Predictors of future auto and energy forecasts say that by the end of this decade, some versions of electric vehicles could account for half of the world’s auto sales.
The trends that could lead to those projections include better battery technology and a rising interest in energy efficiency for buses, rideshare vehicles and even electric scooters.
EV sales jumped an incredible 75% from 2017 to 2018, according to the Alliance of Auto Manufacturers, but by the end of 2018, EVs still accounted for less than 2% of the overall vehicle market.
But auto companies see those small numbers as an opportunity for growth. Around the world, they are investing $225 billion over the next three years to develop more EVs. Industry groups report that manufacturers now offer more than 40 models of EVs—a number expected to grow to more than 200 in the next two years.
An analysis by the J.P. Morgan investment firm sees traditional internal combustion engine vehicles falling from a 70% share of the market in 2025 to just 40% by 2030.
Worldwide interest in less pollution, higher efficiency and greater economy are powering those predictions. A study by the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy concludes that electricity produces less greenhouse gases than other forms of energy, especially with the increasing use of renewable power sources to generate electricity.
The ACEEE study cites transportation as a sector of the economy that could produce the biggest gains in energy efficiency, mainly due to a shift toward EVs.
“Electric vehicles cost less to operate than gas-powered cars,” says Ron Mitchell Jr., electrical advisor at Benton Rural Electric Association in southern Washington. “EV operation can be three to five times cheaper than gasoline and diesel-powered cars, depending on your local gasoline and electric rates.”
Thanks to decreases in manufacturing costs, EVs are getting cheaper. A lot cheaper. EV batteries are one of the biggest costs, and fierce competition is driving down prices.
Incentives for researchers and manufacturers to lower costs have reduced battery prices about 15% a year for the past 20 years. As a result, the cost of the battery has dropped from more than half the cost of an EV four years ago to one-third today. The price is expected to be down to about one-fifth the cost by 2025, according to research firm BloombergNEF.
As battery prices drop, their efficiency improves. Longer-lasting batteries address one of the biggest roadblocks to more people buying EVs: range anxiety.
Some batteries can now provide a range of hundreds of miles before needing a recharge—well above the 40 miles a day that most people drive, even in rural areas.
Limited charging infrastructure is another roadblock to EVs, but electric co-ops are stepping up to address the challenge, offering rebates and other incentive programs for members who own or buy new EVs.
In April, Benton REA launched a new incentive program to reward members who choose to reduce their tailpipe carbon emissions and buy electricity to fuel their daily drive, offering rebates and low-interest loans to members who buy EVs or plug-in hybrid vehicles and/or install a 240-volt smart electric vehicle charger in their home or business. The “Level 2” charger can charge an electric vehicle in 8 to 10 hours as opposed to the 24 hours it takes a conventional outlet.
“EV range is typically around 80 to more than 330 miles on a full charge,” says Ron at Benton REA. “The average American’s daily round-trip commute is less than 30 miles. Installing a Level 2 charger allows you to fully charge your vehicle overnight.”
Electric co-ops are also helping install charging stations around the country.
Thanks to grants from the Nevada governor’s office, the Lincoln County and Alamo power districts recently installed public charging stations in their communities.
“In recent years, Nevada has pushed to install electric vehicle charging infrastructure,” says David Luttrell, general manager at Lincoln County Power District No. 1 in Panaca, Nevada. “Gov. Steve Sisolak and former Gov. Brian Sandoval have pushed to electrify our highways to prepare for the expected increase in electric vehicles.”
Sisolak held a ribbon-cutting event February 6 at a new charging station in Mesquite, Nevada, declaring I-15—with additional public charging stations in Jean, Las Vegas and Moapa—Nevada’s and the Intermountain West’s first federally designated interstate highway electric vehicle corridor.
The Department of Energy reports that in the past two years, the number of EV charging stations in the U.S. has increased from 16,000 to 22,000.
Some of the strongest growth of electric transportation is projected to come in specialized uses. Bloomberg expects that by 2040, 81% of municipal bus sales will be electric.
Ridesharing services such as Lyft and Uber are another growth market. More than a billion people use ridesharing services. The stop-and-go nature of rideshare driving could make the greater efficiency of EVs attractive to those drivers.
Even in more conventional markets, interest in EVs is expected to grow. Electric utilities across the country are working to promote the energy-saving technology in their communities.
“If you have multiple vehicles and use one mainly to drive around Lincoln County, an EV will save you money,” David says. “At the power district, we have a 2007 Expedition with more than 200,000 miles that we use to read meters, drive to local meetings and run errands around town. We plan to replace it this summer with a 2020 Nissan Leaf Plus, which will save our ratepayers money.”
As the Bloomberg study concludes, “We see a real possibility that global sales of conventional passenger cars have already passed their peak.