In a recently published article in CleanTechnica, I shared the “bold” predictions of UK think tank Rethink Energy. They accorded with my own views and how fast the transition to electric vehicles was moving. I need to acknowledge that I may have misrepresented the findings from the graphs in my zeal. As I have written previously here, I expect that the vast majority of passenger cars sold in 2027 globally will have a plug. EV penetration into new car sales has been increasing at 60% per year for the past ten years. A global pandemic of COVID-19 and a European invasion worthy of World War II have not stopped it.
Last year over 10 million plugin cars were sold globally. This year, according to the many articles published each month on CleanTechnica, we are well on the way to exceeding 16 million. A 60% year on year increase gives us roughly 25 million in 2024; 40 million by 2025; 60 million by 2026; and over 90 million by 2027. The global car market is about 80 million. So, by 2027, it looks like we will be producing enough electric vehicles to satisfy global demand.
Of course, this is all speculation. Something else could go wrong and we could be buying new petrol cars for many years to come, or riding horses, or walking everywhere. However, the timeline is short enough and the data abundant and consistent enough for me to have some confidence that I am on the right track.
Perhaps the biggest fault of any prediction in this field is to speculate on achieving 100%. I doubt that we will ever arrive at 100% EVs. I have a niece who rides a horse. Many people may find themselves in a position where a fossil fuelled vehicle best suits their purpose. Many people will keep a classic car as a pet. I had a British Motors Corporation Wolseley for 12 years — I know the lure of the past.
Norway, leading in the electrification of transport, is hovering in the low 90% penetration of new car sales, and perhaps that is where we will all be eventually. I am told that Norway’s passenger fleet is now 20% EV and Denmark has hit 10%.
The next step, beyond new car sales, in our journey of speculation is the composition of the entire fleet. How long before the majority of vehicles on our roads are electric. Or, one could ask, how long will most petrol cars last? Although it is possible to find ICE cars that are 50 or 60 years old (like my Wolseley), most of them are not, and the time comes when they are too expensive to keep roadworthy. So, let’s say a new ICE car lasts 15 years. I would estimate that ten years after new car sales hit the 90% mark (2027, remember) most of the ICE cars will have disappeared from Chinese, European, and North American roads.
China is an interesting case in point. Next year, the central government will increase emission standards, which will make it very difficult to sell a combustion engine car. These standards were foreshadowed in 2016. Tony Seba is already predicting that by the end of the year only 50% of new cars sold in China will come with an ICE. It is not a big step from that place to 90% penetration with the new government regulations.
If an ICE car lasts 15 years, and the last new one is sold in China in 2023, then a prediction of a mostly EV fleet in China by 2032 is bold, yes, but not impossible.
Europe is a little more complicated. In 2023, roughly 25% of new cars sold in Western Europe have been electric. A confluence of EU regulations, countrywide laws, and city ordinances will encourage the further uptake of EVs. Look what happened in the UK when leasing a Model 3 became cheaper than leasing a BMW 3 Series though BiK tax adjustments. Countries across Western Europe will begin banning the sale of new fossil fueled cars from 2026, with most countries enacting bans from 2030 on. Most large cities have also announced bans which will come into effect within the next few years.
How do we get those petrol cars off the road? Tesla has announced a scrappage bonus — trade in your petrol car on a Tesla and get an extra 2000 pounds! Australia ran a cash for clunkers program in the ’90s to encourage people to upgrade to newer, safer cars. If these sorts of programs are replicated, petrol and diesel cars will be removed from the roads even more quickly.
Rethink Energy expects a surge in production of electric vehicles and batteries around 2026 in Western Europe. The increasing import of quality, affordable EVs from China will lead to price parity, reducing the only advantage ICE cars still have. Some will argue that if we consider total cost of ownership, coupled with government subsidies still available, price parity has already been achieved.
So, is the middle of next decade for a mostly electric fleet in Western Europe too much of a stretch? I don’t think so.
The Inflation Reduction Act in the USA has created a flurry of battery factory construction in the US. As an EV watcher, I have been interested in the uptake of electric cars for the past ten years in the US. When the USA moves, it moves far and it moves quick. That is happening now, and it seems that every day has an announcement about Ford or GM planning more EVs, more battery factories, and vying for number two behind Tesla.
Like the mobilization for World War II, I expect America to seize the day and become an EV powerhouse. California, leader of the CARB states, has 1.5 million EVs on the road. The state has achieved a target set back in 2016 to be achieved by 2025, an example of the accelerating take-up of EVs. American carmakers will not make one car for the CARB states and another for states which allow for greater emissions. The US car industry will follow California down the EV highway. I expect that sometime in the middle of next decade we will see states hit 90% EV fleet concentration. It will be patchy.
I am indebted to one of our readers for this comment: “When you look at the declining cost curves for technology (batteries, EV’s, Solar and Wind), add in the hundreds of billions in investment being committed just in the last year, growing year after year, and tie in the significant government incentives as nations battle for leadership in these new green industries, the dates mentioned don’t seem bold at all. We are moving from the end of the beginning and into the beginning of the end for ICE, and fossil fuels. Their end is nigh.” Thank you for the comment, Independence 0 1776.
As the number of gasmobiles on the roads decline, there will be a corresponding decline of the supporting ecosystem. I expect that petrol stations will be fewer and fuel more expensive. Good mechanics may be hard to find (like vets for big animals like horses). As demand for ICE cars decreases, companies will lose economies of scale and the cost for an ICE car could increase. And the Saudi are diversifying their economy — even buying golf tournaments, top football (soccer) players, and electric car companies (Lucid).
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