According to new study, the popularity of electric vehicles is being driven by technological advancements.


by Yale University

Credit: Public Domain (CC0)

About one-third of greenhouse gas emissions in the United States come from transportation, and many experts in the public and commercial sectors believe that adopting electric vehicles is essential to cutting carbon emissions. About ten years ago, EV sales made up a very small portion of all auto sales. By March 2023, their share of new sales is 7%.

Kenneth Gillingham, a professor of environmental and energy economics at the Yale School of the Environment, queries, “What changed between then and now?” “Was it that consumers suddenly decided they like EVs much more, or was it that EVs themselves got a lot better?”

While customer preferences for EVs have not altered generally, Gillingham’s current research, which was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, indicates that technological advancements have been the primary driver of the recent uptake of EVs. Alongside their gas-powered counterparts, EVs are becoming a more alluring option due to improvements including longer battery life, quicker charging, declining costs, and lower operating expenses. (Range proved to be especially significant, with vehicles that can go 300 miles or more on a single charge being nearly as appealing as equivalent gas vehicles in consumers’ minds, the study reveals.)

About 1,600 persons who had either bought or planned to buy a car or SUV in the following two years were polled by Gillingham and co-authors from Carnegie Mellon University. The respondents were asked which of 15 sets of three automobiles, some with gasoline power, some with electric power, and some hybrid, they would prefer. By comparing the findings of this poll with those of a related study carried out in 2012 and 2013, the researchers were able to determine the proportion of the new EV adoption that was attributable to consumer preferences and the remaining portion to technological developments. This led to still another question.

“What comes next is the big question,” adds Gillingham.

In order to respond to this, the researchers combined the trends they found in customer acceptance with projected advancements in car technology and anticipated new electric vehicle options. According to Gillingham, in the next three to four years, more than 100 new EV cars are expected to go on sale worldwide. When combined, these data point to EVs potentially making up 40–60% of all new cars and SUVs sold by 2030. In other words, it’s feasible that EVs will control the market in just seven years.

The authors point out that the results may make quick changes and lofty objectives possible for policymakers. Gillingham mentions a recently proposed rule by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency that would limit greenhouse gas emissions from cars and small trucks. If implemented, this rule may result in almost two-thirds of all new vehicle sales being electric vehicles by 2032.

“While our research doesn’t guarantee it will occur, it doesn’t rule out the chance either. By 2030, EVs will potentially account for the bulk of all automobiles sold, according to Gillingham.

The consequences for manufacturers are as obvious, and many have already taken action in response to obvious changes in the market. By 2035, GM intends to offer solely electric vehicles. Toyota owns Lexus, which has declared the same objective. According to Gillingham, the results of this study validate the significant commitment needed for such a change.

“Vehicle manufacturers who are leaders in the EV space will take comfort in what we’ve found,” according to him. “Manufacturers who are laggards might want to think carefully about what their plans are.”

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