Peak Gasoline Vehicles Is Already Here

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By Nick Cunningham, a freelance writer on oil and gas, renewable energy, climate change, energy policy and geopolitics based in Pittsburgh, PA. Originally published at OilPrice

The internal combustion engine has already reached a peak in sales.

That startling conclusion comes from a new report from Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF). “Sales of internal combustion passenger vehicles have already peaked, and may never recover unless EV growth falters, or major economies such as China invest in significant stimulus programs,” BloombergNEF wrote.

EVs may reach price parity with the internal combustion engine by the mid-2020s, even as there is variation between countries and market segments. But new policies are largely heading in one direction: tighter or more costly restrictions on vehicle emissions, which will favor EVs over gasoline and diesel.

To be sure, EVs still account for only about 0.5 percent of the auto market. But while EVs may be growing from a small base, they are growing quickly. Over 2 million electric vehicles were sold last year, up from a few thousand in 2010, “and there is no sign of slowing down,” Bloomberg New Energy Finance said in its report. “We expect annual passenger EV sales to rise to 10 million in 2025, 28 million in 2030 and 56 million by 2040.” By 2040, more than half of all vehicle sales will be EVs, and more than 30 percent of the global fleet will be electrified.

While passenger vehicles garner much of the attention, electrification in other segments is important as well. Indeed, electric buses are more likely to achieve a faster transition than passenger cars. E-buses are just getting going, but the market is rapidly picking up steam. The e-bus market expanded by 32 percent in 2018, according to BloombergNEF, with China accounting for 99 percent of the fleet to date. China has 421,000 e-buses on the roads while the U.S. only has 300.

By 2030, electric buses will capture more than half of the market, while EVs in the passenger segment will only be approaching 10 percent. It will take almost until 2040 before passenger EVs overtake the sales of the internal combustion engine.   Related: Mystery Tanker With Iranian Oil Unloads In China

However, as Liam Denning points out for Bloomberg Opinion, even as it will take time for EV sales to surpass their fossil fuel counterparts, the more important metric may be when EVs capture more of the growth in sales. If EVs begin to seize all or most of the growth going forward, the position of major automakers – and the oil market – will quickly run into trouble. It only takes change at the margins to create significant disruption.

That may already be underway. Last year, EVs took home all of the growth in the auto market, a trend that is likely to continue, even if some short-term fluctuation is possible. In other words, the peak of the internal combustion engine may already be here. Independent researcher and journalist Gregor Macdonald has been beating this drum for quite a while, noting that gasoline and diesel vehicle sales in China have already hit a peak as well.

As the internal combustion engine sees sales plateau at a time when EV sales are soaring, automakers and Big Finance will turn to the growth opportunity.

With the writing on the wall, automakers are increasingly pivoting towards the electrification of their fleets. VW, for instance, is aggressively transforming itself into an EV manufacturer, no doubt egged on by its wide-ranging emissions cheating scandal. By 2028, VW will have 70 battery-electric models, which will require overhauling 16 factories. It also recently announced that it would spend 1 billion euros to build a battery manufacturing facility in order to ensure a steady supply of batteries, rather than relying on battery-makers from around the globe.

This story may apply more broadly to the energy transition, not just to transportation. Fossil fuels dominate, and clean energy is still relatively small. But the lumbering giant is beginning to crumble. The 170 companies in the Russell 3000 Energy Index are down 12 percent since the start of 2017, according to Matthew Winkler of Bloomberg News. The decline comes even as broader equity markets have climbed substantially. The Russell 3000 gained 27 percent over the same period.

More importantly, clean energy stocks have done even better. The 89 publicly-traded companies that earn at least 10 percent of their revenues from clean energy, as identified by BloombergNEF, have seen their stocks rise by 50 percent since the beginning of 2017, Winkler points out.

In other words, if you invested in an oil or gas company in 2017, you likely have seen negative returns since then. If, instead, you chose to put your money in a clean energy company, you are likely pleased with that decision today.

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  1. cm

    Very shoddy report. I’m reminded of the Economist, which also likes to have graphs where over half of the graph is projection.

    Please note that most of their graphs have x-axis as years 2015-2040. Lots of hand waving.

    1. Ignacio

      I don’t consider it a report. It is a trend analysis and for that reason it is based more in guesses than facts. I believe it may result more accurate than IEA scenarios.

    2. Roger Boyd

      More than shoddy, using completely erroneous logic equating incremental sales with the overall number of cars. This only works if all sales are replacements (i.e. every new car replaces a current one). This is not correct for even the US market, let alone China where the vast majority of new car sales do not replace current cars. Unfortunately, pretty standard for the incredibly shoddy journalism in this area. As long as the overall ICE car fleet grows (i.e. sales greater than retirements) then oil consumption will grow.

      There may be an 80/20 rule for miles driven (e.g. taxis, delivery drivers, salesmen, buses etc.) that could be targeted to get a quicker reduction in oil consumption, but such complicated logic is beyond such “journalism”.

