In a previous article, we introduced the new executive order from California Governor Gavin Newsom on September 23, 2020, detailing the 2035 deadline for ceasing production and sale of all new gasoline-powered cars (including hybrids). The move is designed to dramatically cut the state’s greenhouse gas emissions, and usher in a new age of zero-emission-vehicle dominance across California.
In light of this piece, we are today looking at the wider picture of the future for electric cars in the US and the wider world. Scroll down to read about the following topics:
- Current challenges facing the EV market
- What is the US government doing to promote change?
- How are automakers responding?
- Will America take the global lead?
Current Challenges Facing the EV Market
In light of Governor Newsom’s order, part of a growing global trend to curb gasoline-powered car production, the biggest challenge lies in electric vehicle infrastructure. It’s not as complex as you think for car companies to make the switch to electric, but we are taking for granted how entrenched and established our current fueling network is. It’s not just a question of replacing fuel pumps with charging stations, it has to be carefully organized as the population transitions to electric over time.
According to information from AP in August 2020, there are 26,000 public charging stations in the US. This is a drop in the ocean compared to what will be needed if other states start to follow Newsom’s lead. While EVs only occupy 1.3 percent of the market, this level is acceptable, but as it quickly rises to the majority share — in California first, but the wider country sooner or later — that network needs expanding. This infrastructure will need to come with speed as well as volume. Right now, the public can access just 3,884 fast-charging stations, each capable of fully charging an EV within an hour.
Besides infrastructure, technology is the other big force holding EVs back. The longest range of any available EV is currently the 2020 Tesla Model S Long Range model, which can travel up to 373 miles on a single charge. The Rivian R1T pickup truck, going on sale in late 2020 should best that with a 400-mile range, but Tesla hope to regain the crown themselves with their upcoming Roadster which can reportedly travel 620 miles. None of these long-range machines are exactly budget-friendly, though.
Apart from range, battery production is also prohibitively expensive, which is keeping EV sticker prices high and putting people off purchasing. That may change in the coming years, however, as Tesla CEO Elon Musk recently unveiled plans for new batteries that are not only more efficient, but cost around a third less than those being used now.
What is the US Government Doing to Promote Change?
NPR reported back in March that the federal government is taking a back seat — pun definitely intended — in promoting EVs while individual states step in instead. California is the first state to take major action like that described in our previous article, but New York City is also trying to follow suit. They have also announced this year a total ban on all non-electric vehicles owned or operated by the city before 2040.
Other state governments are leaping into action with bold plans to help strap booster rockets to the development of EVs in the US. New Jersey is aiming for 330,000 EVs on the roads by 2025 in their state, with an 85% market share in the state by 2040.
Help from government will be challenging since there is likely to be fierce opposition to any scheme designed to reduce the power of fossil fuels in favor or electric engines.
How are Automakers Responding?
Automakers, on the other hand, seem to be embracing the change with some gusto. There are at least 40 different electric vehicle models already on the market in the US, with more coming every year. As we mentioned in the previous piece, even Hummer is returning to US roads with an all-electric version being unveiled in October 2020 and production starting in 2021.
Another curious phenomenon, and arguably a very positive economic impact of the transition to electric is the emergency of new automotive startups. Cities like Plymouth, Michigan and Lordstown, Ohio are receiving the breath of new life thanks to ambitious startups like Rivian and Lordstown Motors respectively. After years of domination by the same blue-chip brands, it’s always great to see emerging companies take up the challenge and widen our consumer selection.
Will America Take the Global Lead?
Europe seems to be winning the pledge game, planning for some $70 billion of investment in new EVs and batteries for corporate, taxi and car-sharing fleets. Indeed, German and Chinese car companies are dominating the total global investment, accounting for some $200 billion of the total $350 billion. US companies, on the other hand, have only contributed around $34 billion. Of that $350 billion investment, roughly 10 percent of it will be targeted at the US, whereas 40 percent will head to China.
In truth, it’s hard to keep track of exactly how much is being spent by whom and precisely on what. The development of EV will depend on investments in battery production, charging infrastructure, changes to manufacturing facilities, new rules and regulations on production and operation of electric vehicles, and that’s before we get to the differences in private cars and fleets and state-owned vehicles and fleets.
The prevailing trend, however, does seem to be moving in favor of the green EV revolution. When you consider that almost every blue-chip brand now has an EV model either on the market or coming in 2021, it’s obvious that they are taking this new demand and this new potential regulatory environment very seriously indeed.