Electric vehicles set to fall 18% in 2020 but long-term prospects remain undimmed

Sales of electric passenger vehicles are forecast to fall 18% in 2020, to 1.7 million worldwide – with the coronavirus crisis interrupting ten successive years of strong growth. However, sales of combustion engine cars are set to drop even faster this year (by 23%), while the long-term electrification of transport is projected to accelerate in the years ahead.

The latest annual Long-Term Electric Vehicle Outlook, published by BloombergNEF (BNEF), shows electric models accounting for 58% of new passenger car sales globally by 2040, which represents 31% of the whole car fleet. They will also make up 67% of all municipal buses on the road by that year, plus 47% of two-wheelers (electric mopeds, scooters and motorcycles, but excludes e-bikes) and 24% of light commercial vehicles.

The figures have major implications for oil and electricity markets. Transport electrification, particularly in the form of two-wheelers, is already taking out almost 1 million barrels of oil demand per day and estimates indicate that by 2040 it will remove 17.6 million barrels per day. Electric vehicles (EVs) of all types are forecast to add 5.2% to global electricity demand by 2040.

BNEF’s analysis suggests that global sales of internal combustion engine, or ICE, cars peaked in 2017 and will continue their long-term decline after a temporary post-crisis recovery. For the first time, BNEF sees overall new passenger vehicle sales peaking in 2036 as changing global demographics, increasing urbanisation and more shared mobility outweigh the effects of economic development, even though the fleet size keeps growing. Electric models are forecast to account for 3% of global car sales in 2020, rising to 7% in 2023, with some 5.4 million units.

Further falls in lithium-ion battery prices will mean that the lifetime and upfront costs of an electric car ‘cross over’ with their ICE counterparts in around 2025, on average. However, the date will vary greatly depending on the market and could be as early as 2022 for large cars in Europe but 2030 or after for small ones in India and Japan.

This year’s Outlook breaks new ground in examining prospects for the growth of electric two-wheelers and fuel cell vehicles that use hydrogen. It sees the latter technology accounting for 3.9% of heavy-duty commercial vehicle sales and 6.5% of municipal bus sales globally by 2040, but with higher shares in East Asia and parts of Europe. Fuel cells are not seen encroaching far into light-duty commercial or passenger car markets.

The report sees fully autonomous vehicles or ‘robotaxis’ beginning to play a much larger role in the late 2030s, helped by the growing deployment of advanced driver assistance systems, or ADAS, and the build-out of sensor supply chains.

BNEF calculates that the world will need around 290 million charging points by 2040, including 12 million in public places, involving a cumulative investment of US$500 billion.

BNEF estimates that home, workplace and private commercial charging will account for 78% of this investment. Investment in public charging infrastructure is seen as a cumulative US$111 billion across all countries by 2040. Most of this can be provided profitably by the private sector as utilisation rates rise in the 2020s, but government support may be needed in some regions.

There are currently over 7 million passenger EVs on the road, together with more than 500,000 e-buses, almost 400,000 electric delivery vans and trucks, with 184 million electric mopeds, scooters and motorcycles on the road globally. The majority of the e-buses and electric two-wheelers on the road today are in China.

The report also discusses the impact of the coronavirus crisis on public transport. It sees more than a short-term effect as lockdowns ease. Instead, there is likely to be a lasting reduction in ridership of municipal bus and metro services, as well as more traffic congestion in cities. Shared mobility operators have suffered, but will rebound quickly on the back of food delivery, logistics and micromobility services.

Source: BloombergNEF (BNEF)