      1. Ignacio

        In some places it migth be the case that car replacement has slowed down to the point that the fleet of fossil fuel and total operating vehicles diminishes. Spain is a spot between giants as China and the US but it is happening rigth now (whether this is a durable trend is questionable).

  2. GM

    The usual reminder: an EV is not an electric vehicle, because electricity is not a source of energy, just a carrier. It is, in most of the world, a coal and gas vehicle.

    1. gallam

      So what course of action would you propose based on that observation?

      How about we spend time and effort making the electricity grid sustainable.

      1. Louis Fyne

        California’s CO2 emissions have gone nowhere over the past ten years.

        1 step forward by axe-ing coal plants. 1 step backward by replacing fission capacity with mostly natty gas, some wind and some solar.

        just saying.

        1. John Wright

          And do California’s numbers allow for the CA wildfires’ contribution to world wide CO2?

          On a recent visit to Los Angeles and observing the packed roads/freeways and big box stores, I suspect those who expect CA to lead the USA in reducing the threat of climate change will be very disappointed.

          But there will be much political posturing about Climate change.

          1. JBird4049

            California is strange in that cars are loved, public transportation disliked, and smog a big problem. Lots of gasoline engines and the desire to breath especially when very large areas are hilly, even a bit rugged, which is great in trapping air pollution. So California’s standards for fuel efficiency and emissions has been stricter than the national government for about fifty years.

            It is a trip to see pictures of even the Bay Area never mind Los Angeles in the 1960s compared to now. It was even grandfathered into the legislation for the EPA that California’s higher standards would always be the standard in that state. Since so many cars are sold in California the automakers tend to make more or all of their cars California legal to save on production costs and headaches. This making most new cars sold in the United States made to the higher standards.

            Considering that over ten million more people live in California but that the air is so much better and is not getting worse something is working.

            1. jrs

              Gone nowhere is disappointing with statewide cap and trade etc. (not my ideal solution but something). However what are we comparing it to? I suspect CO2 commissions have increased in places without as many environmental measures (I’m not saying it’s enough, just what are we using as the basis of comparison here, as we well know that global emissions have gone up in that period of time, so how are others states doing?)

              It’s of course less that CA likes to drive but that if you commute 2 hours every day for work (normal enough), it might be 3 hours a day commuting on public transit. It’s a hard problem, and one can hardly live near work when jobs are so transient (not just in CA of course), and everyone afraid to move lest they pay market rents.

              1. Scramjett

                California has a lot of problems and is not doing a whole lot about it. Sure, the pols are making a lot of noise, but there is way too much money in the status quo. CO2 emissions are stagnant because the positive investment in renewable energy is dwarfed by the huge number of cars. Net zero standards will keep the needle from moving up but new suburban developments to address the housing crisis will contribute to sprawl and keep the needle from moving down also.

                WSPA and Big Oil’s stranglehold on Sacramento will keep people in their cars & continue to shrink bike infrastructure and transit projects until they can drown them in the bathtub (see high speed rail, WSPA’s first high profile victim). Then the developer stranglehold on local city council’s (and with some significant influence in Sacramento) will continue to make expensive apartments and condos in desirable downtown locations while the “affordable” housing will be in sprawling suburbs with soul crushing commutes. They’ll continue to unleash the NIMBY’s to fight any trail and transit projects.

                There’s a reason why I stopped working for the state’s air quality and energy agencies. It got really frustrating. So much bureaucracy designed to maintain the status quo and prevent change.

                And I’m just scratching the surface. I haven’t even gotten into Ag and water! So many people think of California as a leader of the green future, but I think California will be the epicenter for collapse and chaos.

    2. russell1200

      Very true. The advantage of the electric vehicle is that since it is powered by a secondary source, it allows you to choose from a variety of primary sources. The downside is the conversion loss.

      1. Jim A

        OTOH, fixed powerplants are usually more efficient than small internal combustion engines.

      1. a different chris

        Mine too, in theory — I don’t think anybody can tell where each individual electron comes if, like me, we are still getting it from the grid.

        I have normal IC engined cars because, like Smokey Yunick, I wonder how much energy is wasted in making new ones. Mine are, all except one vehicle not used for commuting, over 12 years old and saw 100K miles quite a while ago.

    3. False Solace

      > The usual reminder: an EV is not an electric vehicle, because…

      Your first sentence seems to be logically incoherent. You should probably leave it off future reminders unless your intention is to confuse people or distract them from your main point, which most people are already aware of anyway.

      “EV” literally stands for “electric vehicle”. Objecting to calling EVs “EVs” means, I guess, that we should call them something else. Since you don’t provide a suggestion I suppose your main concern is that people will mistakenly believe EVs always run on green energy. But there is nothing about the term “EV” that suggests this. The electricity involved may be renewable or, more likely, it will not be. Most people are aware their local power company probably operates multiple plants, most of which use natural gas. It is reasonable to remind them, I guess, but that has nothing really to do with complaining about the term “EV”. Anyway, some EVs do run at least partly on wind, solar, hydro, or nuclear -generated electricity. Gasoline powered vehicles never do. EVs have other benefits as well. So if EVs have a green halo they are certainly more entitled to it than gas vehicles.

