One Finite Planet

One Finite Planet

2023 may not the year to buy an EV, but it’s definitely too late to buy a new ICEV!

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EVs 2023: Is Tesla losing its cool as BYD ascends?

The world of EVs is changing, as is the leadership. Tesla lost 50% of its valuation in 2022. Some are predicting it will lose half of the remaining value in 2023, and although others predict the stock price will rebound, both outcomes are possible, and which becomes reality could depend very much on whether Tesla can remain ‘cool’, or through Musk and twitter becomes linked to far right.

Although entire EV future is not dependant solely on Tesla, a decline could have wide implications, for the market, competitors and the global transition to EVs. Not only are the ‘legacy’ automotive companies GM, Ford, VW and Toyota competition for the hearts and dollars from consumers, but also BYD, who is already taking the EV lead from Tesla.

Keys factor in EV trends during 2023 could turn out to be who is ‘cool’, shifting perceptions of a climate threat and the need for rapid response, and the impact of conflicts such as Ukraine. Rapid radical change for the industry, but it will take longer to impact consumers.

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While there are still valid reasons to hesitate before buying an EV in 2023, it's definitely late to buy a new ICE vehicle and a better time to instead plan a combustion engine exit.

Considering the trend from where EVs were 5 years ago to today, and then projecting EV sales growth over the next 5 years, and it seems almost certain almost all ICEVs of today are an obsolescence risk.

While this does not mean everyone should rush out and buy an EV, it is an opportunity to prepare for an aspect of the future that may catch some unawares.

2023 may not the year to buy an EV, but it’s definitely too late to buy a new ICEV!

While there are still valid reasons to hesitate before buying an EV in 2023, it's definitely late to buy a new ICE vehicle and a better time to instead plan a combustion engine exit.

Considering the trend from where EVs were 5 years ago to today, and then projecting EV sales growth over the next 5 years, and it seems almost certain almost all ICEVs of today are an obsolescence risk.

While this does not mean everyone should rush out and buy an EV, it is an opportunity to prepare for an aspect of the future that may catch some unawares.

Synopsis: EVs can’t beat ICEVs at everything yet but ICEVs are fast becoming obsolete.

It will take decades before ICE vehicles are gone completely, but complacency on the change that has been quietly building but is about to hit will no doubt leave some owners with a vehicle that has become obsolete before they expected.

I have a separate page about what it is like to live with an EV in 2023, and question here is not whether EVs are yet better than ICEVs, but that given how fast they have been catching up, that it is inevitable that they well best soon even in cases where so far, they are not. The focus for this page/paper is more about trends and statistics.

Until a few years after the 2017 release of Tesla Model 3, the most popular EV in the world was the Nissan, despite being prior to 2017 having an EPA range of just over 135km (84 miles), an acceleration time to 100km/h (62mph) of over 10 seconds and a high price. Even though the Leaf of today is much better, is it still now out of date, and peak sales were back in 2014. Now even Toyota is announcing they will have fast charging EVs with over 960 kms (600 miles) range by 2026 and almost 1500 kms (900 miles) by 2028 that will be less expensive than EVs of today.

This EV disruption is not about climate change. Just as even those who install home solar power tend to do so when the economics add up regardless of their belief in climate change, EVs are no longer about being a righteous environmentalist, and instead can be just about being a car enthusiast.

For this page it is assumed that if, for example 25% of new buying a new vehicle in Europe choose an EV, then EVs are the best choice for 25% of buyers in Europe. Discussion on what makes an EV the best choice for buyers and what needs to change for EVs to increase the percentage of people who find EVs to be the best value choice for them is discussed more thoroughly on other pages. For this page, the focus is on trend and how year after year the percentage rises.

In the countries considered here for statistics, at this time in early 2023, somewhere between 5% and 35% of buyers choose an EV so, it is taken that at this time in 2023, EVs are not yet the best choice for most new vehicle buyers, but the projections are that within the next 5 years EVs will become the best choice for the majority of new vehicle buyers, and become the vehicles that people desire.

