Blog Post

Insight: Have We Reached an Electric Vehicle Tipping Point?

By: Thomas Holst

Note: The opinions expressed are those of the author alone and do not reflect an institutional position of the Gardner Institute. We hope the opinions shared contribute to the marketplace of ideas and help people as they formulate their own INFORMED DECISIONS™.

Author Malcolm Gladwell defined a tipping point as a juncture at which a series of small changes becomes significant enough to cause a larger, more important change.

Tipping points exist in the global climate conversation. On one hand, scientists warn that global warming may push us to a point where rising temperatures are incapable of a reversal. On the other hand, battery technology improvements spur widespread adoption of electric vehicle (EV) transportation, eliminating emissions that warm the atmosphere.

Technology advances and infrastructure investments have created a tipping point for wider adoption of EV transportation. Battery pack costs and EV range, the distance travelled on an electric charge, are two improvements reducing barriers to switching from an internal combustion engine vehicle to an EV.

Battery pack costs have decreased almost 20% annually since 2010 (see Figure 1). The downward trend is expected to continue, with 2030 costs forecast at $58/kWh. Cost reductions have continued despite supply chain shortages of battery components, forcing EV manufacturers to utilize other metals.

Figure 1: Battery Pack Costs, 2010–2020

Source: Bloomberg New Energy Finance

EV range is critical because many new buyers have range anxiety, the fear of an insufficient charge to cover the road distance needed to reach a destination. However, motorists’ range anxiety is allayed by a fourfold increas