    4. polecat

      Forget about EVs … ICEs … Trains, Planes, Autonomus Vehicles …….
      I posit we’ll enter into ‘The Great 21st Century Global Discombobulation’ .. and, as a result, go straight on through the event horizon (for those that don’t get ripped apart) to horses, donkeys, burros, and llamas ! (Sorry, no dragons need apply)
      … and also push-carts, pull-carts, rickshaws, and lastly .. palanquins (for the elites/royalty or others that truly matter of course, going forward ..), or shall I say, backward !

      Gonna be a fun ride .. for someone else.

  3. Ignacio

    Electric buses. I love it. A standard bus has a 25 square meter roof with potential for about 5 kWp solar that could produce 3,75 kWh (losses counted) during sunny hours.

    This article prompted me to look at vehicles sales statistics in Spain. Since august 2018, ligth vehicle sales are on the downside by a 10% annual rate approx. In this segment, non gasoline-non diesel vehicles that include all clases of hybrids and EVs have increased by 40% to reach an 11% share in total.

    There is a shift in car clients. Cars are increasingly sold to companies and freelancers / autonomous professionals. Although autonomous workers’ cars are also family cars it seems that car sales are increasingly associated with professional activities. Those times where well-off families bougth two cars for parents and another for the kids are fading. Very few can afford that now.

    On the less positive side, SUVs gained market share.

    1. Joe Well

      They’ve had electric buses that are powered by overhead cable, aka “trackless trolleys” or “trolleybuses” since at least the 1950s. They’re still running in many places.

      With current technology, could you ever power a bus with the solar panels that would fit on it?

  4. jackiebass

    I think this is too optimistic. Unless the range of these vehicles drastically increases, they won’t dominate the market. Rural areas are dependent on cars and they need a car with a longer range than presently exist. GM is also correct about the source of electricity. If the electricity is generated by fossil fuels the cars aren’t less polluting.

      1. Joey

        I think you’re misreading your source, PK…

        On page 14 of that report,

        ‘Electric vehicle penetration of 80% results in local air pollutant emissions reduction (PM, NOx and SO2) in passenger transport (TTW) of more than 80% for all pollutants in comparison to 2010 levels. The
        offset of additional emission in the power sector for NOx and PM is small compared to the reductions in the transport sector. By 2050, it is 3% for PM and around 15% for NOx. A different effect can be observed regarding SO2 emissions. The increased use of coal in power generation results in additional SO2 emissions which surpass the emission reduction in passenger road transport by a factor of 5.’

        To me, that reads 5 times as much sulphur using coal with modest net reduction of other pollutants.

        1. GM

          More importantly, this is not the kind of pollution that seriously matters.

          It is the kind of pollution (particulates and sulfur) that inconveniences people, but in the long term is mostly insignificant, even if some people die from it.

          The death of any arbitrary large number of people is of little significance as long as the species as a whole survives

          The serious pollution we need to be concerned about is CO2, because it does actually threaten the survival of the species.

          And there is no question what the impacts are if coal and gas are used to drive EVs.

          The solution is not to replace gasoline cars with EVs

          The solution is to stop driving.

          And, most critically, to not replace at least 7 of the current 7.7 billion people with new births as they die out over the next century.

          1. Ptb

            SOn pollution = sulfuric acid when it comes back down from the clouds. There’s a reason auto emissions are tightly controlled today.

          2. lordkoos

            The USA needs to substantially up the ante on public transport. Getting people out of the car habit is a big step.

        2. vlade

          80% is “modest”?

          “local air pollutant emissions reduction […] of more than 80% for all pollutants in comparison to 2010 levels.”, with 3% of PM and 15% for NOx.)

          Oh, and we forget the rule of statistics. % move does not matter, unless we compare it against somethign.


          For SO2, car emissions account for, wait for it…, 0.09% of total SO2 emissions. So getting them five times as high means that the total SO2 emissions increase by *gasp* half a percent. (SO2 can be also scrubbed from the coal stations. Except it requires lime, extracting which is quite environemnt damaging in terms of open pits and all that goes with it). I’d call call half a percent increase not modest, but trivial.

          On the other hand, for NOx, car emissions are 28%, non-transport are 43%. Let’s assume that all non-transport are coal plants (they are not). So you get 0.2*29+1.15*43. Total emissions drop by 17%. That’s your emissions drop floor. I’d not call one sixh drop “modest”.

          For particulate matter it’s a slight increase assuming all non-transport are coal plants. But again, they are not.