This disruption can even seem counterintuitive, as much of the evidence of the pending change is hidden, but the disruption is now coming fast than phones became mobile.

Note that this disruption is about the new car market, and while that has implications for the sales value of existing cars as used cars, what happens with new cars has a surprisingly slow impact on what is out there on the road, and a much greater impact on motoring press and news which tends to focus almost exclusively on new vehicles.

Old cars will still work, and gas/service stations are not about to disappear overnight or even with a decade. The type of vehicle people do own will change far more slowly than type of vehicle people desire to own will change.

There is no rush to get an EV, but there may be a need to consider what is going to happen to the value and desirability of any ICE vehicles you own. Some may become collectors’ items, but most won’t.

Perhaps the projections given here for growth of EV sales will turn out to way off, but perhaps they are still worth considering. Perhaps 2023 is not the year to be an EV, but is it a good idea to buy a new vehicle that could obsolete by 2028?

EV Sales Growth Projections: It is happening, but when?

Calculations: No, it is not as simple as exponential growth!

EVs just keep improving year by year, and the result is an increasing market share that, at an early stage, can appear to be exponential growth. I see a lot of content on the web where EV market share growth per year share is projected to continue to grow exponentially. The suggestion is if that if market share went from 5% to 10% in one year, it will just keep doubling…. The second year would be 10% to 20%, then 20 to 40% then 80% …then 160% …. er…hang on!

Clearly, like all exponential growth in a finite environment, that growth has a limit.

Projecting sales growth to just keep growing exponentially ignores the reality that global car sales peaked in 2018, leaving EVs to compete for a share of the around 80 million vehicle sales each year. Continued exponential growth would soon require the EV market share to exceed 100%, but simple exponential growth is never quite logical, becomes significantly more inaccurate over time, and will always overestimate future growth.

Calculation by market share conversion.

A more mathematically correct approach is to consider EVs as converting a percentage of the market from ICEVs to EVs. Consider market where the market share from 10% to 20% in one year. This change is not about whether there were more car sales, but about the choices of those who are buying a new car. The data means that at the start of the year, 10% of new car buyers chose EVs and 90% chose ICEVs, and at the end of the year 20% chose EVs and 80% chose ICEVs.

In that year the market moved from was 10% EVs and 90% ICEVs, to 20% EVs and 80% ICEVs which

This means in that year new EVs or better deals converted 10% of the ICEV 90% would have at the start of the year bought an ICEV to instead chose an EV. This is converting 1/9-th of ICEVs the 90% who would have been ICEV buyers into EV buyers. If the same pattern continues in future, EVs will again convert another 1/9th from ICEV buyers into EV buyers the next year, so EVs will gain another 8.89% and not another 10% in the next year because there are less ICEV buyers to win over and thus move to 28.89% EV market share, while the exponential growth model would predict 40% EV market share in that next year.

Any projections that do not take into account that there is declining share of ICEV buyers “convert” to EV buyers as the market share of ICEVs declines, will overestimate how quickly EVs will increase market share.

The Sample Market Share Projections, based on market share conversion.

The following table uses the market share conversion method described above, using the annual growth from 2021 to 2022 for each country to calculate rate of market share conversion. Please comment if this is still not clear.

2017Feb 2023Annual Growth
2021 to 2022
China*?? / 3.3% *122% / 31.6%*43.2% / 70%3758809499100100
Germany0.7%15.7%57.5% *2274363839599100
USA1.14%7.1% *366%12193045637991

Note*1: China data is often given only for “NEVs” or “new energy vehicles” which including PHEVs as well battery EVs, and the only 2017 EV data found so far is for NEVs. For clarity when comparing data which for China is so often BEVs, figures shown are BEV / NEV (battery EVs prior to the slash, NEV data after), with only the battery EV data used for projections.

Note*2: Germany is actually reported as having a year-on-year growth rate of actually 115%! However, the projections are made on the basis of half that growth rate, as even though the rate has held for the past few years, if averaged over the past 5 years the growth has been 70%, and there is a current slump in EV sales. The graph show here from that source confirms the recent historic growth, together with revealing that there has been a slump in January-February each year for the past two years and sales picked up again after the first quarter each year.

