Will all cars be electric by 2040?

Whilst we don’t have a crystal ball to gaze into, it’s hard to imagine a future where electric cars don’t become the norm. Origin’s Head of e-mobility, Chau Le, sheds some light on whether we can expect petrol cars to go the way of the dinosaurs.

Those shopping for a new car right now, and over the next few years, face a choice to go electric or stick with petrol.

In numerous countries drivers have been buying electric vehicles (EVs) in droves. Take Norway for example where, as of June this year, 85% of vehicles registered were battery electric. Many markets are supported by EV-friendly government policy and infrastructure, as well as deadlines – after which the sale of petrol cars will be banned, (which is the case in the UK, France and Germany).

In Australia however, EVs currently make up just 0.78% of new car sales.

Despite the lack of supportive national EV policy in Australia, and the obvious issue of up-front expense, EVs still make good sense for many drivers. Their ongoing costs after purchase are up to 75% less than a petrol car, they can be charged at home (no more visits to the petrol station), and  they’re a whole lot of fun to drive.

The Future Energy Report reveals that if they were to buy a car tomorrow, 26% of respondents over the age of 55 would be at least slightly likely to choose an EV. But that figure climbs to a generous 62% of respondents between the ages of 18 – 34, suggesting the younger generation are more likely to be early adopters.

So, when we look a few decades into the future, towards 2040, should we expect to see any petrol cars on the road?

Will EVs snuff out combustion?

“EVs will be the norm in the future but how fast this happens depends on what we see in terms of policy over the next few years,” says Chau Le, General Manager Strategy & E-Mobility, Origin Energy.

“This has improved over the last 12 months at the state level, but what we need from a policy perspective are financial incentives such as subsidies and tax exemptions to reduce that gap in the upfront cost between an EV and the equivalent petrol car.”

Policy doesn’t just help drive affordability and infrastructure, it also signals to manufacturers around the globe that Australia’s ready for their EVs, Le says. Compared to other countries, Australia has a significantly poorer availability of brands and models of EV. Greater choice brings greater competition, pushing prices down further.

So, as soon as we see more supportive policy, Le says, we’ll also see EVs taking greater market share. Without that policy, change will be far slower.

What about hydrogen fuel cells?

Actually, Le says, the future of Australian motoring is likely a mix of EV and vehicles powered by hydrogen fuel cells.

“For heavy-duty vehicles, such as trucks, ships and aircraft, the batteries they’d require are too heavy,” she says.

“That’s where hydrogen will play a role, in the heavy-duty vehicle segment. Small passenger vehicles will increasingly use batteries and will eventually remove petrol vehicles from the roads. The only question is when.”

In terms of electric and hydrogen vehicles in Australia, it’s a matter of when, not if. Experts say the magic ingredient that will help us begin to catch up with leading nations is government policy, which will support investment in charging infrastructure and reduce initial costs of purchase. When that occurs, the EV market will blossom.

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