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The Rise of Electric Vehicles

Exploring the Possible Future of the Automotive Industry

EV Trends - EVs on the road

There is no denying that electric vehicles are the future of the automotive industry. As consumers and governments continue to grow increasingly concerned with their environmental footprint, the demand for electric vehicles will continue to rise. In addition to environmental interests, demand is fueled by government incentives and manufacturing innovation.

Electric Vehicles – How Clean Are They?

With environmental concerns being the forefront of demand, some may ask, how clean are electric vehicles? Whether a hybrid (HEV), plug-in (PHEV) or all-electric (EV) model, electric vehicles produce fewer emissions contributing to climate change than conventional, gasoline-powered vehicles. These emissions are broken down into two categories: direct emissions and life cycle emissions.

Direct emissions are those emitted through the car’s tailpipe, including greenhouse gases (GHGs) and other dangerous pollutants. Life cycle emissions are those emitted from the product’s life cycle, including fuel production, distribution and recycling/disposal. Similar to direct emissions, life cycle emissions are harmful to human health. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, PHEVs and EVs emit zero direct emissions when running solely on electricity.1 However, PHEVs can release direct emissions when running on gasoline. All vehicles produce substantial life cycle emissions; however, electric vehicles produce fewer. The exact amount varies depending on several factors, including car models and your geographic location.

In order to measure impact on the environment, we can analyze carbon dioxide equivalents (CO2e), the standard unit for measuring all of a vehicle’s emission. The higher the CO2e, the more global warming pollution produced. According to the U.S. Office of Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy (EERE), the average gasoline-powered car in the U.S. emits 12,594 pounds of CO2e annually, compared to the average all-electric vehicle, which emits only 2,817 pounds of CO2e annually, a significant amount less.1

While it seems quite evident that electric vehicles are better for the environment, there are a few groups who question the legitimacy of this belief, advocating that the CO2 emitted in the production of electricity and their manufacture outweighs the actual benefits. Scientists have proven otherwise. According to a 2020 study from scientists from the universities of Exeter, Nijmegen and Cambridge published in the journal Nature Sustainability, electric vehicles and heat pumps generate less CO2 than fossil-fuel powered cars or boilers in 95% of the world.2

In addition to the current-day benefits of electric vehicles, this study demonstrated that EVs actually become greener over their lifespan, as electrical grids continue to become less carbon intensive. Aligning with industry-trends, the study projects that by 2050, every other car on the streets will be electric. If this were true, global CO2 emissions would be reduced by up to 1.5 gigatons per year. To put this number in perspective, that is the equivalent to the total current CO2 emissions of Russia.

There are plenty of online tools to help you determine just how much of your carbon footprint you are reducing by driving an electric vehicle, including the aforementioned tool with the US Office of Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy.

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Government Incentives and Innovation

In addition to environmental interests, demand for electric vehicles is fueled by government incentives and manufacturing innovation.

The government plays a vital role in the adoption of electric vehicles, supplying tax credits, subsidies, rebates and other financial incentives to purchase or manufacture electric vehicle charging equipment. This is on top of the funds allocated by the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. Financial motivations are one factor but consumers also benefit from other local perks, including HOV lane use and designated parking. In certain U.S. states, EV-ready building codes mandate or encourage implementing EV-ready building infrastructure to easily facilitate charging stations, benefiting both property owners and consumers in the long-term. In states such as California, building codes require electrical wiring be installed for electric vehicle chargers, in both commercial and residential settings.

Innovation also plays a critical role in the adoption of electric vehicles. As technology continues to evolve, manufacturers are significantly improving battery life while simultaneously decreasing the cost, improving the quality and cost of electric vehicles for the consumer. Car manufacturers continue to drive innovation, as the number of companies offering electric vehicles continues to grow. By 2040, over 60 million electric vehicles are projected to be sold. The availability of public charging stations is also growing. This increase in availability drives user-acceptance and the appeal for electric vehicles, as drivers feel more comfortable in their ability to charge and get from place to place efficiently.

1 Alternative Fuels Data Center. Emissions from Hybrid and Plug-In Electric Vehicles. (2023). https://afdc.energy.gov/vehicles/electric_emissions.html.
2 Knobloch, F., Hanssen, S., Lam, A. et al. Net emission reductions from electric cars and heat pumps in 59 world regions over time. Nat Sustain 3, 437–447 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41893-020-0488-7.

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