The future is now for electric vehicles (EVs) as adoption rates climb, EVs make up ground on gas-powered cars, and national governments mandate an end to internal combustion vehicles.
Automakers from Bentley to Toyota are all pivoting their businesses to be EV-focused over the next decade.
Bentley plans for its cars to be electric or plug-in hybrids by 2026 and move to a fully electric product line by 2030. Ford is investing $22 billion through 2025 to boost its battery EV line, with plans to be carbon neutral by 2050. General Motors will stop selling gas and diesel vehicles by 2035. After next year, Honda will sell 100% EVs in Europe. By 2030, Honda expects 40% of its North American vehicle sales to be either battery-electric or hydrogen-powered, with an end to all its gas-powered cars by 2040. Jaguar will be an all-electric brand by 2030. All new Mercedes vehicle platforms will be EV-only by 2025, and the brand fully electric by 2030. Volkswagen sales in Europe will be 70% EV by the end of the decade, and more than 50% EV in the US and China by 2030. And Toyota, already the market leader among hybrids, will have 70 electrified models by 2025, including 15 that are 100% battery EVs.
In June, the government of Japan announced its plans to eliminate sales of fully gas-powered cars and other vehicles from the Japanese market within the next 15 years. Likewise, in June, Canada’s Liberal government unveiled plans for all new cars and light-duty trucks sold in Canada to be zero-emission vehicles by 2035, pulling forward a previous deadline by five years.
But while Japan and Canada are the latest governments to mandate the end of gas-powered vehicles, they are by no means the first.
Norway: A Case Study
Norway is far ahead of many nations when it comes to electric vehicle adoption, with the market share of EVs the highest in the world. This uptake rate is thanks in part to strong taxes on fossil-fuel-powered vehicles that factor in their true cost to the environment and public health, making EVs more competitive and attractive.
Norway’s new car sales in 2020 were 54% all-electric and 58% of all sales so far in 2021 (to the end of July). The country’s market share for zero-emission vehicles (ZEVs) has risen from 47.7% in July 2020 to 64.1% to the end of July 2021. Gas and diesel-powered vehicle sales in July 2021 were both around 4% of market share each.
And because Norway’s adoption of EVs is so heavily influenced by the availability of stock (all EV cars are imported), some experts suggest that as new supply of vehicles like the Tesla Model 3 and Model Y become available later this year, EVs might climb to as high as 90% of Norway’s market share by the end of 2021.
EVs in the United States
While European countries may be farther ahead, in the United States—birthplace of the automobile—EV adoption is being helped by the recent $550 billion bipartisan infrastructure bill agreed to by the Senate and the White House.
Included in the bill’s $73 billion set aside for expanding clean energy capacity is $7.5 billion earmarked for building out the nation’s EV charging capacity. Marking the federal government’s first investment in EV charging infrastructure, the $7.5 billion represents less than 5% of the total in Biden’s initial funding proposal to build 500,000 charging stations across America. However, coupled with private sector initiatives like the push by The Electric Highway Coalition to ensure that EV drivers have access to a continuous network of charging stations connecting major highway systems from the Atlantic Coast, through the Midwest and South, and into the Gulf and Central Plains, the United States is beginning to make up for lost time preparing for a future dominated by EVs.
And such moves can’t come soon enough, as range anxiety—the fear that your EV battery will run out of charge before you reach your destination—continues to be a significant deterrent for many consumers when choosing between an electric vehicle or a gas-powered car.
While an increased number of charging stations will help ease range anxiety, so will the development of new battery technology. Scientists are already working eagerly to develop practical successors to the traditional lithium-ion (LI) batteries currently powering EVs. While LI batteries have made dramatic improvements, they continue to have structural drawbacks—such as weight and excess heat generation—limiting their ultimate effectiveness in EVs. Potential replacement contenders include more exotic solid-state LGPS (lithium, germanium, phosphorus, and sulphur) or LLZO (lithium, lanthanum, zirconium, and oxygen) batteries.
With global EV demand rising from 3 million in 2020 to more than 66 million a year by 2040, whatever combination of battery chemistry and increased EV charging capacity eventually meet the world’s demands, what is clear is that the move towards electric vehicles is happening at an accelerating pace. Electric vehicles will dominate the industry by the end of the decade.
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