No one can deny that something big is happening to the automotive industry. Companies like Nissan, Ford, Honda, and Zipcar are all entering the electric automotive race to offer sustainable cars that meet consumer demands, government regulations, and stand up to the gas-powered vehicle.
Take a look at Tesla, which has a permanent spotlight on its all-electric cars. From its flagship Model S luxury car, to locking in ~400,000 pre-orders within weeks of unveiling its much more affordable Model 3 for the masses, Tesla is taking on automotive giants that have been around for decades. According to Bloomberg Finance, Tesla’s market cap just surpassed General Motors by $2 billion.
The underlying message surrounding this race is crucial: the transition toward sustainable transportation is happening, and it is happening now. Although electric vehicles (EVs) made up roughly 1% of new car sales, the industry is experiencing rapid growth in both the United States and abroad. In the last 6 years, we have witnessed EV sales rise from nothing in 2010 to over 700,000 in 2016.
Most recent estimates show that, by 2019, the global market for EVs will grow to over $227 billion dollars. By 2022, it is estimated that they will cost the same as their internal-combustion counterparts up front (and be cheaper operationally). That’s the point of liftoff for sales and only the beginning. It is estimated that electric vehicles will account for 35% of all new vehicle sales by 2040, expressed in the chart below.
To better understand where the sudden acceleration in all-electric vehicles came from, let’s take a look at the surge in car demand. For every 1,000 people in the United States, there are 1,000 cars. Even with this 1:1 ratio, the USA’s 239.8 million units continue to be the largest vehicle population in the world.
With this, the EPA says that, “transportation remains the largest single source of air pollution in the United States.” Moving abroad, the automotive market started seeing rapid car demand in 2010. China’s vehicle registrations jumped by 27.5% and India’s by 8.9%. Looking at the growth potential in these developing countries and comparing them to the US, it has reached a point where it just isn’t feasible to work outside of global emission standards to meet this demand.
The rest of the world seems to be in agreement. Ten of the largest countries are establishing policies that promote better fuel economy and greenhouse gas emission standards for passenger vehicles, including Japan, the European Union, the United States, Canada, China, South Korea, Mexico, Brazil, India, and Germany.
So, great, the move toward all-electric vehicles is the way to a cleaner future.
Not so fast … according to Seeking Alpha. Because the majority of China’s electricity is still being produced from coal, it still takes 75 pounds of coal to charge a Model S one time. So, to meet this car demand in the US and countries worldwide in a way that is sustainable, carmakers have started looking for solutions that better reduce carbon emissions. Renewable energy must grow alongside electric vehicles, and coal use must not grow as well — it needs to be cut quickly.
Additionally, there’s still a challenge with range — even current EV drivers want more range than they have settled for, and mainstream buyers certainly want more driving security. One interesting solution has been to tag a range extender onto battery-electric vehicles, and sometimes using hydrogen fuel cells. CleanTechnica just announced UPS is trialling such tech with some of its delivery vehicles, in partnership with the US Department of Energy, the Center for Transportation and the Environment, and others.
Ronn Motor Group is joining the range-extended EV race as well — with plans to transform its flagship vehicle, the Scorpion, into an all-electric Supercar with a hydrogen fuel cell range extender that will add 300 miles to the distance it can travel, providing a total estimated range of 600 miles. With state-of-the-art technology and design, the Phoenix will be available as a roadster and coupe with a sister sedan expected as a future design.
The race toward sustainable transport has only just started gaining traction, but one thing is for sure, the cars of the future won’t be fueled by gasoline, and early movers with innovative solutions are making a large imprint on the automotive industry.
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