Since the early 2000s, electric vehicles have surged in demand due to environmental mindfulness coupled with exclusivity.
Though a myriad of individuals attributed the start of EVs to Tesla and its infamous CEO, Elon Musk, the concept actually dates to the early 1800s. According to the US Department of Energy, inventors from Hungry, the USA, and the Netherlands were among the first to really consider creating battery-powered vehicles. Unfortunately, though an impressive advancement for its time, it was still on the drawing board. It would be roughly five more decades before English and French inventors utilized years' worth of experimentation to create one of the first practical EVs.
Throughout the 20th and early 21st centuries, EVs would see a rise and fall in notoriety as the western world faced two significant wars, increasing gas prices, and the passage of environmental amendments, prompting many to delve into alternative energy options.
Flash forward to the early 2000s, and EVs, while still uncommon, were starting to make a name for themselves. The US Department of Energy attributes this soaring interest to one of two events: the world-wide release of the Toyota Prius - the world's first mass-produced hybrid-electric vehicle - or the California start-up, Tesla, promptly gaining consumer and investor interest with its unique design and impressive specs.
Regardless of which factor accelerated EVs growth, the notable vehicle gained several varied opinions. For example, Toyota's Prius was popular among some; nevertheless, some viewed the car as undesirable and frequently poked fun at its compact design and attribution to environmentalism, which had not yet found today’s mainstream approval in the US. On the contrary, Tesla had a rocky start, yet it was still seen as innovative and exclusive. Moreover, its streamlined design and luxury feel made it more alluring among car enthusiasts.
Nowadays, copious studies showing how EVs are more eco-friendly long-term, coupled with the consumer demand for sustainable development, have led to countless other car manufacturers releasing their own models to match demand.
Currently, there are "23 plug-in electric and 36 hybrid models available in a variety of sizes," equaling "more than 234,000 plug-in electric vehicles and 3.3 million hybrids on the road in the US today."
Financing site the blueprint defines an S-curve as "a mathematical graph that shows cumulative data over a period of time." In sales, a product’s ebb and flow in popularity resembles an 'S' on the graph: when the product is first released, slow growth, and eventual surge are expected. With time, a product’s sales are expected to plateau as the product becomes more cemented in society.
When utilizing an S-curve to examine the future of EVs, many analysts predicted the traditional pullback and tapering off in popularity. In addition to the hesitancy by the public to accept this type of automobile, a few agencies believed this prediction.
A study led by the US Department of Energy in 2016 further expressed doubt when its results showed that, of the sample size, only 2% seriously considered EVs as an option - a big difference from the 2021 findings of 39%.
In addition, both the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and the Energy Information Administration (EIA) predicted pullbacks in the early to mid-2010s. However, they later altered their forecasts to reflect a new increase in sales.
Perhaps one of the main factors as to why the S-curve wasn't accurate in the case of EVs lies within the growth of environmental data forecasting the outcome of climate change, prompting more to begin the transition to a more sustainable future.
For example, the US Department of Energy "helped develop the lithium-ion battery technology used in the Volt. More recently, the Department's investment in battery research and development has helped cut electric vehicle battery costs by 50 percent in the last four years, while simultaneously improving the vehicle batteries' performance (meaning their power, energy and durability). This in turn has helped lower the costs of electric vehicles, making them more affordable for consumers." The added accessibility from the funding could be a large factor in altering the outcome of the S-curve.
Regardless, this missed statistical prediction is seen as a positive one, as the rise in popularity of EVs is a welcoming sight for many.
The Future of EVs
With EVs surpassing the predictions of the S-curve, organizations and non-profits will most likely forecast a continued growth in sales. Some predict that, by 2022, sales of electric vehicles will reach nearly 20 million globally and begin the trend of outpacing gasoline automobiles.
Though this outcome isn’t 100% certain, it points to the eventual phasing-out of fossil fuels. Considering the direction of advanced technological development, funding, and sustainable awareness, we can expect the future vastly different from today, with an array of more eco-friendly products, sustainable development, and electric vehicles. Consequently, these changes will result in reducing atmospheric emissions, waste, and environmental deterioration.