EV Adoption Currently Too Slow to Address Climate Challenges

The discovery of fossil fuels followed by the development of the combustion engine was a game-changer for humanity. In less than 50 years, the world went from traveling on horseback and tilling the land with ox-drawn plows to driving automobiles and building massive factories. The internal combustion engine (“ICE”) was integral to industrialization, but despite all the good it has done for the advancement of humanity, burning fossil fuels for more than a century has had a catastrophic effect on the planet. Increased greenhouse gas emissions has led to the planet steadily heating up for decades, and the effects are now becoming apparent.

Several countries have pledged to electrify their transport in a bid to cut down on emissions amid extreme weather conditions. Most of these countries are planning to be carbon neutral by 2050 by replacing the ICE vehicles on their roads with zero-emission electric cars and turning to clean, renewable sources of energy, including solar and wind. It is an ambitious project that will require significant cooperation between companies, organizations and governments in different sectors all along the supply chain.

However, a new report has revealed that at the current pace of electric vehicle (“EV”) adoption, most countries will not be able to meet their climate goals. In fact, a recent U.S. Energy Administration report warned that unless world leaders urgently implement legal and regulatory changes, greenhouse gas emissions from the world’s transportation sector will increase through 2050.

The report notes that with the policies currently in place, the Unites States, along with the rest of the world, will not be able to achieve recommended global emission targets and stave off the more adverse effects of climate change. At the moment, electric car sales make up only 5% of global vehicle sales, with the report projecting that while regions such as China and Europe would see electric vehicles account for roughly 80% of sales, EVs will make up just 30% of the cars on the world’s roads by midcentury.

While that would be a significant improvement, it is still a long way from the number of electric cars on the road scientists say we need to avoid catastrophic global warming. According to a report by the International Energy Agency, global EV sales would need to be 60% of vehicle sales across the world and the sale of traditional ICE vehicles would have to end by 2035 if we are to meet climate goals.

Furthermore, the grid would have to be upgraded to meet the conditions of a greener future. Electric vehicles are only as clean as the energy that powers them, and the U.S. Energy Information Administration projects that the production of fossil fuels will increase to meet the additional demand the influx of electric cars will put on the grid. To ensure this doesn’t happen, undoing a lot of the benefits brought about by electrification, governments will have to invest heavily in wind and solar-power generation as well as stationary power storage infrastructure to ensure the grid gets enough energy even when the supply is low.

As more players such as Rivian enter the electric vehicle ecosystem, there is a chance that the efforts invested by each stakeholder will eventually trigger momentum towards the faster uptake of EVs, thereby delivering results on the climate change front.

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