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The world is on the brink of an electric car revolution

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Climate Central

The internal combustion engine had a good run. It has helped propel cars — and thus humanity — forward for more than 100 years. But a sea change is afoot that is forecast to kick gas-powered vehicles to the curb, replacing them with cars that run on batteries.

A flurry of news this week underscores just how rapidly that change could happen.

Robots at the Tesla factory in Fremont, Calif. put together electric cars

Robots at the Tesla factory in Fremont, Calif. put together electric cars

A quick recap: On Monday, Tesla announced that the Model 3, its mass-market electric car, would start rolling off production lines this week with the first handful delivered to customers later this month. Then on Wednesday, Volvo announced that every car it produces will have a battery in it by 2019, putting it at the forefront of major car manufacturers.

Then came France’s announcement on Thursday that it would ban the sale of gas-powered cars by 2040.

All this news dropped just in time for Bloomberg New Energy Finance’s latest electric car report, which lays out why electric cars are the way of the future and when they’re projected to take over the market.

The authors said although electric vehicles are currently a tiny fraction of the car market, that market could reach an inflection point sometime between 2025-2030. After that, electric car sales are slated to increase rapidly.

Driven by the falling cost of batteries and the growing number of automakers producing a wider variety of electric cars, Bloomberg NEF expects that electric cars will account for 54 percent of all car sales globally by 2040.

That’s a huge uptick from its forecast last year of electric vehicles accounting for 35 percent of all sales. The shift to electric vehicles will disrupt the fossil fuel industry.

The 530 million total electric cars forecast to be on the road by 2040 will require 8 million fewer barrels of oil a day to run.

A new forecast for electric cars shows explosive growth in new sales, particularly in China

A new forecast for electric cars shows explosive growth in new sales, particularly in China

One of the big pitches for electric cars is their positive benefit for the climate because they reduce the use of oil. But they will require a lot more power from the electric grid. Energy use from electric vehicles is expected to rise 300 times above current demand, putting more strain on power generation.

How that energy is produced will go a long ways toward determining how climate-friendly electric cars actually are.

A recent Climate Central analysis looked at all 50 states and found that the energy mix was clean enough in 37 of them to ensure electric cars are more climate friendly than their most fuel-efficient combustion engine counterparts.

That’s a sharp uptick from a 2013 analysis, which found that there were just 13 states where electric cars were cleaner than gas-powered ones, and it’s driven in large part by a precipitous drop in coal use.

While the U.S. is projected to be one of the biggest drivers of the electric vehicle revolution, China and the European Union will also be major players. By 2025, Bloomberg NEF’s projections show that China will be the biggest buyer of electric vehicles in the world, a trend that continues through 2040.

That means how China’s energy mix develops will be one of the most important factors to determining how climate friendly all the new electric vehicles on the road will be.

Source: Climate Central. Reproduced with permission.  

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  • trackdaze

    Bill gates is attributed with saying “We overestimate the rate of change in 2 years and underestimate change in 10years”

    This year we will see 1million+ plug in evs sold. I’m fairly certain in 10 years time we will be lucky to see 1million petrol powered cars produced out of the 80million that will plug in*

    *I could be underestimating.

  • Peter F

    China is already the biggest buyer of electric cars

    • Alastair Leith

      Especially the 3 wheeled variety.

  • Chris Andersen

    Electric motors are about five time more efficient than internal combustion engines. Even coal sourced electricity is going to eat petrol and diesel alive in emission terms.

  • Hugh McBride

    well said trackdaze , saw a lecture by Tony Seba about a year and a half ago and the penny dropped and thought yep thats gonna happen. According to Seba himself his projections might not have been aggressive enough

  • Robin_Harrison

    If Tony Seba’s predictions are anything to go by, and so far they’ve been spot on, EVs will reach price and convenience parity with ICEVs by 2025. Given the massive difference in running and maintenance costs nobody will want to buy new ICEVs by then and, by 2040, they will be a rare oddity for enthusiasts.

  • Just_Chris

    “Will require at lot more power from the grid….”

    Er? No, they just won’t, if we swapped 50% of Australian petrol miles with electric miles electricity demand would jump a whopping 7%. So how many years will that transition take? 10? a 7% rise in electricity use over a decade is a rounding error.

    • Chris Sanderson

      You might want to read Mark Butlers new book ‘Climate Wars. We bought our panels in 2011. Batteries this year. EV in about 2-3 years they should start to look reasonably priced. From then on, the sun to fuel them is free.

  • Brunel

    What about oil burning ships and 2 stroke lawn mowers?

    Quite insane to ban Lamborghinis – hardly anyone can afford one anyway.

    • Alastair Leith

      What makes you think by 2040 Lamborghinis wont have EV drive chain?

      • Brunel

        Coldplay albums can be had on MP3 as well as vinyl.

        Most get the MP3 and the purists get the vinyl record.

        Lambo can do the same.

        If private jets remain legal in 2041, then so should 6.5 litre naturally aspirated Lamborghini engines.

        Unfair and inconsistent to not go after oil burning ships and jet fuel.

        • Alex Hromas

          The self conceited twits get vinyls believing that the distortion inherent in this analogue system gives better sound than digital
          Tesla’s current models already outperform Lamborghinis at speed attainable on public roads. Petrol heads will lament the lack of brm-brm but they will get over it

    • Alex Hromas

      You can already buy a battery powered mower, nice no gas to buy, no troublesome starting. Replacing large commercial vessels with engine ratings of 40 to 70 MW with electric drives is still a long way off but then they make up about 30% of all transport emissions.; So converting our road transport to electric especially if this power is generated by renewables would be a great step forward. Electrifying our rail transport is even easier.

  • MaxG

    France is a bit late and laggard in banning these… probably to give their industry time to change — but at this pace, they will become redundant.