Electric cars just one percent of market by 2040, says EPA agency

2011 Nissan Leaf

Electric cars, such as the 2011 Nissan Leaf, still have a long way to go, fed agency says.

Think that electrics and alternative fuel vehicles are going to take over and run fossil fuels off the highway? Not according to a forthcoming report by a federal agency. Knovel, a online technical reference resource for engineers, says that the 2014 Annual Energy Outlook report by the Environmental Protection Agency’s Energy Information Agency will say that “that the fossil fuel sector will remain the major player in the automobile industry for at least the next 25 years.”

What’s more, according to the federal agency’s report, electric cars will comprise only one percent of the market in 2040, and plug-in hybrids will comprise only another one percent.

“According to the EIA report, 80 percent of all cars sold in 2040 will run on gasoline, with diesel, hybrids and EVs making up the rest. Bearing in mind that 14.5 million new vehicles rolled out of the showrooms in 2013, this would mean that gaining any sort of foothold in the industry is likely to be a significant engineering challenge,” according to an article published by Knovel.

The full version of he report won’t be released until spring of 2014, but the stark conclusion is that the “numbers of LDVs [light duty vehicles] powered by fuels other than gasoline, such as diesel, electricity, or E85, or equipped with hybrid drive trains, such as plug-in hybrid or gasoline hybrid electric, increase modestly from 18 percent of new sales in 2012 to 22 percent in 2040.”

And gasoline isn’t the only fossil fuel to be considered. Diesel vehicle sales, although currently only about three percent of the U.S. market, is showing a significant increase, with more models at affordable prices going on sale in the near future, and likely beyond.

Proponents of plugging in will certainly be dismayed by the government report, but the energy density of liquid petroleum fuels—gasoline and diesel—is still hard to beat. And average fuel economy, says the report, will improve drastically, from 21.3 miles per gallon to 37.2 mpg by 2040. “Peak oil” advocates notwithstanding (and they don’t have much standing, as the death of oil reserves have, like Mark Twain’s demise, been greatly exaggerated), the internal combustion engine still has a lot of wind in its sails. Or perhaps better said, fire in the belly.