EV sales have increased by roughly 41 percent annually since 2015 but exponential growth will rely on policy boost

Cecilia Keating 26 May 2021 • Business Green. Also see: Give carmakers EV sales targets to accelerate uptake, government urged

But exponential growth of EVs will rely on a policy boost, report claims

Current rates of deployment of electric vehicles (EVs) are consistent with ‘S curve’ shaped adoption dynamics that suggest the automotive sector could ultimately reach benchmarks consistent with global climate goals if policymakers take action to sustain recent growth trends.

A Polestar EV is assembled in Chengdu, China | Credit: PolestarImage: 

A Polestar EV is assembled in Chengdu, China | Credit: Polestar

That is the encouraging conclusion of research published this morning by University College London’s Institute for Sustainable Resources, which notes that EV sales have increased by roughly 41 per cent annually since 2015. It predicts that all car sales could be electric by 2040, if growth continues along the ‘S curve’ deployment trend seen by disruptive innovations in the past, such as the rapid shift from landlines to mobile phones.

However, the study, which was commissioned by the We Mean Business coalition, also notes that policy makers must “push harder” if they want to ensure the automotive sector’s transition is aligned with global climate goals. Limiting global temperature rise to 1.5C is dependent on the phase out of new fossil fuel vehicle sales globally by 2035, it notes, and as such leaders should double down on investments in EV infrastructure, commit to public procurement of EVs and incentivise private companies to follow suit, and take action that reduces high up-front costs of EVs for buyers.

“The projections show that recent EV growth rates are consistent with S curve shaped uptake dynamics, that would reach future benchmarks consistent with the goals of the Paris Agreement,” said Michael Grubb, professor of energy and climate change at University College London. “If the right policies sustain the current rates of S-curve growth, we will hit benchmarks for more than half of new sales globally to be electric by 2030 – and soon after that, all new passenger vehicles sold could be zero emissions.”  

Sophie Punte, managing director policy at the We Mean Business coalition impressed the need for governments to act now to put the carbon-intensive automotive sector on track to deliver on global climate goals.

“Businesses and consumers are embracing EVs,” she said. “Just like cars replaced horses a century ago, EVs will replace petrol and diesel cars. Governments now have the chance to put the right policies and infrastructure in place so that EVs fully contribute to halving emissions by 2030.”

The analysis follows a series of recent reports, including an analysis from the Public Accounts Committee of MPs, which have warned that without significant and sustained investment in EV charging infrastructure and continued reductions in the upfront cost of EVs, the recent surge in demand for zero emission models could stall.

Governments and automakers around the world have responded with multibillion dollar investment programmes in new EV models and charging networks, as well as target dates for ending the sale of internal combustion engine cars and vans from 2030 onwards.

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