          TBH, I’m dubious about the saving on PM for electric cars, as the main problem with PM in cars is braking and tires. The link I have above shows it well, as it splits the source to exhaust and non-exhaust emissions, and for PM, the non-exhaust is higher than exhaust for PM10 by 50% (it’s about a third higher for exhaust than non-exhaust for PM2.5)

          1. Ignacio

            With all respect (and I have all respect due to Vlade’s comments), this is not as fair analysis as it looks, I regret to say. Let me give you an example I know: In Spain, Madrid enjoys the highest contamination index –with the largest health issues associated by far given high density population– but PM10, NOx and SOx in Madrid have absolutely nothing to do with coal plants located faraway from the city. It is all about cars and other diesel engines (heaters for instance) located in the city. Thus, an EV in Madrid would provide 0 of these emissions (while 16% of it, if loaded through the grid, would be from coal plants located as far as 500 km away). Even accounting for these emissions the net effect is a noticeable improvement in city pollution and health, not to mention that coal will almost certainly be phased out earlier than in 2030.

            1. vlade

              Sure, local NOx emissions can make it even more important – but my argument was that even ignoring that, and making some very conservative assumptions, the emission reduction was still worth it.

              Re the PM – the problem there is that even with no PM from exhaust (and diesel can be really bad for this, especially older diesels or not well serviced ones), you get a lot of PM just from the vehicles going around.

              Braking is really bad for this (I know that German manufacturers are starting to look at self-contained brakes to dramatically reduce PM, but they are not very reliable and very expensive), but even just rolling around produces PM.

              My wife now does air quality stuff/EIAs for a large city, so I happen to know this bit :). The only way to really reduce PM is to remove low occupancy vehicles (primarily private cars, but also large lorries etc.) from the affected area. There’s no known alternative right now.

              1. a different chris

                They are probably quite reliable if you make them expensive enough!

                My neighbor was ruefully laughing about his “wet brakes” on his Case 580K backhoe. They cost a fortune to work on… but they are unarguably hella strong and dependable brakes.

              2. Ignacio

                Yep, I re-read your post and noticed your argument. Blame my difficulties with english and too fast reaction to the last paragraph. ;)

              3. Randy

                I drive an EV and with regenerative braking I almost never use my brakes.

                I also have enough PV panels to power my house and my EV and still give back some to my neighbors down the road.

          2. Joey

            I live in Kentucky, if I drive an electric car, I’m burning coal. I usually bike but I still don’t buy the optimistically framed stats. I admit I haven’t parsed out braking PMs gas vs electric

        3. PlutoniumKun

          No, I’m not misreading it. The report concludes:

          Nevertheless, it can be concluded that electric vehicle penetration leads to significant reductions in emission levels of NOx, PM10 and PM2.5. In contrast to that, the SO2 level increases if the additional demand of electric vehicles results in increased use of coal power plants.

          The increase in SO2 is primarily because very little SO2 is produced in modern car engines, so there is a displacement effect if brown coal is used. Since SO2 emissions from cars is very low, a five fold increase is pretty much meaningless compared to the reductions in the real pollutants, notably PM2.5’s, NOX, etc. The overall reduction in pollution loads is clear, even in the highly unlikely scenario that coal is the fossil fuel used to produce the energy – in reality, if it is a fossil fuel, its likely to be natural gas, especially in Europe and North America.

    1. a different chris

      >Rural areas are dependent on cars and they need a car with a longer range than presently exist.

      But by definition, “rural” areas do not have much people. And even at that again remember, you can re-charge these suckers every night. The question is, how far do you drive a day? If your rural denizen drives 100mi a day and recharges at night, they not only are OK but they never have to detour to a gas station, a time savings they obviously badly need.

      If you are driving more than 300miles a day you need a new job, or you have a job that depends on you driving around, and I’m ok with you sticking with an IC engine. You likely are not going to buy a F150 Raptor if your income is “what I charge minus what I spend to make my rounds”.

      1. lordkoos

        I live in a rural area and the people around here who commute, usually are doing 150 miles round trip tops, more commonly it’s 50-100 miles round trip. Those who commute farther than that usually have an option of spending the night at or near their workplace — airline pilots, firefighters, etc. Many of these people could be easily served by rail if that option (and in some cases the infrastructure) had not been removed.

  5. PlutoniumKun

    The broad point here seems almost certainly true – the fossil fuel car is now dead, its running on momentum only. As the article says, the crucial question is not how many EV’s are sold, but the relative growth rates. Once there is an unambiguous fall in demand (and this is likely already happening), then car manufacturers will focus on squeezing profits from existing designs and plant, not replacing it. Crucially, it now seems they are in agreement that pure EV’s are the future – hybrids will not be a significant transition and hydrogen or other alternatives look dead. That’s particularly bad news for Toyota, who have bet big on hybrids. The winners will be the car companies that can secure the entire supply chain, including batteries. And Tesla is proving that the big car companies are just too big, and too good at what they do, to dislodge or ‘disrupt’. So a handful of the existing car manufacturers will win out, the only question is which ones. The company to look out for is BMW, who seem to be taking the most radical approach to EV’s with their ‘i’ line – they are focusing on making their cars much lighter, so they don’t need so many batteries. It may be that the steel car will die with the combustion engine.

    The other side of this is fuel supply. Those rural dwellers who insist that EV’s don’t have enough range for themselves will get quite a shock when rural marginal gas stations all close down (or put a premium price on supply when the last one becomes a local monopoly). It will also be highly disruptive to the refined fuel market if there are sudden gluts.

