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Electric vehicles confront the leap to the mass market

DETROIT, Dec 15 (Reuters) – The past year has been a sobering one for investors who have poured money into Tesla Inc ( TSLA.O ) and rival electric vehicle startups hoping to emulate Tesla CEO Elon Musk’s success.

As interest rates rose and financial markets weakened, the shares of many EV startups fell. Rivian Automotive Inc ( RIVN.O ), which had a higher market cap than Ford Motor Co ( FN ) shortly after it went public in 2021[ads1], lost more than 70% of its value over the past year.

Other EV startups fared worse. Electric van maker Arrival warned it could run out of cash in less than a year. Lucid Group Inc ( LCID.O ), backed by Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund, struggled to build its sleek Air luxury electric cars. Shares of Chinese Tesla challenger Xpeng Inc ( 9868.HK ​​) lost more than 80% of their value.

Now comes the hard part: Persuading more regular consumers to join the ride.


The auto industry is pouring more than $1 trillion into a revolutionary shift from internal combustion engines to electric vehicles controlled by software. From Detroit to Shanghai, automakers and government policymakers have embraced the promise of electric vehicles to provide cleaner and safer transportation. European countries and California have set 2035 as the deadline for ending the sale of new combustion passenger cars.

Tesla Inc’s ( TSLA.O ) rise to become the world’s most valuable carmaker — achieving a valuation of $1 trillion last year — humbled established automakers such as Toyota Motor Corp ( 7203.T ) and Volkswagen AG ( VOWG_p.DE ) which were once reluctant to go electric.

Starting next year, a wave of new electric vehicles from pickups to medium-sized SUVs and sedans will hit the world’s biggest markets.

Industry executives and forecasters disagree on how quickly electric vehicles can take over half of the global vehicle market, let alone all of it.

In China, the world’s largest single car market, battery electric vehicles have taken about 21% of the market. In Europe, electric cars account for approximately 12% of total sales of passenger cars. But in the US, the market share for electric cars is only around 6%.

Among the obstacles to EV adoption, industry executives and analysts said, were a lack of public fast-charging infrastructure, and the rising cost of EVs, driven by shortages of key materials and uncertainty about government subsidies that have fueled EV purchases in major markets. including the US, China and Europe.

The all-electric Ford F-150 Lightning pickup truck is unveiled at the company’s world headquarters in Dearborn, Michigan, U.S., May 19, 2021. REUTERS/Rebecca Cook/File Photo

By 2029, electric vehicles could make up a third of the North American market, and about 26% of vehicles produced worldwide, according to AutoForecast Solutions, a consulting firm.

Sales of electric vehicles are unlikely to increase on a steady, ever-rising curve, said AFS President Joe McCabe. If there is a recession next year, as many economists have predicted, it will slow down the use of electric cars.

Wards Intelligence estimates that internal combustion vehicles will account for just under 80% of North American sales in 2027. Based on automakers’ product plans, Wards analyst Haig Stoddard said at a recent conference that manufacturers “expect strong ICE (internal combustion engine) volume heading into in the next decade.”


Through 2022, established automakers such as Mercedes, Ford and General Motors Co ( GM.N ) unveiled dozens of new electric vehicles to challenge Tesla and upstarts.

Mass production of most of these vehicles will start in 2023 and 2024.

By 2025, there could be 74 different electric car models offered in North America, McCabe said. But he predicts that fewer than 20% of these models are likely to sell in volume above 50,000 cars a year. Car manufacturers can be stuck with too many niche models and too much capacity.

Slower economies threaten overall vehicle demand in Europe and China as well.

During the early years of the 20th century, new car companies emerged, backed by investors eager to catch the wave of mass mobility started by Henry Ford and other automotive pioneers. By the 1950s, the global automotive industry had consolidated and once heralded brands such as Duesenberg had disappeared.

The next few years will determine whether the 21st century’s crop of electric car brands will follow a similar path.

Explore the Reuters summary of news stories that dominated the year and the outlook for 2023.

Reporting by Joe White Editing by Bernadette Baum

Our standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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