It could finally be done to happen. Technologists have been promising for years that the era of the electric car is coming. After a false start in the early 20th century (when electrics briefly accounted for a third of American vehicles), the 1970s (thanks, gas crisis) and the early 2000s (when two American engineers founded a company named Tesla Motors), electric vehicles are going mainstream.
Data from research firm BloombergNEF shows that the world reached an annual record 7.1 million passenger car EV sales by mid-2022. The company expects sales of 10.6 million by the end of the year, despite ongoing tensions in the vehicle supply chain that have made it difficult to get electrics into dealer lots.
According to data from BloombergNEF, in the first half of 2022, 13 percent of global passenger car sales were battery-electric, plug-in hybrids or fuel cell vehicles. Yet growth is uneven, with Germany (26 percent), the UK (24 percent) and China (23 percent) leading the way. Only 7 percent of passenger cars sold in the US in the first half of the year were zero-emissions.
What’s going well? On the one hand, government efforts to combat climate change through progressive transportation policies appear to be paying off. Since 2020, Germany has been offering car buyers up to €9,000 in premiums if they choose to go electric, a scheme that works so well that the government reduce the payout in 2023. China has been investing aggressively in its domestic electric car industry for nearly a decade. And the U.S. government this year approved a series of new programs that not only expand vehicle purchase incentives, but also aim to support a more U.S. electric vehicle supply chain, from vehicle assembly to the extraction of the rare minerals. used in electric vehicles. batteries.
Automakers have also ramped up production of all kinds of electrical appliances. After years of limited electric options, more people can now find an electric car to suit their needs, whether they’re a bachelor for a weekend joyride or a busy parent with a few kids plus accessories. In the US, that has led to a diverse menu of new all-electric SUVs, including the Tesla Model Y and VW ID.4, trucks, including the Ford F-150 Lightning and Rivian R1T, and racy sports cars, including the Porsche Taycan and Ford Mustang Mach-E. Europeans have opted for smaller hatchbacks, including the Fiat 500 electric and Peugeot e-208 – and are even courted by Chinese automakers who have worked to meet high European safety standards.
There is reason to believe that the EV spike may persist. Before the end of this decade, top global automakers have pledged to spend an astronomical $1.2 trillion to produce 54 million electric vehicles, according to a Reuters analysis. Governments have pledged to spend billions on charging infrastructure. Battery manufacturers have pledged billions in start-up costs.
This is all good news for governments that have set aggressive targets to phase out petrol car sales by 2035 European Union and the US states of California, New York and Washington all formalized their plans to do so this year. But while EV sales are now on the rise, there’s a lot that could slow the electric revolution.
For starters, electric vehicle chargers aren’t nearly widespread enough. Governments and the private sector must build a global network of electric vehicle chargers that can serve not only passenger cars, but fleets of vans and trucks with ubiquity to rival gas stations. On the other hand, the world’s supply of battery minerals – lithium, nickel, cobalt and even graphite – is limited, and getting them out of the ground is dirty work. Was 2022 the electrical tipping point? It is a question that can only be answered in hindsight.