      1. PlutoniumKun

        The key thing about the ‘i’ series is that they have gone for very lightweight carbon fibre construction and greatly simplified the design (and as such need fewer batteries for the same performance). The i3 about 250 kg lighter than the latest Golf. In comparison, every other EV on the road is a conventional car with the engine swapped out. It seems very likely its a dry run for a serious attempt at a full range of EV’s, but designed as such from the ground up.

        I’ve always thought that the big problem with Tesla’s and others is that they put all their focus on the drivetrain, but not enough on fundamentally rethinking what a mass produced EV would look like.

        1. vlade

          That I’ll buy. I thikn it’s epecially bad with Tesla, as their factories were greenfields, so setting them up with carbon stuff (which is, crash safety-wise, the same as steel or even better) could work.

          CF is also less conductive than steel, IIRC, so that could be plus, but is “flamable”. Well, not “burn flamable”, but will oxidise rapidly at >400C, but cannot, AFAIK, self-sustain the reaction. In fact, it’s suspectible to all oxydisation agents, not just burn. Again, no idea how that would/would not affect things.

          But, TBH, I think the main reason is material cost. I think that even with material saving, CF is still significantly more expensive than steel, and not nearly in quantity enough compared to steel (if you want to start mass manufacuring cars, and not just build a few racing ones). If someone knows the differences, I’d be curious as to precise numbers – I rememember that a few years back it was said CF would have to drop in price by >60% to be price competitive.

          1. Alex Cox

            Some Teslas are built at the old Toyota plant in Fremont – not a greenfield site. A bigger problem with Teslas is the unreported autopilot crashes. We had one 4 miles from my house, last week. Occupants survived, car a write-off.

    1. Joe Well

      >>Those rural dwellers who insist that EV’s don’t have enough range for themselves will get quite a shock when rural marginal gas stations all close down (or put a premium price on supply when the last one becomes a local monopoly).

      PK, you have a gift for gaming out future scenarios. I wish you had your own blog or books as a futurist.

    2. heresy101

      It looks like a battle royale is coming over gas/diesel powered vehicles in California. Since Trump’s EPA is restricting CA’s adherence to increasing MPG rates, CARB and Mary Nichols are looking at: “prohibiting tailpipe air pollutants that directly cause smog and health issues—sometimes called criteria emissions—like nitrogen oxides, carbon monoxide, and sulfur dioxide.” “Nichols hinted that this could include the movement of vehicles, or fees, taxes, and bans on certain types of vehicles and products.”

      It seems like a 90% tax on new vehicles that don’t meet the
      CA CAFE target would be the best policy. It would a) avoid the 9 lackeys of the 1% in black robes and b) cause auto companies to meet CAFE or produce EVs.

    3. Rob Dunford

      I watched a YT video that talked about adoption rates of new technology. Ever since the telephone, adoption rates have accelerated over time. A prime example being the smartphone/iPhone rise to dominance. EV cars will experience the same rapid growth over the next 3/4 years, irrespective of their overall pollutive footprint, the public sees EV as the future and that will drive it forward. 2023 is the crossover year when EV sales overtake ICE sales.

  6. Linden S.

    This is good news, though I hope we choose mass transit over personal cars. Here is an interesting figure and quote I saw recently: “If it is assumed that Electric Vehicles immediately achieve 100% of new vehicle sales (Norway is ~40%), it takes 20 years for EVs to account for 90% of the fleet, even though the average vehicle lifetime is only 17 years (USA).

    I have been thinking about this timeline versus the timelines necessary for avoiding higher warming pathways, 20-30 years.

    1. Joe Well

      With telecommuting and telemeetings, as well as ecommerce, not to mention more dense housing, we would need much less travel anyway.

      Why not try to eliminate the demand?

      1. a different chris

        Yeah we were all promised that we would work from home, then the Marissa Mayers of the world decided they couldn’t trust us peons so that was that.

        But the dense housing is coming back as “the kids today” build a different sort of life from ours, thank god. The fact that we are not paying them enough to buy&insure any sort of car, IC or EV, just has to show up eventually.

        The future is already here, just not evenly distributed as they say.

        1. Joe Well

          Well said, adc.

          Actually, I keep seeing ads for remote work tech-related jobs, so maybe the Marissa Mayers are going the way of the original Marissa Mayer?

      2. Cal2

        Well Joe,

        “More dense housing?” Please don’t fall for that canard.

        Lots of new people will move into the new stack and pack high density “Transit Oriented Developments,” which usually has a parking place for each unit. They may walk or take nearby transit to their job, or more likely, drive their car to a distant job, adding to local traffic that didn’t exist in that neighborhood before. They may also not work and drive their car
        recreationally or allow a commuter to park there, thus bringing more cars to the neighborhood.

        Also, the houses they moved out of that were a long car commute from their job. Guess what, someone will move into them and drive long distances. Meanwhile, far more people live in a given area and the population grows as does the load on infrastructure.

        If you want to reduce driving, put in subsidized low cost or free transit, not build highrises which fill up and solve nothing, except developer’s profit flows.

