The Electric Vehicle Boom Is Right Around the Corner
When we think about electric vehicles (EVs), Tesla springs to mind. But that’s about to change. While Tesla blazed the trail for EV popularity and affordability in the United States, numerous competitors are hot on its heels. Traditional automakers have begun diverting significant resources to EV production, and several startups are on the precipice of launching the next generation of electric vehicles. There’s an EV boom right around the corner, and it’s taking shape quickly.
A look at the fast-moving EV industry
We’ve come a long way since the debut of the first mass produced hybrid vehicle, the Toyota Prius, in 1997. Just 13 years later, the Chevy Volt became the first commercially available plug-in hybrid. Then, Tesla lit a fire under the industry and EV popularity took off like a rocket. Throughout the 2010s, EVs went from obscure to in demand. Now, they’re poised to go from in demand to dominating U.S. roadways.
Just two years into the decade, and EVs are taking over. According to first-quarter reports from major automakers, demand for electric vehicles is growing fast. Even with supply chain issues, rising automotive production costs, and inflation, every automaker with an EV offering has cited growth in this sector. Leading the way are Ford with a growth rate of 139%, Tesla with a bump in demand of 81%, and Volkswagen with a 65% increase. People want EVs.
Meet the players
Massive demand for EVs is giving way to a rapidly evolving industry. While Tesla is largely responsible for bringing widespread appeal and affordability to modern EVs, major automakers have begun jockeying for market share with their own refined models.
Ford’s F-150 Lightning stands ready to dominate the truck segment of the industry. The BMW i series could corner the luxury vehicle market. Meanwhile, Audi’s e-tron line is setting the standard for electric SUVs. And established automakers aren’t the only ones vying for market share. An explosion of well-funded startups stands ready to capitalize on consumer demand for choice.
Rivian is helping adventurous drivers go off-road without needing to stop at a gas station. Lordstown Motors wants to be the de facto producer for electric work vehicles. And there are numerous other commercial EV startups that are aiming for the last-mile delivery market, a segment of the economy that’s growing more important by the year. It’s all culminating in a paradigm shift: an EV boom that could send gas-powered vehicles the way of the dinosaur.
Infrastructure and environmental hurdles
What’s stopping electric vehicles from flooding the motorways and displacing gas-powered vehicles entirely? The barriers boil down to infrastructure and the environment.
While there are more than 145,000 gas stations in the United States, there are far fewer EV charging stations. And though there are plans to install charging stations across the country as part of public utility modernization, it will take time. Right now, EV motorists living in a charging desert may rely entirely on their home to power their vehicle.
From an environmental standpoint, there’s extreme waste baked into the current EV landscape — namely, in the form of lithium batteries. Lithium is difficult to recycle, and current batteries begin to push the end of their life after 10 years. Although this is longer than most people own a vehicle, there are looming concerns for what happens after a second or third owner. Lithium waste is a pressing concern in the evolution of the EV industry.
Despite these hurdles, EVs are well and truly on their way to taking over the automotive landscape — and they’re doing it quickly. Don’t be surprised if EVs overtake gas-powered vehicles by the start of the 2030s.