Transition to green cars has advanced with technological innovation, but still has obstacles to overcome

Automakers have been investing huge sums of money in the race to develop electric models. Some of these new models should hit the market this year, in addition to the dozens that are already running in some cities around the world.

Renault Nissan, for example, has recently announced the launch of thirty-five new electric models by 2030. A few weeks ago, and within five days of each other,  Toyota and Volkswagen made their plans public. The Japanese automaker announced the launch of a complete line of battery electric cars by the end of the decade. The German will launch, among other models, an autonomous electric van.

Electric vehicles captured a much larger share of the global car market in 2021, with sales more than doubling, despite the turbulent context of the pandemic and its effects on the industry. According to data from consultancy LMC Automotive, global sales of battery electric vehicles (BEV) reached 4.5 million units and represent a share of 6.3% of the total sales. In 2020, they were 2.1 million.

But despite the announcements of millions of reais in investments and the launch of new models, with increasingly sophisticated features, the transition to electric vehicles is not progressing as quickly as expected – and there are still a number of obstacles in its way. Leaders of some major global players are already considering the set goals overly ambitious, for instance having 50% of the fleet made up of electric models by 2050.

Strategies and advancements for this transition vary widely among manufacturers, who each year make new predictions, sometimes rather vague, of when they will have a 100% electric fleet, and when they will cease producing gasoline or diesel cars. One of the few consensuses among experts is that  Tesla , the billionaire Elon Musk’s company has the advantage in this race.

Governments, on the other hand, are increasing pressure on vehicle manufacturers to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions and focus on electrification.

The European Union, for example, will fine automakers that fail to reduce the average annual emissions from their fleets by 15% by 2025, and 37.5% by 2030, compared with 2021 levels. As of 2035, the bloc wants to ban the sale of vehicles powered by fossil fuels. In addition to setting goals and deadlines, many of them offer emission credits for electric vehicles or investments in charging point networks.

These incentives are also starting to enter the list of challenges. Some of them are expiring or nearing their expiration date. This can lead to higher car prices, or else the construction of infrastructure to proceed more slowly.

The tripod formed by batteries, autonomy, and supply network is one of the biggest obstacles to overcome. There are dilemmas such as the relation between the size and weight of batteries and their autonomy – larger and heavier batteries provide greater autonomy, but harm performance and reduce internal space. This relationship also interferes with the demand for a greater number of supply points. And there is still the issue of battery life and disposal.

While the evolution of  technology takes care of finding solutions to the battery issue, the installation of supply point networks seems more challenging. Should the investment be from the government or private? If private, will it be done by automakers, so-called oil companies, or energy companies? Should a private network cater to all manufacturers or will each one have its own? The fact is that there is still little investment being made in this direction. So far, only Tesla has deployed a good supply network.

Another controversial point is whether the transition to electric mobility should go through a stage of hybrid models. Some argue that cheaper hybrids would facilitate access and allow people to adapt more smoothly.

Last but not least, it is essential that we know whether there will be enough energy to meet the increase in demand. And, more importantly, the transition to electric cars only makes sense if they are powered by energy from renewable sources. Many countries in the world still produce electricity from coal or other fossil sources, for example. Otherwise, we will not achieve the desired benefits.