Though Battery Electric Vehicles (BEV) currently have a limited market share, we expect this to drastically change in the relatively near future. By how much, and by when, we don’t yet know. BEVs are still a niche product relative to standard Internal Combustion Engine (ICE) cars. A partial cause is because there are still several disadvantages of choosing a BEV over a gasoline engine. First, consumers need access to state-of-the-art storage as well as fast and convenient charging infrastructures which are not always available. Further, full batteries only allow a BEV to go so far. According to an MIT study, BEVs can travel only up to 200 kilometers on a full battery – a figure that must increase if BEVs are to truly compete with ICE cars. Finally, the total cost of owning a BEV is still higher than that of an ICE. Until the cost of a BEV becomes more competitive, ICEs will still dominate the market.
A solution to these challenges that could make BEVs more wide spread can be found in improving battery quality and decreasing battery costs; however, both are easier said than done since the battery industry has a separate set of challenges. The high demand for lithium-ion batteries is not helping to keep costs down, and we only expect demand to increase, especially after China’s recent plan to require manufacturers, who make or import more than 30K vehicles each year, to increase their new-energy scores starting in 2019. In other words, manufacturers will be forced to produce cleaner vehicles, or BEVs, or encounter fines and fees. With regard to quality, future batteries should be able to meet the most demanding daily energy requirements, which are on average the commuting patterns of the scattered urban populations. The future batteries will meet commuters’ expectations and for that they should last at least the necessary amount of km to cover the most demanding commuting distances.
The path to increased market share has definite obstacles and setbacks, but by 2035, we expect that 100% of new cars built in Europe will be BEV, a big leap from the 1.3% BEVs currently manufactured. Such a positive forecast is the result of government support and the race among manufacturers to reach ambitious sales targets for future demand. As we’ve seen, governments are starting to enact strict emissions regulations and have invested significantly in research and development toward this initiative. Currently the R&D is focused on good, cheap, long-lasting battery storage improvements.
This reality is difficult to foresee at this juncture because the BEV market is still in the “valley of death”, or the transition from niche market to widespread adoption. In the future, batteries will not only contribute to climate change mitigation through cars, but also through other sectors like mining and urban planning, as battery development evolves. The road ahead is sure to be electric and sustainable, but not necessarily easy.