Note *3: USA statistics are from December 2022, not February 2023. These will be updated if/when data becomes available.

How the formula does when applied to past data.

The calculations using the same system and rate of growth were then calculated from 2017 to 2023, using a “guesstimate figure of 2.0% market share in China for pure battery electric sales as being just over half the NEV figure that also includes PHEVs.

With no specific month of February 2017 data, these predictions will need to wait for an annual 2023 sales figure for a complete test, but it is already close enough in time for an approximate comparison and sales from June or July should be close to the annual average, and that is only around 4 months from now.

The results were:

Projected for 2023 year13%18%16%18%21%
Actual Feb 2023 share6.8%22%15.7%16.5%7.1%*3

Clearly, China is ahead of the projected numbers, while Australia and the USA will need a lot of sales in the rest of 2023 to reach projections. I doubt Australia or the USA will quite reach these targets, but they could yet come surprisingly close by year end.

Overall, the USA and Australia could be up to 1 year behind the projections, and China the UK and Germany could end up around 1 year ahead of the projections.

On this basis, it is a good idea to assume the projections could be out by around 1 year over a 6-year period, but in reality, “sh*t happens” and some global even could make the projects even less accurate.

Not everything is predictable: Sh*t happens!

During the years from 2017 to 2023, Covid-19 and then the war in Ukraine proved that sh*t happens. If China invades Taiwan or some other conflict occurs, in the next 5 years, who knows what the impact would be.

There is already the threat of a global recession, and predominantly La Niña years to 2022 that mask but accelerate global warming, possible upcoming El Niño years could create some panic.

A breakthrough battery technology could accelerate uptake or maybe people could all decide Toyota was right and EVs are just a fad or maybe the owners of the UFOs will reveal themselves? Who knows, but the point is the future is uncertain.

Those “price parity by 2025” predictions.

There are many predictions of EV price parity by 2025. I feel that normally every buyer of a vehicle feels their choice of vehicle delivers “price parity” for them, so if 10% of people buy an EV, then for that 10% there was an EV with “price parity”. On that basis when EVs reach 50% market share then that would be arguably real price parity, but that may not happen in 2025 and one my calculations could be one or two years later depending on the market, but it is coming.

Some comments about “price parity” seem to imply that there will be this date when all EVs go from more expensive than all ICEVs to being the same price as ICEVs. Like it will magically happen that vehicles released months or years ago will all get new prices. That seems no more realistic than a date when all ICEVs will offer the same value for money in the eyes of every potential buyer.

The reality is the parity happens progressively, new vehicle release by new vehicle release.

Summary: It is statistically highly probable EVs will dominate globally by 2028.

Even Australia and the USA, both below the current global EV market share of 13%, would both surpass 60% EV on current trends. The world average market share would be even higher, which would mark the point where EVs have greater sales volumes than ICEs. From that time forward ICEVs become more niche and increase in per unit production cost, while EVs.

This also means that ICEVs vehicles released over the next few years are very likely to fail to meet projected sales, unless the manufacturer fully projected a decline in sales over the vehicle life-time

Why probably not the year to buy an EV?

Mostly because in any one year, only 5% of people buy a new vehicle.

Statistically, for any one person, it is probably not the year they buy a car. Most people don’t buy a car every year, and when people do buy a car, most car purchases are used car purchases. While Steve Jobs bought a new car every six months, most people who do buy always buy new cars tend to wait at least 4 or 5 years and some who lease cars sometimes renew the lease for a second term. Others key the same car for 10 years or longer, and once factoring in that 3 of 4 car purchases is a used car, in any given year, only 5% or people buy a new car.

Fairly simple maths reveals that would mean the average vehicle lasts 20 years, and all data confirms this answer. In fact, on average vehicles last just a little longer, which means 5% more vehicles being bought each year is adding slightly more vehicles than are scrapped each year. Still, 20 years is about right, which means it will take about 20 years from when the last ICE vehicles are sold until they would expect to be scrapped.

