On July 5, Volvo Cars announced that beginning in 2019 every new Volvo will have a fully electric or hybrid motor.
This announcement represents one of the boldest moves by any major car manufacturer by embracing the trend toward electrification and the phasing out of internal combustion engines (ICEs). Nearly a century after the advent of the internal combustion engine, electrification is rapidly becoming preferable as it addresses environmental concerns.
Volvo plans to create a full portfolio of electric vehicles across its model range, including a variety of hybrid cars and plug-in vehicles. It will launch five fully electric cars between 2019 and 2021, three of which will be Volvo models and two of which will be high-performance electrified cars from Polestar, Volvo’s high-performance line. The company aims to sell 1 million electric cars by 2025.
Most major car brands do offer a selection of hybrids and battery-powered options, but none so far have been willing to abandon traditional models powered by gasoline or diesel fuel. In the United States, automakers have continued to churn out SUVs and pickup trucks, the sales of which have surged because of relatively low fuel prices.
Volvo’s change in focus seems to represent a sign of the changing times and the beginning of the end for ICE cars. This year, Tesla, which makes only limited numbers of electric cars, has officially exceeded Ford and General Motors value in the stock market, in spite of producing fewer cars — a clear indication of where people, and especially investors, think the industry is headed.
Electric cars in Europe
Around the world, there is an ongoing push for hybrid or electric autos. On July 6, Nicolas Hulot, the French environment minister, announced his plan to end the sale of all gasoline and diesel cars in his country by 2040. This plan is part of a broader effort by France to curb the effects of global warming. France will also stop issuing new oil and gas exploration permits in 2017, and it plans to phase out all coal-fired power plants by 2022.
In countries such as Norway and India, the goals surrounding electric cars and the environmental movement are even higher. In Norway, Teslas are a much more frequent sight; there are big perks to buying electric in Norway. The government waives the high taxes it imposes on sales of non-electric cars. Additionally, drivers of electric cars can avoid paying tolls and drive their cars in bus lanes. Many paid parking lots are free of charge for electric cars, and new charging stations are being built all the time.
Norway has set goals that by the year 2025, all cars on the road will be electric.
In India, the government aims to eliminate all ICE cars by 2030. The primary motivation is to alleviate the high cost of fuel in the country.
India has also created the Faster Adoption and Manufacturing of Hybrid and Electric vehicles, or F.A.M.E. initiative, which calls for government subsidies on hybrid and electric vehicles.
Electric cars in the United States
The future has become increasingly difficult to predict in the United States due to the sudden shift in the political climate. The Obama administration was highly supportive of electric vehicles but, so far, the Trump administration has not yet pursued policies to facilitate electric-vehicle development. While the changing political landscape has given some pause, it seems that the individual states may be willing to pick up some of the slack in the absence of the federal government.
California, the long a leader in emission-free transportation policy, is now the first state considering providing point-of-sale rebates for electric cars. The proposed bill would provide point-of-sale rebates for electric cars, which would be scaled down as natural demand starts to support the market and sales reach sustainable levels.
As the technology improves, prices fall, and infrastructure such as public charging stations become more accessible, the demand for electric cars only will increase.
Even in the absence of policy at the federal level, the private sector appears to be taking the lead and paving the path to an automobile market dominated by electric vehicles.