In this article, the third in a series, I review the present and projected trends in the use of all-electric passenger vehicles (EVs) and consider some of the key factors that will affect the future.
In 2009, several governments (including Canada) formed a multilateral policy forum called the Electric Vehicle Initiative (EVI) to accelerate the deployment of EVs worldwide. The goal of this group was the global deployment of 20 million EVs by 2020. The Paris Declaration on Electro-Mobility and Climate Change, made at the time of the COP21 Agreement in Paris in 2015, set targets of more than 400 million electric two-wheelers and more than 100 million EVs by 2030. The media frequently publishes claims that the costs of EVs are declining and that the world will soon rely almost entirely on EVs for personal transportation.
There is no doubt that, aided by at least $50 billion in government subsidies, sales of EVs have risen sharply since 2010. At the end of 2020, the global stock of EVs is about 10.5 million, only halfway to the EVI goal. Sales of all personal vehicles have also grown, and by 2019 totaled 64.3 million per year, with a total vehicle stock of over 1.3 billion. EVs thus constitute 0.77% of the global vehicle fleet, a long way from the vision set by proponents.
Governments in Europe, North America and China have been the largest subsidizers of EVs, but they are increasingly turning from funding to regulatory approaches. More than 14 countries and 20 cities have proposed banning the sale of passenger vehicles powered by fossil fuels at some point in the future. Canada has set a series of targets. Ten per cent of all light-duty car sales must be electric by 2025, 30% by 2030 and 100% by 2040. In my view, that this is an unneeded and excessive restriction of personal freedom. It will also have unintended consequences, including encouraging car owners to hold on to their-gasoline-powered vehicles much longer (the “Cuban solution”).
EV sales of about 40,000 units represented 2.7% of all light duty vehicle sales in Canada in 2019. There are 168,000 EVs on Canadian roads now, less than 1% of the 23 million light duty vehicles registered. Absent new and more costly measures, the government’s goals of 825,000 EVs registered in 2025 and 2.7 million in 2030 seem very unlikely to be met.
The conclusion of this three-part series is that contrary to media messaging, there are important physical and economic constraints on the growth of global EV use. The most important of these are the limitations on the capacity of current electrical generation and transmissions systems to meet the increased load that would be involved in powering a major increase in the EV fleet; the cost of installing the home recharging systems; the geological, economic and social limits on global capacity to supply the minerals needed for the batteries; ongoing consumer concerns about EV range, reliability in cold weather, refueling times, and cost; and the time required to make the transition. At the 2019 EV sales rate of 40,000 in Canada, it would take 588 years to replace the 2019 Canadian light duty vehicle stock of 23.5 million.
About the Author
ROBERT LYMAN is an economist with 27 years’ experience as an analyst, policy advisor and manager in the Canadian federal government, primarily in the areas of energy, transportation, and environmental policy. He was also a diplomat for 10 years. Subsequently he has worked as a private consultant conducting policy research and analysis on energy and transportation issues as a principal for Entrans Policy Research Group. He is a frequent contributor of articles and reports for Friends of Science, a Calgary-based independent organization concerned about climate change-related issues. He resides in Ottawa, Canada. Full bio.