FGE: Only 10% Of Cars To Be EVs By 2040

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The majority of the world’s cars will remain gas/petrol-powered for at least the next two decades, according to a new analysis from Facts Global Energy.

To be more specific, that work predicts that only around 10% of cars on the road in 2040 will be electric, accompanied by a further 20% that are hybrids. Those figures relate to the prediction that there will be 1.8 billion cars on the road by 2040.

The work makes the claim that this will drive oil demand (presumably, intermittently, though I didn’t see words to suggest this) at least until 2040.

It’s hard to tell whether the work should be taken in good faith or not (whether you agree with it or not) owing to some of the figures used relating to battery production costs. I’ll let you decide, and just post some excerpts of the FT article here:

“This might sound contentious given the hype around Tesla, the flag-bearer of electric vehicle producers, and many analysts forecasting a structural decline in oil consumption. But most research simplifies the matter, suggesting that falling battery prices are tightly correlated with electric car sales. The reality is more complex.

“The shift towards electric has to be supported by significant government incentives. Norway, for example, owes its success to the hundreds of millions of dollars in tax revenues diverted towards subsidies making it almost free to drive an electric car. Today it is normal for a Norwegian to buy an electric car in addition to a petrol vehicle for daily use to save money. Without such a subsidy, sales would fall, as demonstrated in Denmark last year. When the incentive was dropped in January 2016, electric car sales plunged 80% from the previous year.

“Battery technology is improving but not as fast as necessary. Even at the $150/kWh — considered widely as the level to trigger mass production — a battery pack for an electric car with a comparable range to that of a petrol-powered car would cost tens of thousands of dollars.

“Cost aside, the improvement in battery effectiveness as measured by energy density is also slow. It is not possible to quickly increase the amount of distance travelled unless you add more batteries to a car, which means more weight and, in turn, a reduction in how far you can go.”

These are some strange claims to make. Regarding range, considering that as long as range is in the ~300 mile per full charge region, there are unlikely to be very many people whose needs aren’t being met. Something that I rarely see mentioned when these sorts of arguments are made is that charging at home invalidates the need for ranges as high as those of some gas/petrol cars. While those without access to home charging and those who travel long distances regularly for work (and can’t afford a Tesla and access to the fast-growing Supercharger network) may not have their needs met by a 200–300 mile EV, nearly everyone else would.

Regarding Norway, the country doesn’t make an electric car essentially free — it just removes high taxes that have been put on gas/diesel cars. You still have to buy the cars, and there aren’t tax credits/rebates. Also, while Denmark’s electric car sales did crash after a swift change in incentives, those sales weren’t anywhere close to where Norway’s sales are today.

There was a good point made about the current popularity of SUVs and light-trucks, though:

“The love affair with the sport utility vehicles, partly driven by low oil prices, remains a problem. Last year, Ford sold 6 F-series light trucks in the US for every plug-in vehicle, providing solid petrol demand for the years to come. Even in China, one in every 3 cars sold is an SUV. With relatively low oil prices for at least the next decade [Author’s note: I question this prediction.], in FGE’s view, this trend will continue.”

That does seem to remain a stumbling block in the years immediately ahead, but I’m skeptical that there won’t be long-range electric SUVs and light trucks available within a decade or so at decent prices.

That coverage then segued into a strange part about production capacity, though, with the statement being made that:

“Production capacity is another obstacle. Despite impressive annual growth rates, total electric car production was less than 500,000 in 2016, compared with global light vehicle production capacity of more than 70 million. Tesla put just 80,000 cars on the road in 2016. Mass electrification of global road transport will not be possible without large-scale involvement from the main car manufacturers.”

I guess that Tesla isn’t gearing up to hit 500,000 units a year within the near future? Or is just that the writer is skeptical of the company’s plans? Who knows — they don’t say.

I’m largely in agreement with the part that followed, though:

“The fate of petrol demand — and oil for that matter — will not be set in the west but in Asia, which is only at the start of mass motorisation.

“Asia accounts for approximately one-third of the global light vehicle fleet of 1.1 billion. FGE expects growth in the region over the next 25 years of more than 500 million units, more than the growth in rest of the world combined. By 2040, almost every other car in the world will be driven in Asia.”

That said, considering the substantial traffic and air pollution problems in many of the large cities of Asia already, how could growth as substantial as that claimed above actually occur? There are clear stumbling blocks there, and governments in the region are going to be facing increasing public backlash until air pollution problems are brought under control.

Remember, ~70,000 taxis in Beijing are supposed to be electrified soon, and China electric car sales crushed US & European electric car sales in 2016 thanks in part to strong government incentives for them.


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James Ayre

James Ayre's background is predominantly in geopolitics and history, but he has an obsessive interest in pretty much everything. After an early life spent in the Imperial Free City of Dortmund, James followed the river Ruhr to Cofbuokheim, where he attended the University of Astnide. And where he also briefly considered entering the coal mining business. He currently writes for a living, on a broad variety of subjects, ranging from science, to politics, to military history, to renewable energy.

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