Electric Vehicles – How Many, How Soon?: UofH

May 10, 2018


The transition from gasoline vehicles to those powered by electric batteries has the potential to upend the energy industry, but there has been little consensus about when and how it will happen.

Leaders from the energy, finance and other fields recently met for a symposium and workshop hosted by the Gutierrez Energy Management Institute (GEMI) at the C. T. Bauer College of Business at the University of Houston to consider the issue.

They agreed recent trends suggest widespread adoption of electric vehicles appears poised to happen much more quickly than seemed likely even just a few years ago. The ways in which that is likely to happen, however, may be different for different parts of the world.

About 40 high-level executives and thought leaders gathered to consider the implications of a scenario in which battery electric vehicles (BEV) rapidly penetrate the transportation sector. The purpose was to deepen understanding of emerging energy trends and to debate the consequences. Attendees came from the oil, gas, power and renewable energy sectors as well as investment banks, think tanks and non-profits. UH was represented by faculty from the business, engineering and law schools, as well as business school students.

The session began with prepared remarks covering technical challenges of electric vehicles, the infrastructure requirements and the potential implications for the oil market.

The participants were then presented with a rapid-penetration scenario where, by 2040, electric vehicles would represent 100 percent of new vehicle sales and comprise over 50 percent of the global light duty vehicle fleet.

Participants worked in small groups to create potential paths to that outcome, discussing the key drivers for BEV penetration and creating scenarios that would lead to that rapid penetration. The groups also discussed the relative importance and degree of difficulty of reaching the required end state for these key drivers.

Some of the key insights from the symposium include:

Consistency of Key Drivers – There was a high level of agreement about the important drivers of BEV penetration. These included vehicle technology advancement, availability of clean electricity supply and related infrastructure, government mandates/incentives, demographics and emerging consumer preferences.

Multiple Paths to a Rapid Penetration Outcome – A collective sense emerged that trends in the key drivers seemed to be converging now in a way that suggests a much higher degree of probability for the rapid penetration outcome than just a few years ago. In fact, each team was able to create a somewhat different path to the high-penetration outcome.Regional Differences – The consensus was that the paths to rapid penetration are likely to be different for the key regions (U.S., Europe, China, and India).