We are in the middle of the biggest revolution in motoring since Henry Ford’s first production line started turning back in 1913.Justin Rowlatt – Why electric cars will take over sooner than you think
That quote from a recent article brings to mind a fundamental truth: there are divergent opinions on just about any emerging future scenario. Author Justin Rowlatt states that we have past the tipping point; that milestone where electric vehicle sales begin to overwhelm traditional car sales. As the big car makers position themselves to sell only electric vehicles at some point this decade, one must wonder what factors led to those decisions. One of those factors comes from government, as they ban the sales of traditional vehicles on some predetermined timeline. The author however points to the speed of the technological revolution the world is experiencing. I liken this period to the early days of the second industrial revolution. A period of great invention which is likely surpassed by the period we have entered – with the big difference being the speed of realization.
The author provides examples of great innovation like the Internet and the S-Curves that drove its explosive growth. The electric vehicle – whose roots date back to 1830 is riding a similar S-Curve. Improvements in technology have allayed the anxiety associated with range, while the comfort and power of vehicles today have owners vowing never to turn back. As is the case with S-Curves, the rapid reduction in price likely enables exponential growth through the upward slope of the curve. When electric vehicles become cheaper to buy then equivalent internal combustion models, then we are likely to accelerate through the tipping point.
Companies that run big fleets of cars like Uber and Lyft are leading the switchover, because the savings are greatest for cars with high mileage.Justin Rowlatt – Why electric cars will take over sooner than you think
Mr. Rowlatt sees the electric vehicle market growing fast, providing numbers to support his statement. Global sales of electric cars raced forward in 2020, rising by 43% to a total of 3.2 million, despite overall car sales slumping by a fifth during the coronavirus pandemic. Although that is just 5% of total car sales, it is projected to reach 20% of all new cars sold globally by 2025, according to investment bank UBS, leaping to 40% by 2030, and 100% by 2040.
However, we need to go back to the fact that like everything else, there are divergent opinions. The infrastructure required to charge batteries needs to evolve on a timeline that supports these growth projections. The resources required to manufacture the cars (especially the batteries) could be scarce, while demands for electricity may exacerbate an already challenged climate change situation. Predictions in this period of great invention are wrought with uncertainty as a number of forces converge to shape the path forward. Advances in materials science and renewable energy (among others) are just as important as the electric vehicle technology itself. Then we must consider the human side of the story. How many of us know people that grew up working on cars and refuse to part with their internal combustion engine? Economics may change that sentiment, but the point is, each of these scenarios have many factors in their path – how they converge dictates how the scenario unfolds.