Some people claim EVs have a “dirty secret” and result in more emissions, but the real threat to the planets emissions would be if a significant number of people who would not otherwise have bought a car at the time, go out and buy EVs to save on fuels or get rid of their ICEV. That would grow the new car market resulting in an increase in global emissions from building factories, the building of more cars, shipping and distribution. I don’t think it is big risk, but this is a reason why calls from EV fans to get ICEVs off the roads faster should not amount to anything either.

EVs are rarely available for used vehicle buyers.

Three of every four car purchases are purchases of a used car.

There are limited choices for buying a used EV. With EVs on a steep market share climb, only limited numbers have reached the used car market. Each year the percentage of people wanting to buy EVs increases, and the used car market provides buyers today with only the percentage of EV that reflects buying patterns years ago, so there will be a shortage of used EVs until demands stops increasing, which will likely only happen when EV market share passes 50%, at which point annual growth of market share is declining. The good news is that almost all markets, that 50% share will be reached within 5 years, which is not that long to wait to get a better value used vehicle.

Within the 5 years, buying a used ICE vehicle represent less risk than buying a new ICE vehicle. A new vehicle normally lasts around 20 years before finally becoming scrap, with the value of the vehicle declining towards zero along that timeline. The fact that the vehicle will become obsolete is already partially factored into the price of a used vehicle, which means that if there are no new EVs meeting requirements, a used ICEV may be a better alternative than a new ICEV.

Too few good value EV choices: EVs currently have limited market share for good reasons.

Why do people still buy ICEVs? In most markets, some buyers probably err on the side of caution and buy an ICEV even though an EV would be a better fit for their dollar, but in 2023 most vehicle buyers globally are still finding that it is an ICE Vehicle that suits their needs for the right price.

Every vehicle purchased was price competitive for at least that one buyer. When a vehicle sells in low numbers, it means only very few people are applying criteria that makes that vehicle price competitive.

Most EVs only sell in very low numbers, yet at the other extreme, the Tesla Model Y, is currently the world bestselling car. EV sales figures are far more dominated by a few models than is the case with ICE vehicles. There are a few standout EVs, and many more that do not standout which, given there are less EVs on the market including the ones that sell in low numbers, means there is not a lot of chocie of value EVs.

Cleantechnica: World EV Sales Now 19% Of World Auto Sales

Buyers are not all fools, so market data is one of the best guides, although market data can need decoding. By far the world’s largest EV market is China, and almost all EVs are available there and often released early, so relative sales globally or just in China can be a guide. Even global figures very much reflect sales in China because that market is so large, but local market conditions can mean very different relative prices than in China or other markets, and many vehicles simply do not reach the west, or are different when they do reach the west.

Global sales data makes it look like Tesla and BYD dominate the EV market, which is because the DO dominate and control around 40% of the global EV market.

Beyond products of Tesla and BYD, there is Geely (Volvo and Polestar) or SAIC (MG4) polestar, or shopping in more niche segments, there is Porsche or the mid to high end BMW and Mercedes offerings.

Little else beyond VW ID.4 or GAC Aion products are making a case on the basis of market acceptance.

Some people don’t like Elon Musk or are worried about another industry becoming like smartphones where everything is made in China. Big brands like VW and Toyota can become particularly risky when there is a market disruption. Another negative is that not all vehicle market segments even have available EVs, or at least price competitive EVs.

There are some price-parity EVs. But not a wide enough range to mean most that there is a price-competitive EV for everyone’s criteria or needs. Ok, if you really want a sports sedan, then a Tesla model 3 can be a bargain compared to slower more expensive ICEV sports sedans. If instead you want a sporty quite premium SUV, then there is the Tesla Model Y. Or if you want a well-equipped quite high specification mid-size SUV then there is the BYD Atto 3. But if you really want really something like a base model Toyota Corolla, then paying the price of a base Model 3 Telsa, or a BYD is probably more car than the budget allows. Sure, the EV running costs are lower, you may not recover the difference unless you drive a lot or become an Uber driver or something.

Bottom line: Unless you are a good fit for a specific and available EV, then there may be no price competitive EV option yet in 2023.

