The roadmap to replace old-fashioned carbon-emitting cars with electric vehicles is well-developed – at least in theory. All major automakers (and even some of them) the smaller one) are publicly committed to electric.
But actually buying a new electric car? That is quite another matter.
Volkswagen, the world’s largest automaker, recently announced that it out of stock of electric vehicles in the US and Europe for the remainder of 2022. Ford’s E-Transit sold out before it even started making them†
Even the most basic (lower spec) version of Tesla’s Model 3 vehicle won’t be now delivered for over a yeardespite being capable of some of the largest production volumes in the world – a recent cessation of production in China despite.
Turn the clock back to 2019, just when the electric vehicle revolution really took off in terms of sales figures, and Tesla had stocks of cars in the UK that they could deliver to customers within days. Now, although they can produce many more vehicles, you will probably have a long wait for the delivery of a new one.
For now, motorists looking to own a brand new electric car will struggle to get ahead. The same goes for governments that have plans to ban the sale of new petrol and diesel cars. In Norway, for example, a ban will come into effect in 2025† in the UK it is 2030†
These goals depend to a large extent on the usual cycle of vehicle replacement† And to replace old vehicles with new ones, supply must be at a level that can replenish end-of-life vehicles, as well as allow for some growth in demand.
Right now, there simply aren’t enough electric vehicles being made to meet that demand. I am involved in still ongoing research investigating how and when different companies are replacing their old combustion-engined vehicles with electric ones – and one of the biggest barriers seems to be purchasing them.
Government targets for roads full of electric vehicles may soon seem hopelessly unrealistic.
End of the road?
So what went wrong? For starters, in the early days of electric vehicles, manufacturers played it safe.
This was a new and unfamiliar world for them, and it was not clear whether other competing technologies (like hydrogen energy) may be more popular with consumers.
But batteries won out, and consumer demand — helped by those plans to ban petrol and diesel — skyrocketed.
The current problems are partly caused by COVID-19 affecting global supply chains and a shortage of semiconductors, an essential part of modern vehicles.
Tesla had to close its factory in Shanghai in the spring of 2022 for three weeks because of the lockdown in China. Before that it produced around 2,000 cars per day for the Asian and European markets, so possible production loss of about 42,000 vehicles.
This equates to about three months of supply for a market like the UK. And just as the factory reopened, it had to… reduce production due to supply chain issues.
This is because Tesla does not make all the parts to build the cars in one factory (although it produces more than the industrial average), as a result of which the factories that supply Tesla are also closing due to lockdowns, the necessary parts do not arrive.
CEO Elon Musk has now suggested that his company may stop taking orders. to tell the Financial Times: “The frustration we see from customers is that they can’t get a car.”
He added: “We are probably going to stop taking orders after a certain period of time because some of the timing is a year away.”
It will take a long time to clear these backlogs and this will be a major headache for everyone involved. Manufacturers and customers will be frustrated, while politicians who rely on electric vehicles for the future of transport policy may need to adjust their expectations and demands.
Most importantly, the current situation is a terrible blow to global efforts to Reduce CO2 emissions and dealing with climate change.
Pushing back important targets on road vehicles could be disastrous for the planet, but we still need vehicles.
We may now need to switch to fewer cars through more car-sharing, or look at alternative modes of transport and even convert older cars to electric. If we don’t, the drive to net-zero could soon drain.
Editor’s Note: This article was written by Tom Staceyassociate professor of Operations and Supply Chain Management, Anglia Ruskin Universityand republished from The conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article†