        12 million new Californians, projection, living in “dense housing,” solves nothing and destroys the state.

        Tell me how the following reduces carbon emissions please:

        “With San Jose’s first BART station finally slated to open later this year, the city is moving forward with plans to design a dense “urban village” that could feature some tall towers in the Berryessa neighborhood surrounding the stop.”

        “By 2030, the station is expected to carry 25,000 riders every day in an area city planners want to see developed into a vibrant, walkable community with thousands of offices, homes and shops.(™,) But some residents are worried the suburban neighborhood they call home — full of single-family homes, squat strip malls, the sprawling San Jose Flea Market and some industrial land — will force city life upon them.”

        1. Joe Well

          For one thing, your hypothetical math forgets that as people move out of the sprawl, and the sale prices of those homes go down, fewer houses will be built there in the future. And yes, eventually many of those existing carbon-sink sprawl-houses will be torn down. When people no longer want real estate, it goes away, often becoming conservation land. Here in New England we have entire state forests that were made out of suddenly worthless farmland during the Great Depression. The old house foundations are still there.

          >>Tell me how the following reduces carbon emissions please:

          Seriously, you can’t see how it reduces transit to replace single-family homes and strip malls with apartment blocks and putting people near transit? In your opinion, reducing automobile travel and home heating does not reduce carbon emissions? If so, what could possibly reduce carbon emissions?

          >>If you want to reduce driving, put in subsidized low cost or free transit, not build highrises which fill up and solve nothing

          Do you honestly believe that it is feasible to build high-frequency public transportation in suburban sprawl? Where on earth has that ever been accomplished?

          >>12 million new Californians, projection, living in “dense housing,” solves nothing and destroys the state.

          That projection is ridiculous since California has been bleeding population to other states precisely due to the NIMBY-created housing crisis. But if any American citizen or permanent resident wants to move to California or continue living there after moving out of parents’ homes, and thereby not live in a state that has a higher carbon footprint due to heating and/or air conditioning…that is all to the better. More to the point, that is their right. I know water is an issue, but California Big Ag wastes so much of it that should be priority no. 1.

          And now from the environmental to the legal question: if I want to use my own money to buy a plot of land and build an apartment building there, and the owner wants to sell it to me, and I make my contribution to defraying expenses via property taxes and permit fees, and it hurts absolutely no one, who are you to say I can’t do that? More specifically, who are you to say that only people with an income above a certain level can live in a certain neighborhood? NIMBYists are just segregationists relabeled.

  7. EV Driver

    If a new IC engine car is purchased today it’s committing to 15 years of gasoline consumption. Future emissions/mile is fixed. On the other hand an EV emissions over it’s lifetime will be tied to grid emissions. What matters for the EV is projected future emissions.

  8. Eclair

    On our semi-annual drives across the US, we see Tesla charging stations in hotel parking lots off the Interstates, through the NW and the midwest. Baker City, Oregon and Evanston, Wyoming are the locations of two stations that we encountered on this trip. There is a website with the locations of all such charging stations in the US.

    1. Adam Eran

      One of Tesla’s cool technologies is their mapping. Specify a destination, and their map will give you directions and point out the charging stations you’ll need to stop at.

      1. polecat

        Re. cool ….
        Is that before, or after ramming the cinderblock median strip in a carbon-crisp geyser of flame ??

  9. Eclair

    When my spouse, the engineer, searched for data on carbon emissions for various forms of transportation, he came up with this report, from 2007.

    It does not include data on big trucks, which, observationally, seems to be increasing on the east/west Interstates. On this trip, we noticed that truck stops and even the rest areas with no services, had 50 to 100 trucks parked.

    I also noticed a steady stream of big pale-blue Amazon Prime 18 wheelers, which I had not seen on previous trips. Although that may be a factor of my simmering rage at recently reading about Amazon’s new one-day service.

  10. godfree roberts

    ‘China has 421,000 e-buses on the roads while the U.S. only has 300’ and all of those 300 were built by a Chinese company, BYD, in the US.

  11. Ptb

    Agree with article, but questionable investment advice.

    Also, single passenger vehicles of any kind can’t compete in CO2 impact with buses, especially E-buses or hybrids.

    Also, I think the industry has quietly redefined the term EV to include hybrids. (Is ok, hybrids realize most of the efficiency benefit without the fuss of plug in charging, or waiting decades for a carbon free electric grid).

  12. Paul Damascene

    The article and comments seem to be missing a few key points:

    * If we have reached peak gasoline-powered vehicle, it may be because we have reached peak vehicle.

    * The assumption that we can just swap in EVs for gas and continue as before seems to suffer from the same cognitive capture as the larger assumption of being able to swap in renewables for fossil fuels. Both presume the viability of business-as-usual in their surrounding contexts.

    * Comments on the electrification of public transport and freight transport might prove more significant, but still do not address at least a few driving forces and their complex interactions.

