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Is EV Uptake Slowing?

9 May 2024 E.A. Gibson Shipbrokers Ltd In recent months we have seen some gloomy developments in the electric vehicles (EV) market. Rental company Hertz has already announced its plans to sell 20,000 EVs and now plans to offload another 10,000 due to waning demand. Tesla has abruptly dismissed the team running its electric vehicle charging business, raising doubts about the future of one of the largest US charging networks, especially considering that a lack of charging infrastructure is one of the main barriers to widespread EV adoption. Elsewhere, Mercedes-Benz has announced in recent investor conference a delay to its EV sales target, now aiming for EVs and hybrids to account for up to 50% of its sales by 2030, instead of initial target of 50% by 2025.


Recent statistical data for the US and Europe provide further evidence of a cooling market. According to Cox Automotive, EV sales in the US rose 2.6% in Q1 2024 compared to Q1 2023, but fell 15.2% relative to Q4 2023, showing the 1st quarter-on-quarter decline since Q2 2020. A factor here is a new guidance for the tax credits in 2024, which means that the number of eligible models has fallen to less than 30 from about 45, although leased cars can qualify for a less strict commercial vehicle tax credit. In the EU, battery-electric car registrations declined by 11.3% in March, largely due to a sharp decline in EV sales in Germany, with the government phasing out all EV subsidies in December last year.


Nonetheless, the IEA remains positive on future growth of the EV fleet, having recently published its annual global EV outlook. According to the agency, during Q1 2024, global EV sales increased by around 25% compared to Q1 2023, showing similar levels of growth compared to the previous year. In 2023, nearly 14 million of electric vehicles were sold, up by 35% YoY, accounting for 18% of all cars sold globally. However, these sales are heavily concentrated in China, Europe and the US. China undoubtedly is a global leader, accounting for 60% of all sales in 2023; that’s compared to 25% in Europe and 10% in the US.


Quarterly Electric Car Sales (mln)

The IEA projects that the EV uptake is set to accelerate, based on today’s energy, climate and industrial policy settings. As per the Stated Policies scenario, almost one in three cars in China will be electric by 2030 and almost one in five in both the United States and European Union. Globally, projected EV uptake will avoid 6 mbd of oil demand in 2030 and over 10 mbd in 2035. Supporting its projections for strong growth in EV uptake, the agency notes that there has been strong investment in EV supply chains and that manufacturing capacity is likely to be capable of keeping pace with future demand. At the same time, EVs are becoming more affordable as competition intensifies, particularly in China. China’s EV exports grew by 80% last year, becoming very popular in developing and emerging economies. There is also growing second-hand market for EVs, with prices of second-hand electric cars falling quickly and becoming competitive with internal combustion engine vehicles.


Yet, the agency notes that challenges remain. The IEA warns that the roll out of public charging needs to keep pace with EV sales. More importantly, outside China, EVs need to become more affordable to support strong growth rates. In Europe and in the US, EVs are still 10% to 50% more expensive than combustion engine equivalents, whilst large EV models still remain unaffordable to average consumers in developing economies.




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