Cancelling out the impact of human activity on the environment would require electric cars to achieve 60% global-market share by 2030, according to a new report from the International Energy Agency (IEA).
That's to achieve net-zero carbon emissions, meaning emissions wouldn't be eliminated entirely, but any remaining emissions could be cancelled out by other measures. If the global vehicle fleet isn't fully electric by 2050, there is no clear path to achieving that goal, the report said.
Achieving the necessary levels of electric-vehicle market share will require more aggressive policies than what's been discussed so far, it argues.
Analysts looked at two scenarios: the Stated Policies Scenario and Sustainable Development Scenario. As the name implies, the Stated Policies Scenario is based on current policies. The Sustainable Development Scenario factors in sharper emissions reductions in line with goals of the Paris Climate Agreement.
Predicted global EV sales by 2030 (from IEA report)
The Sustainable Development Scenario assumes all EV-related targets are met, even with current policies are not deemed sufficient to stimulate the necessary adoption rates. It also encompasses other factors—such as increased of public transportation—that reduce reliance on cars.
With the more conservative Stated Policies Scenario, the report predicts that EVs will only account for 15% of United States new-car sales by 2030, but that could reach 50% with the more aggressive Sustainable Development Scenario.
That scenario also calls for a substantial increase in charging infrastructure, albeit with private home charging as the main use case.
The report also predicts a major increase in battery-manufacturing capacity with either scenario. Global lithium-ion battery-manufacturing capacity in 2020 was roughly 300 gigawatt-hours per year, while actual production was 160 GWh, the report noted. Capacity would reach 1.6 terawatt-hours in the Stated Policies Scenario, and 3.2 TWh in the Sustainable Development Scenario.
Predicted United States EV share by 2030 (from IEA report)
The latter capacity is sufficient to enable the Sustainable Development Scenario's adoption targets, but to meet it all battery plants would need to be operated at full capacity, the report said, noting they currently average 50% capacity. Substantial capacity increases could be achieved, according to a recent report sponsored by Swiss tech firm ABB—by using the company's robots to improve efficiency, naturally, or by adding more plants.
Forecasts of EV sales growth between automakers vary widely. Toyota, for example, is taking the conservative path in seeing that 85% of its U.S. vehicles will still have tailpipes in 2030.
Adopting 60% EV sales by 2030 might be a good goal for federal policymakers, as it would realign with goals laid out by the Obama administration, and could help avoid a situation in which California emissions standards would be out of sync with national ones.
Or perhaps policymakers will be swayed by the potential cost savings American drivers could achieve by switching to EVs. Another recent study found that all new U.S. vehicles could be made electric by 2035, saving households $1,000 annually over the next 30 years.