On The Road To Sustainability: How To Get To Tipping Point On eV Adoption

With more than 900 million eVs expected on our roads globally by 2050, we know the future of transportation is electric.

Even as R&D and product upgrades continue, the major technology puzzles have largely been solved. Vehicles will become cheaper as manufacturers multiply, and range anxiety can be relieved by multiplying the infrastructure network of charging spots or battery-swapping stations around the world.

It’s worth checking in on some already promising examples:

• In China, the government has been determined to lead the way in electrification and the country had a whopping 2.2 million charging stations installed as of 2021.

• In France, one of Europe’s most electric-centric countries, the government decided in 2020 to install 100,000 charging stations across the country by the end of 2021, while also announcing a €100 million investment to speed up the installation of fast charging points at all highway parking areas.

• In the Netherlands, charging stations have been cropping up like tulips too, reaching around 80,000 as of last year.

But we should remember that, while encouraging, these are still global outliers. To reach the proverbial “tipping point” on mass adoption, three stubborn hurdles remain: range limitation, cost and infrastructure.

In fact, roughly 75% of all European charging stations are concentrated in four countries — the UK, Germany, the Netherlands and France. In the bottom countries, Cyprus and Greece, there were only 42 and 180 stations respectively as of early 2022, while an additional problem is prolonged charging times

Naturally, the consumer appetite for going electric in these countries will remain modest as long as options to charge are limited to certain cities or even countries. Meanwhile, fleet owners looking to break into the market and orchestrate charging en-masse will often have to pay for costly grid upgrades.

This leaves us with a potential Catch-22 where the necessary investment needed to ramp up eV density is hampered by the current lack of eV infrastructure.

Fortunately, there are smart ways to overcome the eV chicken-egg paradox — though there’s no silver bullet to solve all of these issues at once. Rather, what is needed is a consolidated effort on behalf of the private and public sectors to reach an electric tipping point and bridge the geographical disparity in eV density.

For example, we’ve seen in Norway — which ramped up eV sales from 1% to 54% between 2010 and 2020 — how government investment can rally the confidence of private companies. Today, numerous manufacturers even use the country as a petri dish for new models. Similarly, In the UK, the government’s recent pledge to invest £1.6 billion into a tenfold expansion of charge points was immediately followed by an announcement from BP Pulse — the UK’s most-used charging network company — that it had its own plans to spend £1 billion on developing the country’s charging infrastructure.

Meanwhile, incentives for both companies and consumers could be increased, including tax and carbon credit measures, and manufacturers could flip the script on investment and take more responsibility for creating the demand they require.

To give a broader idea of the effect of consumer subsidies: according to the World Bank, the total financial incentives amounted to $43 billion from 2013 to 2020 in the top 13 eV markets, and were responsible for inducing around 40% of total eV sales during the period.

Choice and practicality will be essential. Last year alone, the world added another 200 electric models to the global fleet, as batteries are offering longer range and less weight. So perhaps 2022 will be the year that tipping arrives, and we see that global eV egg hatched once and for all.