The auto industry is pessimistic about 2030-2040 EV adoption timelines

The auto industry is pessimistic about 2030-2040 EV adoption timelines
Mar 2023

Half of all new cars and light trucks sold in the US in 2030 should be zero-emissions vehicles, according to the White House's climate goals. California has set 2035 as the cutoff date for a ban on new gasoline- or diesel-powered vehicles within the state's borders. 2040 looks like the drop-dead date for new fossil fuel vehicles in some of Europe--not to mention a highly ambitious date of 2030 in the United Kingdom--and automakers on all continents are preparing all-electric lineups as they start to sunset internal combustion engine product lines.

But a survey of the auto industry conducted by ABB Robotics and Automotive Manufacturing Solutions finds some pessimism about whether those goals will be achievable. When asked if "it's realistic to shift to 100 percent electric vehicle production to meet the different regional targets from 2030 to 2040," only 11 percent said, "Yes, definitely"; fewer than 10 percent of European respondents believed the targets were realistic, compared with 12 percent in North America and 17 percent in Asia.

Another 28 percent said, "Yes, but it won't be easy." That left more than half of survey respondents believing that 2030-2040 is too soon for a move to entirely electric fleets. Forty-one percent said, "Possibly, but not by the target dates," leaving just 18 percent who could never see the end of the internal combustion engine.

People working at tier 2 automotive suppliers were the most optimistic--more than 50 percent thought a switch to all-EV production would be possible, even if not by 2040; by contrast, only a third of respondents in other groups thought this was possible. (OEMs, design and engineering services, tier 1 suppliers, tier 3 suppliers, software and IT services, and logistics were among the other industries consulted for the survey.)

Unsurprisingly, the biggest impediments to moving to 100 percent EV production were supply chains and cost. Adapting to new battery supply chains was the number one reply at 19 percent, and we're already seeing this effect--look at how Toyota's meager battery supplies have severely constrained its development of EVs and contrast that with how Ford secured enough battery contracts to triple production of the Mustang Mach-E and double production of the F-150 Lightning in 2023.

Some of the complaints mirror those of consumers--just as new EVs are noticeably more expensive than similarly sized and equipped gasoline-burners, building new EV production facilities requiring plenty of capital investment (16 percent) was the second-most commonly listed barrier to moving to 100 percent EV production.

Other concerns include supplies of raw materials (or shortages thereof) and a lack of infrastructure, followed by a lack of grid capacity, a lack of green energy, and a lack of charging infrastructure for EVs. Doubts over desirability, a lack of demand, and the high cost of purchasing a new EV were also listed as reasons for pessimism.

The industry respondents were also asked what they saw as the biggest single impediment to EV adoption. A lack of charging infrastructure topped the list at 26 percent. But the high cost of a new EV was cited by 17 percent. Interestingly, consumer resistance to EVs was predicted to be a bigger factor than cost among those surveyed in North America versus Europe or Asia.

The good news is that 80 percent of those surveyed thought that achieving sustainable car manufacturing would be possible, although 51 percent said, "Yes, but it won't be easy," and another 29 percent said it would be possible "but with great difficulty."