The Evolution and Challenges of the EV Market – 2008 to Date

Evolution of EVs
Since 2008, EVs have rapidly advanced, but tariff wars and global supply chain disruptions pose significant challenges to their growth and adoption

The launch of the Tesla Roadster in 2008 marked a significant turning point in the EV market.

This groundbreaking vehicle showcased the potential of EVs to deliver high performance and long-range capabilities.

Tesla's emphasis on lithium-ion batteries set new standards for energy density and efficiency, challenging the traditional automotive industry and inspiring future developments in electric mobility.

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Mass market accessibility

Following the Tesla Roadster's success, the Nissan Leaf's introduction in 2010 made EVs more accessible to the general public.

As one of the first affordable all-electric cars, the Leaf demonstrated the practicality and viability of EVs for everyday use. It particularly appealed to environmentally-conscious consumers who were drawn to its eco-friendly design and functionality.

The Paris Agreement, adopted in 2015, aimed to combat climate change by limiting global warming to well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels. It resulted in countries setting nationally-determined contributions (NDCs) as targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

By fostering international cooperation and accountability, the Paris Agreement has driven nations to establish and pursue more ambitious environmental goals, promoting a collective effort to mitigate the impacts of climate change.

Advancements in battery technology and charging infrastructure

Continuous improvements in battery technology have been pivotal in the evolution of EVs. Advancements have led to longer ranges and shorter charging times, addressing the main barrier to EV adoption: range anxiety. 

Companies like Tesla spearheaded the development of fast-charging networks, such as the Supercharger network, which significantly enhanced the convenience of EV ownership.

Mary Barra, Chair & CEO, GM

Commenting on this area of concern, Mary Barra, CEO at General Motors, says: "Addressing range anxiety is crucial to making electric vehicles a mainstream choice and we are committed to developing solutions that provide consumers with the confidence they need."

By 2012, Tesla has introduced the Model S, further revolutionising the market with its luxury features, extended range and over-the-air software updates.

The model set new benchmarks for what EVs could achieve, combining performance, style and technological sophistication.

Government policies and incentives

Government policies and incentives have played a crucial role in accelerating EV adoption.

Across the globe, countries have introduced subsidies, tax breaks and stricter emissions regulations to encourage both consumers and manufacturers to embrace electric mobility.

The Nissan Leaf's introduction in 2010 made EVs more accessible to the general public. Picture: Nissan

In parallel, significant investments in charging infrastructure have made EV ownership more practical and convenient, fostering a supportive environment for the growth of the EV market.

However, several countries are cutting back on incentives for EVs, reflecting changes in their economic strategies and market conditions.

Germany is one of those reducing its EV incentives significantly. In 2024, the incentive will drop to US$3,200 (€3,000), only applying to cars under US$48,000 (€45,000). The scheme will end altogether once the allocated US$2.7bn (€2.5) in funding is exhausted, leaving only tax incentives in place.

This decision comes as German automakers report substantial profits, indicating less need for subsidies to drive EV sales​​.

Norway is another example. Known for its aggressive EV incentives, Norway is now rolling back some benefits. The country introduced VAT exemptions for EVs priced above US$46, effective from January 2023.

The move aims to shift the focus towards more sustainable transport methods like walking, cycling, and public transport, reducing the emphasis on private car ownership, even for EVs.

Tesla continuously evolving - Picture: Tesla

The impact of tariff wars on the EV market

The growth of the EV market has introduced new challenges, including tariff wars, as governments attempt to protect their domestic automakers.

Tariff wars have significant implications for the EV market, affecting various aspects of production, pricing and global competitiveness.

Increased production costs

Tariffs on imported EV components, such as batteries and electronic parts, can increase production costs for manufacturers. The increased costs are often passed on to consumers, potentially slowing the adoption of EVs.

For example, suppose a country imposes tariffs on lithium-ion batteries imported from critical suppliers like China. In that case, domestic manufacturers may face higher costs, making EVs less competitive than traditional internal combustion engine vehicles.

Tariff wars impact on the global supply chain

Disruption of global supply chains

Tariff wars can disrupt global supply chains, causing delays and uncertainties.

Manufacturers relying on a steady supply of components from multiple countries might experience production slowdowns or increased logistical challenges.

The disruption can hinder the timely rollout of new EV models and innovations, affecting the overall market growth.

Retaliatory measures and market access

Moreover, tariff wars can provoke retaliatory measures, where affected countries impose tariffs on exported EVs.

They can limit market access for EV manufacturers, reducing their ability to compete in key international markets. For instance, if the US imposes tariffs on European-made EVs, Europe might respond with tariffs on American-made EVs, reducing market share and sales opportunities for both sides.

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