Next week I will test drive a magnificently innovative automobile that almost no one yet cares about – not here in Canada and not anywhere else in the world except perhaps China. Yes, China.
The car is the 2017 Chevrolet Bolt, a battery car with an estimated range of 383 km, available for $31,434 plus freight once we factor in the richest taxpayer incentives available in Ontario. Actual base price: $42,795 for a five-passenger car to be sold initially in Ontario, Quebec and British Columbia.
The Bolt is a triumph of ingenuity – an affordable electric car — yet GM Canada will sell perhaps 2,000 this year. That’s in a market where Canadians will buy about 2.0 million new cars and light trucks during 2017.
So a realistic sales estimate sees the Bolt command not 10 per cent of the market (200,000) or 1.0 per cent (20,000) but one tenth of one per cent of the Canadian market. From a purely business perspective – in terms of sales, market share, revenue and profitability — the Bolt is completely irrelevant.
Indeed, Canadians have bought less than 30,000 plug-in vehicles since 2011, according to Green Car Reports. As for 2016, Canadians bought 10,298 plug-ins last year. Most popular: Chevy Volt (3,469 sold), a plug in hybrid with a gas motor that kicks in after 50 km or so of pure battery-powered driving. In second place, the Nissan Leaf at 1,375.
Now the really discouraging news: Canada’s best-selling vehicle last year was the monstrous, gas-swilling F-Series pickup (145,409). Canadians gorged themselves on gas guzzlers even as the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) notes that 2016 was the hottest year since records began in 1880.
Last year was the third consecutive year of record-breaking heat all over the planet, in fact. Yet human-driven global warming did not deter Canadians from buying the least efficient type of light vehicle possible, the pickup.
Indeed, Fiat Chrysler (FCA) sold nearly 90,000 Ram pickups, while GM Canada sold about 100,000 Chevy Silverado/GMC Sierra full-size pickups. When I say the Bolt is irrelevant, the numbers support me. Yes, 350,000 Canadians bought a full-size rig in 2016.
But the Bolt won’t be a sideshow for much longer. And that’s why it excites me and many others who recognize the real dangers of human-caused global warming. Moreover, the Bolt is a symbol of ingenuity and a thrilling harbinger of the business and societal prospects of EVs.
In a nutshell, electric vehicles are the future. The companies that become EV leaders, will thrive by the end of this decade and into the 2020s, without a doubt.
China is an excellent example of why. Last year more than 300,000 Chinese bought a plug-in vehicle, notes Ev-sales.blogspot.com. The Chinese EV market is booming and will continue to do so. It must.
As the Economist noted in a recent post, “successive waves of thick smog have blanketed northern and central China.” As a result, “authorities have cancelled flights, shut highways and imposed emergency factory closures.” China is choking; thousands die each year from emissions. For China and the world, it’s change or die. Literally.
Which is why China declared a “war on pollution” in 2014. True, China has made only halting headway on cutting pollution, but China has joined the Paris accords and signed an emissions-cutting agreement with the United States. China recognizes the need to address human-caused pollution; many other countries now do, too — including the current Canadian GovernmentThe world is moving ahead to address global warming and EVs are a big part of the story.
To be fair, the size of the global market for EVs is subject to some dispute, though everyone agrees it will be big, and big very soon.
The Australian industrial minerals firm Syrah Resources Limited believes EV market share in the U.S. alone could hit 8.2 per cent by 2020, based on a review of a large number of studies from Deutsche Bank, PwC, Roland Berger, Deloitte, Boston Consulting and others. Global EV and plug-in hybrid combined sales could reach 100 million units by 2020.
In a recent report, Bloomberg New Energy Finance predicted that electric cars and plug-in hybrids could come to represent 35 percent of new light-duty vehicle sales by 2040, or about 41 million. The Syrah report expects sales to hit 100 million by that time.
The Bolt demonstrates that the cost of plug-in vehicles is coming down as battery costs drop, research and development expertise improves, consumer tastes shift and governments act. The Bolt, the Leaf, Tesla’s Model X and promised Model 3 and more will become the rule, not the exception.
And that’s why my upcoming test drive of the Bolt is so exciting. This is the future. Sure, the surging popularity of pickups and other gas guzzlers can be discouraging, but step back and look at the bigger picture.
The move to electric is unstoppable.