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Electric Cars Feel a Little Competition: Nathaniel Bullard


May 25, 2018, by Nathaniel Bullard

(Bloomberg Opinion)

Electric cars topped the 1 million sales milestone in 2017, a 57 percent increase over 2016. Chinese consumers alone purchased more than half a million electric cars. And Bloomberg New Energy Finance expects more than half of all new cars sold, and a third of the total light vehicles on the road, to be electric by the year 2040.

But that all pales in comparison to electric bikes. Europeans especially have embraced them, snapping them up in greater numbers than electric cars are being bought in other, far larger countries:

Of course, a single-passenger bike and a four-passenger car aren’t directly comparable, but their use certainly overlaps. An electric bike capable of reaching a speed of nearly 30 miles per hour can match or exceed that of city auto traffic. Every new bike on the road is a car that is not being used, or one that might not be bought in the future.

Think of electric vehicles — from scooters to buses —  as being along a spectrum of ways to move people. The only model that could span the entire spectrum is the automobile, which can drive one person a few hundred feet or a handful of people thousands of miles. Everywhere along that spectrum, though, another electric option challenges the car in more narrow uses.

Still, cars are not going away, particularly in China. Total European and U.S. auto sales have been flat for a decade. China sales have almost tripled:

But there are challenges facing the electric vehicle market. Electric bikes have been around for decades in China, but hundreds of thousands of compact, low-speed electric vehicles are sold there every year, too (some of which even look like a Bugatti).

Bloomberg New Energy Finance expects that the increase in electric vehicles in China will cause road transportation fuel demand to peak next decade, then decline. As Bloomberg Opinion’s Liam Denning says, “This is the ballgame” for oil markets. That ballgame is being played not just with cars but with a whole host of other electric vehicles, too.

Worth reading

Germany’s second-largest city will restrict diesel vehicles from some urban areas, starting next week. Two Florida cities, Miami Beach and Sarasota, have high investment-grade credit ratings. They’re also two of the U.S.’s most exposed cities to climate change. Bank of England researchers find that “if the last 30-years frequencies persist, the recent experience of the 2017 hurricane season is probably not an outlier but closer to the norm.” Sony CEO Kenichiro Yoshida says that “we’re actually already a company that helps to power things that move, and to be honest, I kind of want to create things that move.” In his annual letter on philanthropy, Mike Bloomberg says “data and facts anchor our thinking to reality.” A new AAA survey finds that 73 percent of U.S. adults would be too afraid to ride in a fully self-driving vehicle, with 64 percent of millennials feeling too afraid to ride. Those figures are significantly higher than in late 2017, when 63 percent of adults and 49 percent of millennials felt the same. “Race driver, blogger and investor” Alex Roy says that only vehicle manufacturers “who define New Mobility will stay in the game – all others will be doomed.” Florida’s Lee County Mosquito Control District will use drones to spot the insects’ breeding grounds as part of the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration’s Unmanned Aircraft System Integration Pilot Program. A short film envisions a future in which drones are “ubiquitous as pigeons.” Bloomberg’s Ashlee Vance tells the story of artificial intelligence’s rise from its unexpected birthplace: Canada.

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