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Driving Change

The race to mainstream electric vehicles by 2030

If you're helping your organization set big zero-emission transportation goals, look no later than the next decade.

EVs charging in New Delhi, India

Drivers charging their electric car at charging stations near government offices in New Delhi, India.

The world's leading companies and policymakers are coalescing around setting targets for adopting zero-emission vehicles around a 2030 time frame.

The latest — and one of the most aggressive to come from a country leader — was issued a few weeks ago by U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who revealed a climate plan that includes banning the sales of new gas-powered vehicles starting in 2030 (some hybrids will be allowed until 2035). The U.K. accelerated its commitment to zero-emission vehicles from 2040 to 2035, and finally to just a decade away.

The U.K. isn't the only one. Denmark set the same goal — phase out new fossil fuel vehicle sales in 2030 — and world-leader Norway plans to make the switch in 2025. A couple months ago, in response to the California wildfires, California Gov. Gavin Newsom signed an executive order that similarly called for a ban of new gas car sales, but starting in 2035. 

On the corporate front, 2030 is emerging as an appropriately aggressive but achievable goal. The Climate Group's EV100 program, which has 92 member companies that have pledged to buy EVs and install EV chargers, features the tagline: "Making electric transport the new normal by 2030."

Why is 2030 the year for EVs to become the "new normal"? Technology advances, for one.

Electric vehicles will begin to cost the same as their fossil fuel counterparts between 2025 and 2029, depending on the vehicle type.

The price of lithium-ion batteries, which power most mainstream EVs, has been dropping dramatically the past several years. Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF) says that between 2010 and 2019, lithium-ion battery pack prices fell 87 percent. In 2019, they dropped 13 percent more. 

At that rate, electric vehicles will begin to cost the same as their fossil fuel counterparts between 2025 and 2029, depending on the vehicle type; just in time for these targets. Starting in 2030, BNEF predicts that 26 million EVs will be sold annually, representing 28 percent of the world's new cars sold. 

Because of these increasingly attractive battery economics, and increased competition from companies such as Tesla and Rivian, big automakers are accelerating their EV production plans. Pandemic-induced austerity has ed to the world's largest OEMs opting for EV investments over internal combustion ones. Last month, General Motors CEO Mary Barra announced an accelerated investment in its EV lineup, adding $7 billion from its initial plans announced earlier this year. 

Increasing concern over the climate crisis is also driving accelerated goals. Climate scientists urge that the planet only has until 2030 to stem the most catastrophic effects of climate change. The historic wildfires that struck California this year were the catalyst that led to Newsom's signing the executive order to ban new gas car sales. 

Meanwhile, as many policymakers and companies are unifying around a 2030 time frame, others are still looking at a much longer timescale of 2050. While far-out climate goals are better than no climate goals, 2050 is just too far off for zero-emission vehicles. EVs already will have tipped into the mainstream far, far sooner than three decades from now. 

If you're helping your organization set big zero-emission transportation goals, look no later than 2030. Goals to electrify fleets, install EV chargers and charging depots, and end gas car sales, are totally doable — and in fact necessary — over the next decade.

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