Latest projection from International Energy Agency sees huge growth in EV numbers globally, but the surge could deliver a major shortfall in fuel tax revenues
The number of electric vehicles on the world's roads is set to triple by the end of the decade and under current national policies may soar to as many as 125 million by 2030, according to the International Energy Agency's latest e-mobility forecasts.
In 2017 the number of EVs and plug-in hybrids on the road globally exceeded three million, representing a 54 per cent increase on the previous year, the IEA data shows. As the largest global market, China is driving the boomwith China, but the US and Nordic countries are also rapidly expanding their EV fleets.
By 2020, the IEA believes global EV numbers could hit 13 million, driven by supportive policies and declining battery costs, lower price tags and improved performance.
By 2030, there could be as many as 125 million EVs on the road, rising to 220 million if climate policies are strengthened.
Experts predict the total global car fleet - electric or otherwise - could hit two billion by 2040.
The mass rollout of electric vehicles is likely to be crucial to cutting global greenhouse gas emissions over the coming decades. According to the IEA, hundreds of millions of tonnes of CO2 could be saved by 2030 if a mass switch to EVs takes place.
The same shift to electric is not restricted to passenger cars. The number of electric buses globally increased from 345,000 to 370,000 between 2016 and 2017, while electric two-wheeler vehicles also hit 250 million for the first time last year - driven almost entirely by China.
Despite widespread fears that 'range anxiety' may be putting off potential EV buyers, the IEA data suggests charging infrastructure is largely keeping pace with the e-mobility surge. In 2017 the number of private chargers at homes and workplaces was estimated at around three million worldwide, in addition to almost 430,000 public chargers. That puts the ratio at more than one charger per car worldwide.
The estimates are significant, as the IEA has consistently projected oil demand rising up to at least 2040 and has frequently incurred criticism for its conservative forecasts on the uptake of cleaner fuels.
However, in yesterday's outlook the IEA suggested the global EV push could displace almost 4.8m barrels a day of petrol and diesel, the Financial Times noted, resulting in a fuel tax shortfall of as much as $92bn in total that could present a major budgetary headache for governments.
Think tanks have previously warned of the same risk, including UK-based Policy Exchange, which last year noted the shift to electric and hybrid motors could leave the UK exchequer short by £170bn by 2030.
Positive predictions for the global EV market also arrived last week from Bloomberg New Energy Finance. The analyst house's own annual EV outlook forecasted 559 million EVs on the road by 2040, representing 33 per cent of the global car fleet. On sales of new EVs alone, BNEF sees sales reaching 11 million by 2025 and 30 million by 2030.
The twin drivers of climate and air pollution are clearly driving governments into the fast lane on electric vehicles, and carmakers are following in their hordes. Those IEA forecasts may seem bold now, but it looks like the pace of change is about to shift up a gear or two.
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