The consensus is that electric vehicles are going to continue to rise in popularity, due to their efficiency, long-term cost effectiveness and environmental friendliness. One breathless dispatch predicted, in fact, that 2020 will be “the big breakthrough year” in this sector, and noted that while 40 plug-in cars were available in the U.S. at the beginning of 2019, 10 more will be introduced in the year ahead.
Then 14 new cars were listed. Not 10 — 14. Apparently the market is growing so fast, it’s hard to keep track.
The larger point remains, however: Electric cars are hot, and getting hotter. By the end of 2018 there were 1 million EVs on American roads (which nonetheless represents just one percent of the nation’s vehicles), with the expectation that there will be 18.7 million by 2030.
CNN Business, citing research by Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF), further projected that by 2040 worldwide sales of electric vehicles will reach 56 million, 54 million more than were sold in 2018. In the meantime sales of conventional internal combustion vehicles are expected to decrease by over 50 percent, from 85 million in 2018 to 42 million, in 2040.
Another CNN piece, which reported on efforts by manufacturers like Volkswagen to keep pace with industry leader Tesla, used the same BNEF information to reach a slightly more conservative conclusion — that in 2040, 48.8 million electric vehicles will be sold, compared to 42.2 million conventional vehicles.
No matter how the information is interpreted, the momentum seems clear. As Al Bedwell, LMC’s director of global powertrain, told CNN:
“There’s just such an incredible amount of money being poured into electric cars. I’ve been looking at this industry for 20 years, and my real gut feeling is that it’s kind of unstoppable now.”
The reasons, according to the piece, are that battery prices will continue to drop — they are down 85 percent per kilowatt hour since 2010, in fact — while governments will continue to provide subsidies and regulators will continue to apply pressure, as evidenced by the fact that the European Union and even China have emissions standards they hope to reach.
Less clear is where the U.S. is headed on the latter front, given the Trump Administration’s plans to withdraw from the Paris Climate Accord, a process that formally began in November 2019 and is expected to be completed by November 2020. While the production of EVs was part of a larger goal to reduce 2005 greenhouse gas emission levels by 26 to 28 percent by 2025, the U.S.’s intentions now remain to be seen.
Infrastructure is one of the bigger factors that will impact EV popularity and sales. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, there are just 13,000 fast-charging stations across the country, compared to 332,000 gas stations. And it is expected that some 9.6 million ports (not stations — ports) will be needed to support those 18.7 million EVs that will be on the road in 2030.
The Internet of Things has a wide-ranging role here, in that smart technology will enable drivers to find charging stations and make payments, while also providing EV chargers vendors, sellers and service companies (as well as station owners) with critical data.
Price point is another factor that will affect EV sales, as is vehicle range. Of the 16 electric vehicles listed for sale in the U.S. in one report, the cheapest (a Hyundai Ioniq Electric) went for $30,000, while the one with the greatest range was an $80,000 Tesla Model S, which can go 370 miles between charges. The counterargument regarding price is that there are few long-term fuel and maintenance costs. As for range, that is bound to improve as the technology is upgraded.
The bottom line, then, is that while there are some bugs to work out, the prospects for EVs are good, and getting better. I would advise any investor to give serious consideration to this market sector, as it holds considerable promise.