provider, Ford, mastered mass-production and took an early lead based on cost, quality and range. The brand became synonymous with the technology before competitors caught up, just like a certain 21st Century competitor later would.

But while these throaty cars, power stations and jazz clubs really roared, our twenties must be different.

To avoid the breakdown of society from climate change and biodiversity loss it’s 2030 or bust; fossil fuels go or we do. In other words, the 2020s are likely to be the most important decade in history. Coming into the decade we’re finally waking up to this, as well as the opportunities it brings.

Again we will need to rapidly rebuild the economy, but based on clean technology. Again we are seeing a massive expansion of electrical power, this time supplied by renewable sources. Burning coal for power is disappearing in the UK and during lockdown we’ve remembered our love of breathing clean air and the living world.

The 2020s are the beginning of the end for fossil fuels cars. 2020 saw the biggest decline in car sales since World War 2, but despite this a massive +200% increase in electric vehicles. 1 car in every 15 sold in the UK is now fully electric, and we're only just getting started.

There’s a long way to go and little time left, but given how far we’ve come in the 2010s we at Hypervolt are feeling optimistic.

Yes fashions will need to be re-imagined again after a year in pyjamas and no haircuts. We will soon re-connect, throw parties and dance like everyone’s watching. But will the streets roar again? Or softly hum?

Header photo: Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Concept: Kevin Wright

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