Banks see electric car industry revving up and ushering in an energy fortune
Morgan Stanley is betting that electric cars will corner 70 per cent of the European vehicle market by the middle of the century, leading to upheaval for the power sector and a scramble for dominance of lucrative new technologies.
Global banks in London and New York are no longer debating whether the switch-over will occur. Research reports have shifted to granular analysis over what this means for large swathes of the economy, and who will be the winners and losers as the old edifice crumbles.
Morgan Stanley says in a report this week that a ratchet effect is under way. It’s becoming more costly each year to develop petrol and diesel cars that comply with tightening rules on emissions of CO2 and particulates (NOx), yet the cost of electric-vehicle (EV) batteries keeps falling. The crossover point will arrive in the mid-2020s.
The US bank expects global EV sales to reach one billion annually by 2050, pulling ahead of internal combustion engines. The switch could take place much faster. A widely-cited report by Tony Seba and James Arbib at think tank RethinkX argues it will make no sense to make fossil-fuel driven cars, trucks, buses, or tractors within a decade.
The US pioneer Tesla – worth more on Wall Street than General Motors or Ford – is targeting annual sales of one million EVs within three years. It is mulling a joint venture in China, the biggest market for zero-emission cars.
China has banned petrol motorbikes, leading to a massive switch to EV two-wheelers. Some 230 million are on the roads. Under draft proposals from the industry ministry, all car companies will have to reach an EV quota of 8 per cent of sales from next year, 10 per cent by 2019, and 12 per cent by 2020.
Morgan Stanley said it would be “very difficult” for Volkswagen, BMW, and Mercedes to comply with this. They will hit a sales cap in China. This will be a rude shock.
Whether China’s breakneck drive for EVs lowers CO2 emissions is an open question. This depends on how quickly it cuts reliance on coal plants – down 8 per cent in two years – and shifts to gas, nuclear, and renewables.
In Japan, Honda is betting its future on EVs, aiming to raise the sales share to two-thirds by 2030. Ford plans 13 new EV models in the next three years.
In Europe, Renault-Nissan is targeting 1.5 million EVs sales a year by 2020, and Volvo 1 million by 2025; Volkswagen is scrambling to make up lost ground with plans for 2 million to 3 million annually by 2025.
A parallel battle is under way among power companies, each eyeing control of ultra-fast charging points in the way that US railroad barons sought to snap up land in the late 19th century. Even more money will be made from the “big data” networks that underpin EV technology. Chargemaster in the UK runs a network of public charging stations called POLAR. ChargePoint in the US offers an ultra-fast unit enabling “hundreds of miles of range in under 15 minutes”.
Morgan Stanley expects up to 3 million public charging stations in Europe by 2050, up from 100,000 today. They will be ubiquitous. Smart phones will locate them instantly. “Range angst” will rapidly fade. Britain’s National Grid has carried out advance planning under its Future Energy Scenario and is eyeing a network of fast-chargers for the motorways. It estimates there could be 6 million EVs in Britain by 2030 under a “Gone Green” assumption.
A string of European firms are jostling to seize the lead in their home markets, with SSE in the UK, Innogy, EON, Iberdrola, Enel, Fortum, EDP, ABB, and Schneider Electric, all pushing ahead with expansion plans.
They are watching developments closely in Norway. The country is close to 30 per cent penetration for EVs, achieved by tax-free status and waivers on toll roads, as well as free parking until 2016.