Futurism

90 Percent of Vehicles in the U.S. Could Be Electric by the Early 2040s

In Brief


A new study projects that electric vehicles might become more popular than gas- and diesel-powered cars quicker than expected. Researchers compared the situation to the transition away from horses and buggies in the early 20th century.

Horses for Courses

A new study by researchers from the International Monetary Fund and Georgetown University suggests that electric vehicles might be more popular that their gas- and diesel-powered equivalents sooner rather than later. Their findings suggest that by 2040, it’s possible that 90 percent of passenger vehicles in the US, Canada, Europe, and similarly wealthy nations could be electric.

The study compared the seemingly imminent transition to electric vehicles to the shift from horses and buggies to cars in the early 20th century. Despite driving being quite unlike steering a buggy — and the fact that buying a car was of equivalent expense to the average person as buying a $137,000 auto would have been in 2015 — it only took ten or fifteen years for horses and buggies to be replaced as the primary mode of transport.

All Electric Cars: What’s My Range? [INFOGRAPHIC]
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The researchers investigated two scenarios; one based on how quickly the public adopted Henry Ford’s Model T cars, and the other based on the pace at which they abandoned the horse and buggy. A significant number of people started using public transport at this time, so it wasn’t a case of every horse and buggy that was put out of commission being replaced by a Model T.

Based on the latter metric — referred to as the slow-adoption scenario — electric vehicles will make up 5 percent of all vehicles in the US by the end of the 2020s, a figure that will rise to 36 percent by the early 2040s. If the fast-adoption scenario comes to pass, 30 percent of vehicles will be electric by the late 2020s, and a staggering 93 percent will be by the early 2040s.

Shifting Gears

Other studies have predicted a slightly slower rate of adoption. For instance, Bloomberg New Energy Finance projects that only 54 percent of new car sales in 2040 will be electric. However, the consensus seems to be that gas- and diesel-powered cars are on their way out, even if it’s difficult to determine how long the changeover will take.

The cost of electric vehicles will be a huge factor in how quickly things progress. Tesla’s Model 3 could be a gamechanger, with its price tag of $35,000 — assuming that the company can fulfill the massive demand.

Other automakers are also getting in on the action. Volkswagen recently stated its intention to offer electric versions of its entire fleet by 2030, and high-end manufacturers like Porsche are prepping their own electric vehicles.

The auto industry is preparing for major upheaval, but government bodies are doing everything in their power to ensure these changes come to pass quickly. The UK will ban new gas- and diesel-powered cars in 2040, and China is working on a timetable for similar legislation.

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