autonomous vehicles

The latest International Energy Agency’s Global Electric Vehicles Outlook report indicates that the number of electric and plug-in hybrid cars on the world’s roads exceeded three million in 2017, a 54% increase compared with 2016.

China remained by far the largest electric car market in the world, accounting for half of the EV cars sold last year.

Nearly 580,000 electric cars were sold in China in 2017, a 72% increase from the previous year. The United States had the second-highest, with about 280,000 cars sold in 2017, up from 160,000 in 2016.

However, Nordic countries remain leaders in terms of market share.

Electric cars accounted for 39% of new car sales in Norway, making it the world leader in electric vehicle (EV) market share. Read more: The electric vehicle journey is still in its infancy

In Iceland, new EV sales comprised 12% of total car sales while the share reached 6% in Sweden. Germany and Japan also saw strong growth, with sales more than doubling in both countries from their 2016 levels.

Electric buses

Last year alone, the stock of electric buses rose to 370,000 from 345,000 in 2016, and electric two-wheelers reached 250 million.

The electrification of these modes of transport has been driven almost entirely by China, which accounts for more than 99% of both electric bus and two-wheeler stock, though registrations in Europe and India are growing strongly.

Charging infrastructure is also keeping pace. Last year, the number of private chargers at homes and workplaces was estimated at almost three million worldwide.

In addition, there were about 430,000 publicly accessible chargers worldwide in 2017, a quarter of which were fast chargers.

Fast chargers are especially important in densely populated cities and serve an essential role in boosting the appeal of EVs by enabling long-distance travel.

The growth of EVs has largely been driven by government policy, including:

  • Public procurement programmes,
  • Financial incentives reducing the cost of purchase of EVs,
  • Tightened fuel-economy standards and regulations on the emission of local pollutants, low- and zero-emission vehicle mandates, and
  • A variety of local measures, such as restrictions on the circulation of vehicles based on their pollutant emission performances.

Technologies beyond lithium-ion

The report underlines that the rapid uptake of EVs has also been helped by progress made in recent years to improve the performance and reduce the costs of lithium-ion batteries.

However, further battery cost reductions and performance improvements are essential to improve the appeal of EVs.

These are achievable with a combination of improved chemistries, increased production scale, and battery sizes, according to the report.

Further improvements are possible with the transition to technologies beyond lithium-ion.

Innovations in battery chemistry will also be needed to maintain growth as there are supply issues with core elements that make up lithium-ion batteries, such as nickel, lithium and cobalt.

The IEA study noted that supply of cobalt is particularly subject to risks as almost 60% of the global production of cobalt is currently concentrated in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

The report further noted that the capacity to refine and process raw cobalt is highly concentrated, with China controlling 90% of refining capacity.

Even accounting for ongoing developments in battery chemistry, cobalt demand for EVs is expected to be between 10 and 25 times higher than current levels by 2030.

The report notes that ensuring the increased uptake of EVs while meeting social and environmental sustainability goals requires the adoption and enforcement of minimum standards on labour and environmental conditions.

The environmental sustainability of batteries also requires the improvement of end-of-life and material recycling processes.

Download the full report here

This story was originally published on ESI-Africa.com