Anyone who believes that behavioral change is going to produce a solution to the challenge of global warming should take a good look at the lat est figures on consumer choices in the auto sector. Electric vehicles are growing in number and quality but they are being outstripped by the popularity of SUVs – sports utility vehicles with four-wheel drive and a raised clearance which make them suitable for off-road driving.
A casual reader of the media during the past few months could easily get the idea that electric vehicles were in the process of taking over the market. One headline tells us that the electric vehicle boom is coming. Another says that the boom offers a bleak future for gasoline.
EV numbers are certainly growing. Worldwide, some 5.1m electric vehicles were on the world’s roads by the end of 2018, an increase of 2m over the previous year. That growth will certainly continue. Dozens of new models are being brought on to the market this year and there has been a surge of investment in associated infrastructure such as charging points, of which there are now more than 5m worldwide, according to the International Energy Agency. Despite some decline in the very rapid growth seen in China in recent years, global sales of EVs are expected to rise by between 2-4m and 2.9m this year.
The oil majors, led by BP and Shell, have bought into charging technology in anticipation of the growth to come. The IEA anticipates in its new policies scenario that, by 2030, EV sales could reach some 23m a year, creating a stock of about 130m vehicles. Taken in isolation, that could make a dent in the demand for gasoline of some 2.5m barrels per day.
But EVs cannot be considered in isolation. The 7m to 8m EVs that should be on the road by the end of 2019 represent less than a tenth of 1 per cent of the 1.1bn cars and other light vehicles that use internal combustion engines. Some 85m ICE vehicles were sold worldwide in 2018.