Charging infrastructure is currently not for everyone.

Owning an EV and not being able to charge at is a bit like owning a phone and not being able to charge at home: potentially problematic.

All that is needed to satisfy most charging needs is a parking space that can be reached by a cable from a domestic power socket, but if you live in an apartment or need to use on street parking, it can be a problematic. Norway has proven that these challenges be largely overcome, but even in Norway where new EVs now have an around 90% market share of new vehicle sales, as only 5% of people buy a new vehicle in any given year, it will still be some years before even 50% of people own an EV, so even they may not yet have the charging problem solved for everyone.

EVs prices should still fall further: It is just like PCs.

Even if you can find a competitively price EVs that suits your needs, there is no rush, as EVs do get better each year, so they may be a better one available next year. The main need to avoid the risk of investing in a new ICEV, and while an EV becomes last year’s EV, an ICEV can become last centuries technology. Generally, with vehicles, the higher the running costs, the faster the deprecation, as annual running costs become increasingly more significant compared to purchase price. ICE vehicles have high running costs vs EVs.

EVs are improving faster than inflation and can even drop in price from year to year.

Tesla is shutting down buyers in China who are protesting after missing out on significant price drops in the country. The company stated that it will not compensate them.

Last week, we reported on Tesla slashing prices in China, which raised demand concerns for the automaker in the important EV market.

Tesla shuts down protesters – no compensation for price drop

For years, computer prices kept falling while the specifications kept improving. The same happened with flat screen TVs. If you waited until the “right time to buy”, you would never get to own either of them. That same dilemma may apply with EVs for some time, although the size of the fall in prices will almost certainly be less significant than seen with flat screen TVs, but there will still be improving features, and batteries will gain even more range and keep falling in price.

Like those early flat screen TVs, EV will eventually become cheaper than the alternative, but it takes time.

Increasing scale and improving battery technology are two major reasons why EVs will become more and more competitive with ICEVs each year. But that “becoming more competitive with ICEVs”, also means becoming more and more competitive with previously released EVs.

Consider Tesla. At the 2023 Telsa investor day, Tesla explained in detail how it could reduce the production cost of EVs in future and did so without even referencing falling battery costs. Elon Musk has said the next generation Tesla vehicle will be half the price of current Tesla vehicles, yet it won’t half the size or have significantly less features. If Tesla was to release such a vehicle today at half current model 3 prices, it would significantly erode Mode 3 and Model Y sales. In reality, it is far more likely that some of those cost savings will be applied to the Model 3 and Model Y prior to the release of this new vehicle, so that by the time of release, the pricing of these three models is approximately aligned with their logical market position.

The other half of the “duopoly” of EV makers, BYD continually adds better battery tech, and is getting more and more serious about software. The scale BYD has means they should also be able to adopt similar production streamlined to that being introduced by Tesla. As Tesla and BYD alone represent 40% of EVs made, these two alone are sufficient to set the agenda for the industry.

Since the first EVs, the big story has been improving and new technology batteries. Tesla with their global #1 battery partner, CATL of China, and BYD who are #2 battery maker in the world in their own right.

EVs mays still add more range.

Yes, zealots believing austerity equates with morality will declare that EVs already have more range than people need. They will also say every people should have only small city runabouts, or better still, just use public transport. However, while the improvements in range so far have gone some way to eliminating the negative aspects of EVs, there is still remove for improvement, and every reason to believe improvements will continue. When the Nissan Leaf was introduced EVs had a battery of around 20kWh, and today even the latest Leaf has a 60kWh battery. In 5 years’ time, that segment may typically have 100kWh, and the EV experience would still improve further with more range.

Yes, on a road trip in an EV of 2023 I can travel the recommend no more than 2 hours before taking a rest stop, and with a rest stop of appropriate duration, as long as the EV is charging during that rest stop, the EV will have more than adequate charge to continue on the road trip. The limitation is that the EV may need to be charging at every 2-hour stop, as just 4 hours of highway driving is too close if not over the limit of reliable range on most 2023 EVs. What if for one stop would be preferable to stop at a wonderful nature lookout that does not have a charger nearby? Or all the chargers are busy at one stop and it would be best to be able to wait and charge at a later stop?