    — the destruction of the stocks of real, net wealth and ecosystem services (including declining oxygen production and carbon absorption, pollution sinks, climate stability–with the attendant spikes in natural destruction of human and ecological infrastructure–as well as the more obvious disruptions of agriculture, fisheries).
    — the still greater destruction of wealth among the vast bulk of car purchasers, and the concentration of a diminishing stock of real wealth in the hands of a plutonomy whose ownership of multiple vehicles cannot offset the loss of disposable income among hundreds of millions of working-class and middle-class car buyers.
    — the advent of essentially peak everything — peak energy, minerals, metals, food.
    — the parallel acceleration of the rate of diminishing returns (e.g., return on capital investments in fossil fuel exploration and extraction).
    — ditto for copper and lithium.
    — ditto for antibiotics, public health, vaccines, life expectancy.
    — increased energy and financial costs of the embedded energy in new infrastructure, including new renewables infrastructure, due to the general plummeting of returns on energy invested, which renewables only accelerate.

  13. Jack Lifton

    The motor vehicle market in the West and Japan is mature. Everyone who wants a car and either can afford to buy it or can get financing already has a personal vehicle. Sales are driven mostly by replacement need. Maintaining the market is the goal of the industry not growing it in the West and Japan.
    This author mistakes the rapid but tiny increase in EV sales as a monster unstoppable trope.
    Personal vehicles are already too expensive. The American scrap rate is 5% per year, so it takes 20 years to turnover the fleet of 300 million vehicles. Thus the U.S. domestic market is 15 million units per annum.
    EVs are just the latest attempt to do something to push up the replacement rate.
    If every vehicle from now on manufactured or sold in the U.S. were an EV it would take 20 years to replace the ICE fleet.
    There is not enough EV manufacturing capability or capacity outside of China and not enough of battery raw materials anywhere for even just the replacement of ICEs in the U.S. By EV.
    Why do much emphasis on an industry that emits just 2% of man-made carbon dioxide? Because the financial engineers can churn junk stocks off of it without having to explain their deception to an increasingly gullible public.

  14. diptherio

    The sad truth is, I think, that almost all of our modern conveniences, especially personal machine powered vehicles, are ultimately unsustainable, regardless of how the electricity is generated. And I think this is going to be the harsh reality we have to deal with in the next several decades: there is simply no non-destructive way to provide any meaningful portion of the population with personal vehicles. Ditto for air-conditioning, ditto for on-demand hot-water, ditto for processed and imported foods, etc.

    Our lifestyles are unsustainable, period. No fiddling around the margins is going to have any meaningful effect. If we actually want to make real meaningful change, we have to change our entire mindset about what we do and do not need to live a fulfilling life. Unless and until we focus our society and our economy on filling human needs, rather than creating and providing for human wants, we are doomed, doomed, doomed.

    You want a solar powered vehicle? Get yourself a horse.

    1. Eclair

      Yes, diptherio. In comments the other day, I read a plaintive query from a reader in a rural area: how are we going to travel if we have no car? Well, like your ancestors (and the Amish today); by horse, or ‘shanks’ mare.’ Or pressure your county to institute an electrified bus public transport system.

      I think the current narrative, that all we need to do is convert to renewables, and then go on merrily as before, is the ‘bargaining stage’ of our death watch for humanity. Please please please, we promise not to spew carbon into the air (just how we do this with the manufacturing of millions of EV’s, wind turbines and solar panels is still a mysterious black box), only let us continue with our first world life style.

    2. Chris Smith

      Agreed. Our lifestyle is unsustainable. Electric cars are a good idea, but in the end they would need to be powered and that requires a fuel source. Moreover, those batteries require materials like lithium and cobalt that do not exist in infinite quantities. Just imagine everyone in China and India trying to buy electric cars. The materials just won’t be there.

      Losing air conditioning is going to bite, however.

      1. Mike M

        Losing air conditioning is going to bite, however.

        Fortunately, I’ll be dead before that happens…

    3. polecat

      I think it’s futile to try too get the Silicon Val type neo-simians who punch keyboards to change their simpering ways where the God of Progress is concerned … and your right, we have to regress a bit if we’re to avoid being some dead branch on Evolution’s tree ..

  15. Louis Fyne

    The average US car is 12 years old. Lithium Ion batteries don’t last that long. One reason hurting adoption—a 3rd owner has to be willing to buy that model.

    It’s prohibitively expensive for someone (relative to the prototypical 3rd-owner of a used car’s income) to drive a 10 y.o. electric car and then find out that the battery pack needs replacement. obviously the hope is that research/tech advancement drives down that cost, drives up longevity.

    just saying.

    1. PlutoniumKun

      There have been no issues whatever with Prius batteries, including ones 12 years or older, although NiMH might have a longer life than lithium. They are used in Europe a lot for very high mileage taxi’s for years now with no issue whatever (taxi drivers would be guaranteed to moan about if if there was a problem). Nissan Leafs have been running for about 8 years now with no reported issues. Likewise, Leafs are increasingly used in European cities for taxis, again with no apparent issues.

