U.S. lags behind China, Europe; Colorado among states where electric car sales rising quickly
By Judith Kohler
Based on quicker-than-expected moves to electric vehicles, a leading provider of data and analytics to the energy industry predicts that electric cars and light-duty trucks will make up 65% of new sales globally by 2030 and 85% by 2035.
The report by Enverus also forecasts that the switch to electric vehicles will displace 2.7 million barrels of oil a day by 2030 and as much as 5.2 million barrels of oil a day by 2035. The current total oil used in the areas covered in the report, including the U.S., Europe, China and India, is about 18 million barrels a day.
The growth in electric vehicles’ market share in Europe and China is outperforming expectations, said Carson Kearl with Enverus Intelligence Research, a subsidiary of Enverus. Adoption in the U.S. is lagging behind those parts of the world, he added.
Colorado, however, is one of the states where EV sales are rising. In 2022, battery-only vehicles and plug-in hybrids made up a record 10.5% of registrations in the state, up from approximately 6.5% in 2021, according to the Colorado Automobile Dealers Association.
One of the reasons for the growth globally is that electric cars are becoming more affordable, Kearl said. Declining battery prices are expected to make the cost of electric vehicles on par with many gas-fueled cars in about three years.
The New York Times reported Tuesday that drops in the prices of lithium, used in nearly all electric-vehicle batteries, as well as decreases in cobalt and copper prices are helping lower sticker prices.
Adoption of electric vehicles has been swifter in China and Europe than in the U.S. for a number of reasons, Kearl said.
“There’s a lot of fleet growth and a lot less geopolitical resistance to EV adoption in Europe and China,” Kearl said.
China has struggled with severe air pollution, and people there aren’t allowed to drive gas-powered cars on certain days, Kearl said. “EV adoption has really been taking off there. It jumped from around 5% in 2020 of new sales to 22% in 2022.”
Worldwide, electric vehicles accounted for about 10% of new sales in 2022, according to Enverus. In the U.S., nearly 6% of new sales were EVs, compared with 3.2% in 2021, The Wall Street Journal reported in January.
“In the U.S., the biggest two things that we have pushback on from a consumer perspective are cost and range anxiety,” Kearl said. “There’s also a lot of anxiety about battery performance in the cold weather.”
Cold-weather performance depends a lot on the battery type, Kearl said. Tesla batteries and those with nickel, cobalt and aluminum, a newer technology, lose about 20% of their capacity, while the types prevalent in China and Europe can lose up to half of their capacity.
“The U.S. is playing a little bit of a catchup game” on electric vehicles, said Tim Jackson, CEO and president of the Colorado Automobile Dealers Association.
“The map on EVs looks at least somewhat like blue state-red state on election nights,” Jackson added. “The blue states are moving more ambitiously toward electrification.”
Colorado follows that pattern. One of Gov. Jared Polis’ first actions after taking office in his first term in 2019 was to sign an executive order directing state agencies to develop the infrastructure for electric vehicles and write a policy on increasing the number of electric cars. The order built on policies by fellow Democrat and former Gov. John Hickenlooper.
The Polis administration’s goal is to have 940,000 electric or clean-technology cars and trucks on Colorado roads by 2030, nearly 20% of current registrations.
State officials are looking at extending a clean-car rule, which requires manufacturers to make a certain percentage of zero-emissions cars available in Colorado, and applying similar requirements to medium- and heavy-duty vehicles.
Jackson expects the rising interest in EVs to continue in Colorado.
“I think some percentage of the public thinks EVs won’t get them where they need to go,” Jackson said. “But most of the new cars coming online have that range of 300 miles, or very close to it, that meets the needs of most of the traveling public.”
And auto manufacturers are bringing more electric trucks and SUVs to market, “the type of vehicles Colorado consumers need or expect,” Jackson said.
“The biggest problem we have today is that most automakers are not able to keep up with that demand. For somebody shopping for a new car, it’s much easier to find a gas car than electric.”