Obsolescence vs nostalgia: Why not a new ICEV?

Nostalgia: Is ‘definitely too late’ is going too far?

While the logical argument is that combustion engine vehicles are already dinosaurs waiting for the meteor, perhaps another view could be that 2023 is one of the last years before ICEVs start to become rare, and perhaps some ICE vehicles will become collectors’ items? Or perhaps this is the time for one last ICEV to enjoy the benefits of ICEV vehicles before they are gone forever?

Reality: Nostalgia is about old, not new!

When considered fully, yes there may be an argument for buying one last ICEV, but logically, unless buying a rare exotic build for billionaires, a used ICEV could make sense, but a new ICEV would make a lot less sense.

Consider collectors’ items. Vehicles become collectors’ items because they become rare. This means that unless buying one of those exotic cars made in very, very limited numbers, or being prepared to wait a very long time whilst keeping the vehicle in pristine condition, no regular new cars are about to become a collector’s items, while some research can uncover some older vehicles that are at least starting to become rare.

What about for that last ever ICEV? While today’s EVs have some clear advantages over ICEVs, they still lose out in some areas as well. However, every year the balance tips further in favour of EVs, and all the market projections are the EVs will take over sales because they just keep getting better. That last ever ICEV is a commitment to a new vehicle that to deliver its full value would need to be sold perhaps several times in its life on average last at least 20 years. Starting with a new ICEV now being confident people will still want it in even 10 years is a risk, plus in that time fossil fuels may be getting very expensive. The problem with a new ICEV is the risk of resale opportunities collapsing.

Sure, one reason for buying an ICEV would be an indulgence, but a used ICEV that will need to last less years to pay back its price at the time of purchase, would migrate risk of the indulgence becoming something to regret and would probably be a far less expensive indulgence in the long term, even if working with the same budget and choosing for a higher spec used vehicle with a similar initial purchase price to a lower spec new vehicle.

Can EVs really become dominant?

Norway as the EV “poster child” for an EV future.

There is a long story but somewhat intriguing story of Morten Harken from the pop group A-HA played a key role in Norway becoming a leader in the transition to EVs with over 90% of all car purchases, but the result is that Norway now provides a window into a potential future and other countries will likely follow.

The point of 12% share many countries have reached in 2023, was reached by Norway back in around 2014. From that point, EVs went to being the majority seller within 4 years.

If Norway is a valid example, then any country with over 5% EV sales in 2023 should get to EV sales being the majority of new car sales within 5 years. But is Norway a valid example of the future, or would other counties need the incentives Norway had or their own EV promoting pop group? On the pop group it is unclear, but as EVs keep becoming more competitive, it turns out incentives only bring forward a few years the pricing EVs soon achieve anyway.

Year by year EVs become more competitive realtive to ICEVs.

For a long time, the Nissan Leaf was the world’s biggest selling EV, and by many measures, it was just rubbish.

The original version had an EPA range of 117km (73 miles) and not only was the battery of a low capacity, but it also had no thermal management, which in combination means a very poor battery life and very lacklustre performance, with a 0-100km/h time of over 11 seconds. The 2019 Leaf e+ brought EPA range up to 364km (221 miles) and performance to around 8 seconds for 0-100km/h (0-62mph).

Today, in most countries you can now buy an EV with something like 4x the range, 3x the battery life and better performance than that original Leaf for a lower price, and the globally bestselling EVs are currently Telsa Model 3, Model Y and BYD Atto 3. The Nissan Leaf is no longer considered competitive.

During that same time, improvements over the bestselling ICE vehicle of the time the 2013 Toyota Corolla, have been far less dramatic. Clearly in 2013 the Corolla had far more appeal as the Nissan Leaf sold an average of 50,000 vehicles per year while Toyota sold 1.22 million of the 2013 Corolla, so less improvement was required. But now in 2023, the bestselling Tesla Model Y is outselling the Corolla, showing how far the bestselling EV has progressed against what is still the bestselling ICEV.