      But I agree that it is a potential achilles heel – Renault in Europe operate a leasing system for batteries for commercial users, which is an obvious solution for operators. But the obvious solution would be that batteries not come with the car, instead of recharging, batteries would be swapped out at stations (an Israeli company developed a system like this a few years ago, but it seems to have gone nowhere). But that would mean either the car companies co-operate, or international regulations to standardise such a system, and there appears no appetite for that.

      1. a different chris

        This may be a case where the “unthinking” consumer is actually a help, because before Apple nobody ever thought of batteries as anything but replaceable.

        And even iPhones turned out to have replaceable batteries, it just sucks to replace them.

        So hopefully that problem at least won’t prevent adoption, as it still a little bizarre to think of batteries as something you can’t replace.

    2. Steven

      A lot depends on how you define “last”. I believe Nissan and maybe the industry says when the battery will only charge to 80% of its rated capacity it needs to be replaced. EVs are not for everybody – specifically for those who routinely drive distances longer than those that can be obtained from a conveniently (as in at home, overnight or at work while the car is not needed) charged battery.

      That said, I think it was GM that calculated most drivers do not routinely drive more than 40 miles – the range for which they sized the battery of the original Volts. I’ve driven one for more than 5 years and found GM’s calculation works for me. On level terrain I’ve ‘needed’ to use the gas generator only a couple of times. Drives with significant elevation gains (as in 6000 feet in 30 miles) can cut that distance by about 60%.) After more than five years of operation my battery still recharges to provide a range of 40+ miles.

  16. Steven

    Gas powered cars were probably a mistake from the get-go – almost certainly from the end of WWII on for the United States:
    After exporting more than two-thirds of their petroleum products in the early decades of the industry, and a quarter more in 1914, the United States was for the first time transformed into a net importer at the end of the First World War.25 Apart from two tragic interludes, the crisis of 1929 and the Second World War, the largest oil nation remained an oil importer, increasingly, throughout the remainder of its history.

    This country’s political leadership has known since the end of WWII the US was running out of domestic supplies of oil:
    In January 1944, in an article published in a widely circulated magazine, Ickes warned the American people: “We’re running out of oil!” The “old curmudgeon” curmudgeon” unambiguously added: “If there should be a World War III it would have to be fought with someone else’s petroleum, because the United States wouldn’t have it.… America’s crown, symbolizing supremacy as the oil empire of the world, is sliding down over one eye.” He concluded: “We should have available oil in different parts of the world.… The time to get going is now.”11

    Yet knowing all this the brilliant US general Eisenhower opted for the interstate highway system that has greased the skids for the world-destroying technology of an internal combustion powered transportation system in the US and around the globe.

    (Both passages are from: Auzanneau, Matthieu. Oil, Power, and War . Chelsea Green Publishing. Kindle Edition.)

  17. Jeremy Grimm

    The title and early statements of this post seem to suggest that ‘peak sales’ is somehow related to the concept of the ‘peak production’ of a non-renewable resource. That kind of false analogy serves to confuse an already less than straightforward concept. I don’t believe this author intends to contribute to the already widespread agnotology affecting public discourse and abounding in discussions of climate, renewable resources, electric vehicles and so on — in fact this author seems to have fallen victim to it — but this post is not helpful.

  18. Jeremy Grimm

    Look at early automobiles — they were designed and sold as horseless carriages. The automobile gradually evolved into the design we are familiar with today. Why is it so difficult to imagine electric vehicles as something different than an automobile that runs using an electric motor instead of a gasoline engine?

    I think part of the reason is the extent that our lives are constructed around the capabilities a means of transportation like an automobile makes possible — or increasingly — made possible [just finished a little quality time sitting in a multi-mile traffic jam]. The world of distances the automobile collapsed cannot but grow to some greater scaling of its former subjective size. We face a difficult transition. Electric vehicles like the Tesla are as much like the electric vehicle of the future as the horseless carriage is to a De Lorean.

    One problem with current means to generate renewable electricity is its variable availability. Suppose each owner of an electric vehicle had two or more interchangeable battery packs so that one battery pack might charge while the other were in use. That is one way to spread the costs of providing battery storage of solar power, and much wind power — power sources often available during hours of off-peak power demand. [I am much less optimistic about horses and walking as solutions to our future transportation needs than some commenters.]

    I second diptherio’s comment: “The sad truth is, I think, that almost all of our modern conveniences, especially personal machine powered vehicles, are ultimately unsustainable, regardless of how the electricity is generated.” What we enjoyed in the past, we must adapt to a different future, gaining in some areas and losing in others.

  19. oaf

    As long as drivers accelerate and brake aggressively; emissions; whether from tailpipe or smokestack will be much higher than necessary. No cure for stupid! In conjunction with that widespread habit; the operation of heavier/larger vehicles than necessary has a major contribution, Vehicle size is a status symbol here, an attempted compensation for Small Weenie Syndrome.

  20. oaf

    …energy for acceleration/deceleration increases as the Square of the rate of change in speed …especially problematic since the majority of drivers are running vehicles much larger/heavier than required. Manufacturers know this; but are more interested in profits than the environmental catastrophe they are helping to shape…(Governments also know this; and can do math!), but; markets!

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