India and Europe have witnessed growth in the electrification of modes of transport including buses and two-wheeler even as China accounts for more than 99 per cent of both electric bus and two-wheeler stock, the International Energy Agency (IEA) said this week.
As electric mobility is not limited to cars, in 2017 the stock of electric buses rose to 370,000 from 345,000 in 2016, and electric two-wheelers reached 250 million, the agency said in its Global Electric Vehicles Outlook, adding that charging infrastructure, battery improvements and the supply of core materials will be critical to sustaining growth. The number of electric and plug-in hybrid cars on the world’s roads exceeded three million in 2017, a 54 per cent increase over 2016.
China remains the largest electric car market in the world, accounting for half of the cars sold last year. Nearly 580,000 electric cars were sold in China in 2017, a 72 per cent increase from the previous year. The United States came second with about 280,000 cars sold in 2017, up from 160,000 in 2016.
The report stated Nordic countries remain leaders in market share. Electric cars accounted for 39 per cent of new car sales in Norway, making it the world leader in electric vehicle market share. In Iceland, new EV sales were 12 per cent of the total while the share reached 6 per cent in Sweden. Germany and Japan also saw strong growth, with sales more than doubling in both the countries from their 2016 levels.
IEA also said the number of private chargers at homes and workplaces was estimated at almost 3 million in 2017. In addition, there were about 430,000 publicly accessible chargers worldwide in that year, a quarter of which were fast chargers.
The growth of EVs has largely been driven by government policy, including public procurement programmes, financial incentives reducing the cost of purchase of EVs, tightened fuel-economy standards and regulations on the emission of local pollutants, low and zero-emission vehicle mandates and a variety of local measures, such as restrictions on the circulation of vehicles based on their pollutant emission performances.
The rapid uptake of EVs has also been helped by the progress made in recent years to improve the performance and reduce the costs of lithium-ion batteries. However, further battery cost reductions and performance improvements are essential to improve the appeal of EVs. These are achievable with a combination of improved chemistries, increased production scale and battery sizes, according to the report. Further improvements are possible with the transition to technologies beyond lithium-ion.
Innovations in battery chemistry will be needed to maintain this growth as there are supply issues with core elements that make up lithium-ion batteries, such as nickel, lithium and cobalt. The supply of cobalt is particularly subject to risks as almost 60 per cent of the global production of cobalt is currently concentrated in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Also, the capacity to refine and process raw cobalt is highly concentrated, with China controlling 90 per cent of refining capacity. Even accounting for ongoing developments in battery chemistry, cobalt demand for EVs is expected to be between 10 and 25 times higher than current levels by 2030.
According to IEA, supportive policies and cost reductions are likely to lead to continued significant growth in the EV market going forward. In the IEA’s New Policies Scenario, which takes into account current and planned policies, the number of electric cars is projected to reach 125 million units by 2030. Should policy ambitions rise even further to meet climate goals and other sustainability targets, the number of electric cars on the road could be as high as 220 million in 2030.
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