Which year will EVs take the lead is changed by “how level is the playing field?”

Back in 2013 when the Leaf was the world’s bestselling EV, in Norway where vehicles were not competing on a level playing field there was a 5% market share for EVs, while in countries like Australia with no measures to advantage EVs, there was less than 0.1% market share of EVs in Australia in 2013 and the 5% market share was only achieved 9-years later in 2022.

Each country sets its own “playing field” rules, and the rules in Norway gave enough advantage to EVs to reach the market penetration back in 2013 in Norway that EVs reached in Australia 9-years later in 2022. If that 9-year time gap was to remain the same, since EVs reached over 50% in Norway in 2017, they would reach of 50% share in Australia in 2026, as opposed to my projection calculation of the year 2028.

If Norway is used as a reference, then other countries could be assigned a number of years there EV transition will run behind that of Norway, but without serios market intervention to save ICEVs, their days are numbered. While the 1,500 km (900 mile) range, fast charging, low cost, vehicles promised by Toyota might first arrive from Tesla or as a BYD vehicle with a Toyota badge, they are coming, EVs already offer better performance than ICEVS.

EVs just keep getting better and the main variable about taking over is which year.

The takeover of new car sales is less visible on the roads.

Still, even the change in new car sales can seem hard to imagine when looking at current sales and the currently available EVs or visiting a car showroom, just as the Tesla Model Y now being the world’s bestselling car seems hard to believe. In fact, much of the change may come not from the brands and showrooms we know, but from new brands like Tesla and BYD and from online sales instead of showrooms.

Some type of ICEVs could still be built decades into the future.

While the era of fossil fuels may come to a very final end, synthetic fuels are already being produced that are by nature fully sustainable. Synthetic fuels, or “E-fuels”, can allow combustion engines (ICE) to still be an option well into the future. E-fuels can’t compete on price with electric power, so they are only suitable in niche circumstances.

One example is Porsche who plans to have 911 models powered by e-fuels available to customers long int the future. In practice this may be only feasible for track days once gas stations become rare, gas stations will most likely be common for at least two decades yet.

Military will likely be another area where ICE have an ongoing use. Having electrical power to recharge miliary vehicles in areas of conflict could be logistics nightmare for some time.

Planning a combustion engine exit.

Avoiding being “left holding the baby”.

The average normal full life of a vehicle is around 20 years. Some become classics and are desired longer, while others like mass market luxury limousines, where they become unwanted sooner.

Although the average life is 20 years, it is not just about age but also distance travelled or “mileage“. High mileage vehicles typically become unwanted sooner, which means that vehicles driven the most tend to be younger in age, even if not in distance travelled. So, while an average lifespan of 20 years means half of all the vehicles will still be on the road after ten years, that half still driven, are those that are driven least, which means they are on the road less, and buy less fuel.

Realistically, being “left holding the baby”, will typically mean being left with a ICEV around 12 years after EVs really take over, which means, provided nothing disrupts projections, by around 2040. On this basis, all that is required is to avoid owning ICE vehicles from the model year 2020 onwards.

The later the build year, the more likely that at some time in the life of the vehicle it will become apparent the vehicle could soon become a stranded asset.

Not all ICE vehicles will have the same sunset.

As already mentioned, Porsche has begun making e-fuels that will enable collectors and enthusiasts to keep driving their collectable ICEVs in a very similar to how some people still ride horses. While these e-fuels will be expensive, and have limited availability, it does mean that any collectible ICE vehicle need never become obsolete.

At the other end of the spectrum, VW et al have not done helped the market position of diesel vehicles in many countries and market segments. While I have no research to reference, I suspect it may already be time to exit diesel powered hatchbacks, sports sedans or even commuter sedans in many markets.

At the other extreme, off-road diesel-powered vehicles may even be safe longer than typical ICEVs, as is likely be the case for vehicles used for long range towing.

  • *2023 Sept 21 : Typos and links
  • 2023 Aug 31 : First edition

Electric vehicles predicted to command 86% of global market by 2030