The global electric vehicle market is currently under development. Nele Rietmann, Beatrice Hügler and Theo Lieven take a look into the future of electric vehicles in their new article, soon to be published in the Journal of Cleaner Production. Based on existing sales figures from 2010 to 2018, the authors forecast that electric mobility will account for approximately 50% of all passenger cars in 26 countries on five continents by 2035. Nevertheless, COemissions are still expected to increase. This is due to the unfavourable energy mix in power generation, especially in countries with strong car growth such as China. A significant reduction in CO2 emissions from electric mobility can only be achieved by reducing COproduction in power generation. By Beatrice Hügler

Forecasting the future of electric mobility
The development of the market for electric vehicles (EVs) has gained increasing attention by policymakers and consumers over the past years, especially due to their potential to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Yet, it is still unclear how exactly this trend will evolve in the future (Ellingsen, Singh & Strømman, 2016). Therefore, the article “Forecasting the Trajectory of Electric Vehicle Sales and the Consequences for Worldwide COEmissions” written by Nele Rietmann, Beatrice Hügler and Theo Lieven aims to provide a long-term forecast of the EV inventory in 26 countries across five continents and examines its implications on environmental sustainability, particularly CO2. The article has been accepted for publication by the Journal of Cleaner Production, a leading journal for sustainability.

Predictions based on data from 26 countries 
In this study, a long-term forecast analysis was conducted based on a logistic growth model. A logistic growth model forecasts the diffusion of innovations or, in this case, sales. To develop this growth model, data was collected for 26 countries. The countries were selected as they are among the OECD or BRICS countries representing five continents overall. Hong Kong and Taiwan were additionally included due to their strong growth in the gross domestic product over the past decades. For all countries, data of total car inventory, EV inventory, EV market share, annual EV sales, and EV sales growth from 2010 to 2018 was used for the prediction of future sales data for 2019-2035. China served as an example to demonstrate the prediction procedure. The country was selected as it currently represents the largest car market worldwide.

What are crucial steps to lay the ground for an effective EV future?
Not all examined countries are equal and thus the authors have clustered the 26 countries into patterns, based on their speed of EV penetration and their change in COemissions. Yet, there are some overarching implications which apply to respective countries. These implications are worthwhile for stakeholders to consider:

1. Electricity mix – make it green.
The more a country’s electricity mix stems from “green” energy, i.e. from renewable energy sources, the lower the overall’s mix emission levels. Thus, for countries it is not only relevant to increase the share of EVs on the road. Further, countries need to improve their electricity mix to reduce overall emissions in the car sector. Thus, for the rising EV inventory to be sustainable, countries must invest in large-scale renewable energy sources. Increasing the share of renewable energy sources does not only reduce emissions for the car sector. Additionally, all other sectors would reduce their environmental footprint, too, if electricity becomes greener.

2. Electricity supply – do it now.
Regardless of the emission level of a country’s electricity mix, overall energy demand will increase with the number of EVs. According to the authors, this corresponds to an average increase of 7% in electricity demand per country. While this will not be a challenge for some countries due to already existing oversupply, it will present some difficulties for other countries. These countries should tackle this issue as soon as possible. As the market share of EVs will grow steadily, countries which are not prepared in terms of electricity will fall back. This fallback can be avoided by recognising the urgency and investing in electricity sources today. The increased demand for electricity, in turn, highlights the importance of the above-mentioned effects in Electricity mix – make it green, indicating an interdependence of the two points.

 3. New forces – watch the battery production sector carefully.
While some years ago, batteries were “nice-to-haves” for on-the-go electricity, they are “must-haves” today when it comes to EVs. At the same time, battery production seems to be a major bottleneck in the EV development. Besides the provision of sufficient production capacity in more giga–factories, availability of raw materials may become a crucial issue. Thus, battery production is becoming a new industrial sector. Assuming that the cost for 1 kWh declines from today’s US$ 200 to about US$ 100 in 2030 this would result in a total yearly revenue of US$ 294 billion for this new industry in the 26 countries alone. Companies active in the battery production industry need to be aware of this sector’s increasing importance. Moreover, stakeholders should not underestimate the potential dependence of EVs on battery production and rare minerals and the associated risks.

Overall, as results of the study’s forecasts show, EV sales will increase significantly in the coming years. By 2035, the EV market share is expected to reach 42.5% worldwide. At the same time, this study shows that COemissions from passenger car fleets across 26 countries will still increase until 2035. Therefore, governments should consider this study’s findings to plan investments and policies which both support EV growth as well as the development of more renewable energy mixes.

Nele Rietmann:
Beatrice Hü
Theo Lieven:

Forecasting the Trajectory of Electric Vehicle Sales and the Consequences for Worldwide CO2Emissions
in: Journal of Cleaner Production, in Press
(Nele Rietmann, Beatrice Hügler & Theo Lieven)

The Size and Range Effect: Life-Cycle Greenhouse Gas Emissions of Electric Vehicles.
in: Environmental Research Letters 11, 1-7.
(Linda Ager-Wick Ellingsen, Bhawna Singh & Anders Hammer Strømman)

Image: Photo by Jannis Lucas on Unsplash