Two new analyses show electric vehicles approaching a “tipping point” for mass adoption, with global sales rising 43% last year, battery costs plunging, and the number of models available in the United States expected to triple over the next three years.
While government subsidies in some countries have brought down the purchase price of a vehicle type that is less expensive to own and operate (and more fun to drive) than internal combustion, The Guardian looks ahead to a day when EVs will be cost-competitive without any financial boost.
“The latest analyses forecast that to happen sometime between 2023 and 2025,” the paper says. But “the tipping point has already been passed in Norway, where tax breaks mean electric cars are cheaper. The market share of battery-powered cars soared to 54% in 2020 in the Nordic country, compared with less than 5% in most European nations.”
University of Exeter geographer Tim Lenton said EVs hit 48% of market share in Norway in 2019, when they were 0.3% less expensive than conventional cars. In the UK, where they were 1.3% more costly, their share of sales languished at 1.6%. “We were really struck by how non-linear the effect seems to be,” he told The Guardian.
“There’s been a tipping point in one country, Norway, and that’s thanks to some clever and progressive tax incentives,” he added. “Then consumers voted with their wallets.”
Which means EVs that are cheaper without subsidies are “definitely an inflection point,” said James Frith, head of energy storage at BloombergNEF. After that, “we really see the adoption of electric vehicles taking off and real market penetration.”
BloombergNEF expects lower battery costs to push EVs below the cost of petrol and diesel cars in 2023, The Guardian says, while Lenton foresees the crossover occurring in 2024 or 2025.
Until then, “the single biggest barrier to a driver choosing an electric car has to be cost,” said Rod Dennis, senior press officer with the UK’s Royal Automobile Club. Last Thursday, the RAC published a poll of 3,000 drivers in which 78% said EVs are too expensive—and only 9% said their next car would be electric.
But perhaps not for long, with BNEF forecasting average battery prices of about $60 per kilowatt-hour by the end of the decade, down from $1,200 in 2010. “It is an incredibly exciting time,” Frith said. “We see so much innovation coming from all areas, whether industry or research, and so much money being poured in by governments and everyone, that it seems like there will be a lot of changes to come and it’ll just get more exciting.”
Smart Cities Dive cites lower battery costs as the main factor driving the expected explosion in the number of EV models on the U.S., from 40 to 127 over three years. The U.S. Department of Energy is targeting a price of $80/kWh for vehicle battery packs by 2030, the publication states.
At the same time, it takes almost two decades for the U.S. vehicle fleet to change over, so this is not like an iPhone adoption,” said Dan Bowermaster, senior program manager for electric transportation at the Electric Power Research Institute, during a webinar last month.