According to the EPA, transportation comprises 28% of total emissions output in the U.S., and the automotive sector produces up 82% of transportation sector emissions. In response to the growing threat of global climate change, state and federal governments are making policy changes, and automakers are changing their business models.
To meet proposed legislation, satisfy predicted consumer demand, and do their part to reduce carbon emissions, every manufacturer currently sells or plans to introduce hybrid, plug-in hybrid, and electric vehicles (EVs). But solving the problem isn't as simple as switching to EVs in a matter of years. Each company's approach varies.
Non-traditional startup companies like Lucid, Rivian, and Tesla are organized from the outset to produce nothing but EVs. For established automakers, the switch to electrification is more of a process.
Almost four years ago, Volvo announced its intention to electrify its entire fleet, and three months ago, the Swedish automaker said it would only sell electric vehicles by 2030. General Motors recently made huge waves by announcing their entire fleet of light-duty vehicles will be electric by 2035.
Meanwhile, Toyota is proceeding with more caution, aiming to sell more hybrid and plug-in hybrid vehicles in the near term rather than promise to deliver an all-electric fleet by a specific date. Toyota's concerns about the switch to EVs include affordability, infrastructure, battery manufacturing capacity, and sourcing the batteries' required materials.
BMW is also hesitant to place all of its chips on EVs. It said half of its fleet would be zero emissions by 2030. All of its Mini models will be fully electric by the early 2030s, and BMW promises to offer electrified drive systems in the majority of segments in which it competes. But when it comes to outright discontinuation of internal combustion engines (ICE), BMW will put a finger to the wind and let the market decide.
The Volkswagen Group, one of the biggest automakers globally, hasn't put a date on ending production of its ICE vehicles. However, it is pretty bullish on electrification. During its first Power Day conference, held in March 2021, it provided its roadmap to electrification.
Volkswagen's plans address some of the main reasons that consumers are hesitant about switching to EVs. Those concerns include:
- The additional cost of an EV compared to an ICE-powered vehicle
- Range anxiety
- Inconvenient recharging times
- Scarcity of charging stations
To control battery production and supply, Volkswagen also announced its plans to build six new factories and modernize two existing plants to manufacture batteries and cut costs by 50% through expected economies of scale.
Battery technology will also advance. Currently, most battery cells in EVs and smartphones are lithium-ion, which requires an electrolyte solution. However, VW discussed concept-phase solid-state batteries that can charge to 80% capacity in as little as 12 minutes while delivering 30% more range than liquid-type batteries. The solid-state batteries will also be smaller, lighter, and less likely to leak or overheat.
Volkswagen, through Electrify America, also plans to install 3,500 DC fast charging points in North America in 2021.
While the path to electrification varies depending on the car company, one thing is certain. This whole electric car thing? It's happening.