BNEF: 50% of New Cars Sold Will Be Electric by 2040

Tesla Model 3

I'm not sure if this is encouraging or depressingly unambitious.

Recently, I asked whether legacy automakers can survive the switch to electric. Specifically, the question revolves around whether car companies can continue to squeeze value and profit out of their existing line-up of internal combustion engine (ICE) models and plants geared toward manufacturing them, while simultaneously developing an entirely new line-up of plug-in models in order to stay relevant as the world moves forward.

It's a tricky balancing act. And if anywhere close to the more aggressive predictions for electric vehicle growth pan out in the real world, then we can expect a fair few big auto companies to get left in the dust.

But that's a big 'if'.

A new analysis from Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF) of the global electric vehicle market—while making it clear that electrification is coming—suggests that car makers do indeed have more time to adapt. Specifically, we're looking at a transition that would see only 50% of new cars sold being electric by 2040, displacing—along with electric buses—some 7.3 million barrels per day of transport fuel.

Not bad. But compare that figure to the 100 million or so barrels of oil the world uses each day, and we begin to see that it is nowhere near where we need to be if we're going to decarbonize rapidly enough to prevent climate catastrophe. But then, I am an enthusiast. And I think we can do better.

By 2040, countries like Denmark will already be 10 years into a ban on ICE cars. Many commercial operations will have 100% switched to electric fleets decades earlier. And one would hope that a fair few countries and municipalities will have moved away from the motorcar as the central principle of urban design.

So here's hoping that a lot more than half of all new car sales are electric by 2040. And let's also hope that we're selling a whole lot fewer cars by that point too...