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The Rise of Electric Vehicles

The International Energy Forum (IEF) seeks to encourage the global potential of electric vehicles (EVs), which build on the legacy of internal combustion engine (ICE) automobiles that revolutionised mobility and powered much of the world economy for more than a century.

The IEF examined these evolutions in the transport sector most recently at the 10th IEA-IEF-OPEC Symposium on Energy Outlooks on 19 February 2020. Increased fuel efficiency, the rise of alternative fuels, improved battery storage, and growing investment are important factors in EV growth.

In 2019, some 2.21 million passenger plug-in cars were sold globally, or about 1 in every 40 new cars. EV sales accounted for 2.5 percent of the market in 2019, up from 2.1 percent in 2018. All-electric cars accounted for 74 percent of sales in 2019, with the remainder of sales being plug-in hybrids (26 percent).

Although current investment trends favour efficiency improvements of ICE vehicles, it is projected that investment will shift towards technologies which support mass vehicle electrification. As a result, demand for EVs is expected to continue, as many countries call for a transition from total reliance on internal combustion engines by 2030. The rosy forecast for EV sales reflects trends in battery innovation, governmental policies encouraging the development of EV’s, and mounting industry commitments to building the plants necessary to meet consumer needs. Some industry forecasts suggest global EV sales are expected to make up more than 50 percent of sales in most vehicle segments by 2035.

However, the extent and duration of policy support from governments, charging and national electric grid infrastructure upgrades, future consumer behaviour, and the price of oil are difficult to predict and will impact future penetration. The successful deployment of EVs has also been hindered by the cost of producing the widely-favoured lithium ion batteries, EVs’ limited travel ranges, and the time is takes to charge them. Ultimately, continued cross-sector collaboration will be required for optimised and sustainable transport solutions.

Currently, two types of EVs are in use: hybrid-electric vehicles (HEVs) and plug-in electric vehicles (PHEVs). HEVs are vehicles with electric motors and batteries as well as internal combustion engines. PHEVs come in two formats: One that uses an electric motor and an internal combustion engine for power and electricity from an external source to recharge batteries; and the second is a battery electric vehicle (BEV), which uses only batteries to power the motor and an external source for recharging.

One area that has drawn considerable interest is the potential for EVs to serve as an energy-storage receptacle, known as vehicle-to-grid (V2G) storage. Idle and connected vehicle batteries could reduce an EV owners’ electricity demand or provide electricity to the grid during peak periods of grid use.

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