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What’s Next For The Electric Vehicle Revolution?

Around the world EV sales shot up throughout 2021 as we faced global oil price increases as well as petrol and diesel shortages. When combined with government mandates to curb the sale of traditionally fuelled vehicles within the next decade and national subsidies to encourage EV uptake, it made EVs that much more appealing. Record numbers of sales were achieved in Europe and going into 2022 most major automakers are planning to put their mark on the industry, manufacturing their own EV models. But how did the EV market fare in 2021 and what can we expect to see in 2022?

In Europe, December 2021 was a record-breaking month for electric vehicles. The Financial Times published data from auto analyst Mathias Schmidt this week suggesting that electric battery-powered cars in Europe achieved higher sales than diesel cars at the end of 2021. According to the research, 176,000 battery electric vehicles were sold in Western Europe in December, compared to 160,000 diesel cars, an all-time high. This presents an increase of 6 percent from the same period in 2020.

The sale of diesel cars has been steadily declining in recent years, as EV sales grow. This has been accelerated by the ban of older diesel vehicles as well as an increase in diesel tax across several cities. People are also concerned about the resale price of diesel cars as governments begin to introduce restrictions on diesel car sales as well as high taxation on fuel.  

In the U.K. it was the Tesla Model 3 that took the EV win. It was the country's second most sold vehicle in 2021, following the Vauxhall Corsa. It was a record year in general, with 190,727 new EVs and 114,554 new hybrids registered in the U.K. The Model 3 retailed sat around $60,200, compared to the much cheaper £17,380 Corsa. 

The U.K. is aiming to stop the sale of new diesel and gasoline cars and vans by 2030, which suggests the reason for the increase in EV uptake. With more EVs available with longer ranges, the electric car market is becoming more competitive year-on-year. 

So what's the EV outlook for 2022? Can new, innovative EVs really be as cheap as car manufacturers are promising? Companies such as Nissan and Mini Cooper are promoting lower cost EVs in 2022, with the Nissan Leaf starting at $28,375 and the Mini Cooper SE at $30,750. Chevrolet and Hyundai are trailing close behind. But sceptics are not so sure about the low-price promises automakers are offering. 

While EV trends in Western Europe look positive, in other areas of the world electric cars are still seen as a luxury. In Australia, for example, EVs make up just 2 percent of all car sales. One of the main reasons that EVs remain more expensive than traditional petrol and diesel vehicles is because of the high cost involved with producing batteries. While China is aiming to increase its low-cost EV production for export to markets such as Australia, this is still not the case at present. 

Examples such as Australia show that EV uptake is increasingly more common in countries offering subsidies for EV purchases, adding taxes to traditional fuels, or announcing mandates on the sale of petrol and diesel vehicles, driving consumers to invest earlier. Without government subsidies, many people can still not afford EVs, and unless the manufacturing price decreases significantly, traditionally fuelled vehicles are likely to remain highly competitive. 

But while the price is a point of contention, EVs are vastly improving in other ways. This week Daimler launched a concept car with solar charging capabilities to increase its range. At present, some of the top models on the market for distance driving still have their limitations. The Tesla Model S Plaid has a range of approximately 396 miles and the Lucid Air Dream Edition R can reach around 520 miles. However, Daimler is now aiming for a range of over 621 miles, which would make it highly competitive.

Daimler hopes to achieve the distance in its Vision EQXX by using 117 roof-based solar cells to boost its range. The firm is also trialling eco-friendly car parts including Mylo, a leather alternative that is produced using mycelium from mushroom roots, for the interiors, and Deserttex - a cactus-based biomaterial, as well as bamboo fibre carpets. 

As EV uptake is increasing in Europe, other areas of the world are waiting for lower cost options or government subsidies to buy into the alternative car type. Meanwhile, automakers around the world are becoming increasingly competitive in their EV tactics. While some use their expertise and strong car manufacturing reputations to market their electric models, others are coming up with innovative ways to make their vehicles more sustainable or deliver a longer range to ensure they are highly competitive as governments introduce mandates to curb traditionally fuelled vehicle sales.

By Felicity Bradstock for

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Felicity Bradstock

Felicity Bradstock is a freelance writer specialising in Energy and Finance. She has a Master’s in International Development from the University of Birmingham, UK. More