The world is ahead of schedule on EV adoption (which should cut climate changing emissions)

Consumers around the world are buying electric and hybrid electric vehicles at a faster pace than projected, which means that some of the targets for reducing the greenhouse gas emissions causing global warming could be hit faster than expected.

The science experts behind the International Energy Agency's (IEA) May 2021 net zero report wrote that increased adoption of electric passenger cars, vans and trucks would be an important part of the energy transition to move the world away from fossil fuels and a net-zero world.

Well, it seems that consumers are on pace to beat the target set for electric vehicles to represent 60% of all new car sales in 2030, according to a report published by the University of Calgary's School for Public Policy.

"While the scale-up required to reach the IEA’s 2030 target is significant, the trajectory of sales of EVs through 2021, and sales expected in 2022, put the world more than on pace with this ambitious target," wrote Sara Hastings-Simon, an associate professor at the University of Calgary. In fact, at the current growth rate EV share of vehicle sales would reach the 2030 target by 2026, demonstrating the potential to achieve the light-duty vehicle electrification portion of a net zero goal."

Chart showing the dramatic rise in EV market share from 2018 to 2022
Image Credit: Sara Hastings-Simon University of Calgary

Hastings-Simon notes there are a number of factors leading to EV sales growth, including government policies, declining costs of batteries, steady buildout of charging infrastructure -- and consumers themselves.

Automakers (responding to legislative and consumer pressure) are building out fleets of electric vehicles to meet changing consumer demand (and the cars just work better with fewer breakdowns).

In this, as in other aspects of the clean energy revolution, China is leading the way. the country sold 3.4 million electric vehicles in 2021 -- about half of the total new electric car registrations.

A few things need to happen for the world to keep up the pace on EV adoption -- supply chains need to be shored up for critical minerals and battery recycling infrastructure needs to be established.

Startup companies like Ascend Elements and Redwood Materials are already building out that infrastructure. And a number of companies are racing to find alternatives to the rare earth elements that are currently used in the lithium ion batteries that propel the electric vehicle industry. Some companies are even trying to reclaim precious elements from mining waste to improve the supply chain issues.

And electric vehicles are better for the environment. While the manufacturing processes for making batteries and other components may be more energy intensive initially, over time that's more than balanced out by the lack of tailpipe emissions and continued need to burn oil to propel the car.

The environmental impact will become even better when the energy grid switches to zero emission sources of power like renewable energy (including geothermal) and nuclear power (including, hopefully, fusion).