It is game over for fossil fuel-powered cars and only a matter of time before electric cars overtake traditional vehicles in the global market.
Many early adopters are already going fully electric, while others wait for prices to fall and batteries to improve. In the meantime, widespread availability and government incentives are helping hybrid cars are taking the planet by a storm.
So what were the main developments in 2016? We have selected some of the stories that made headlines this year.
1. We’re only 5 years away from electric and internal-combustion parity.
This was the year Bloomberg conservatively predicted that electric vehicles will cost the same as their internal-combustion counterparts by 2022, a major tipping point in the market.
2. These 7 iconic ads prove the combustion engine is dead.
For a generation that is growing up with iPhones and video games, the choice between an electric car and a vehicle based on technology that pre-dates World War I is increasingly straightforward. But how do car companies market their 21st-century automobiles? The Daily Planet has selected 7 iconic advertisements for you.
— Climate-KIC (@ClimateKIC) April 28, 2016
3. Tesla launched its new affordable electric car this year.
Tesla CEO Elon Musk tweeted: “Definitely going to need to rethink production planning…” Climate change was front and centre at the presentation of his company’s new electric car Model 3 in California, which will sell for ‘only’ $35.000 in the US and is available around the world. Musk kicked off with: “(…) the last time there was this carbon concentration was 11 million years ago, that was approximately when primates starting walking upright (…) the world was very different, we don’t want to return to that situation!”
Definitely going to need to rethink production planning…
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) April 1, 2016
“It stands to reason if a vehicle is spewing toxic gas, that’s obviously bad for your health,” he said. MSNBC reported that the number of pre-orders represents $14 billion in implied future sales, and that Tesla joked, at the end of a press release, “it would have written more on the subject, but needed to get back to increasing its Model 3 production plans.” The first deliveries are scheduled for the end of next year.
4. Investors worth $24 trillion urged traditional car makers to shift gears.
The global response to climate change and the emergence of innovative new car start-ups means the automotive sector will need to transform rapidly or risk being left behind, investors warned. A global network of more than 250 institutional investors, representing assets worth over $24 trillion, published a guide with specific threats facing the automotive sector, empowering investors to help traditional car manufacturers turn things around before it is too late.
5. Is Apple about to enter the electric car market? Tesla thinks so.
Tesla Motors chief Elon Musk has said he considers Apple an eventual direct competitor, with electric vehicles that could go into production as soon as 2020. Apple will “probably make a good car and be successful,” Musk said according to Market Watch.
Elon Musk spoiling apple's plans :vhttps://t.co/oDDelNFiEI
— Hady Ehab (@Hady_Ehab_05) June 2, 2016
6. A German push to ban combustion-engine cars by 2030 is winning support.
In October, a proposal to stop sales of new combustion-engine cars by 2030 gained cross-party support in Germany’s Bundesrat, the country’s upper house of parliament, Der Spiegel reported according to Reuters. The Bundesrat calls on the European Commission to draft legislation that would ensure that “at the latest” as from 2030, only emission-free cars should be sold in the European Union, according to Der Spiegel.
“Good for Germany!” responded Tesla’s Elon Musk on twitter. Presumably, it would also be good for Musk’s business. But Forbes reports that electric cars were also front and centre for German automakers – including the Volkswagen Group (with brands like VW, Audi and Porsche) and Mercedes-Benz – at the Paris auto this autumn.
Good for Germany! https://t.co/SMdOL9GcTl
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) October 10, 2016
7. Could your next car actually be made from recycled tequila?
Some entrepreneurs say they get their best ideas in the pub, which is exactly what may have happened at Ford. Ordinarily, mixing alcohol and cars isn’t a great idea – but the sustainability team at US car maker Ford apparently doesn’t mind a challenge. Yes, Ford is actually exploring ways to recycle your favourite Mexican shot into car parts.
— Climate-KIC (@ClimateKIC) August 31, 2016
8. This web app helps reduce your old car’s carbon emissions.
Want to go electric, but still saving for that new ride? There’s an app for that! The web-based ‘Green Driving Tool’ estimates the fuel-costs and CO2 emissions of your current petrol or diesel car, based on information such as your car brand and model, engine power and your driving style.
— Tibor Navracsics (@TNavracsicsEU) August 5, 2016
9. Driverless cars really will change everything.
They’re coming for you, and – unless you drive for a living – you shouldn’t be afraid. Self-driving vehicles are set to revolutionise our cities according to Financial Times columnist Simon Kuper, who writes “If you think personal cars will survive as status symbols, remember horses were once status symbols.” Kuper quotes General Motors’ Richard Holman as saying that most in the automobile industry think self-driving vehicles will be on the road by 2020 or before.
— Financial Times (@FT) October 20, 2016
10. All Teslas in production will be upgraded to be fully self-driving through a software update.
The major story this year was that all of Tesla’s electric vehicles will now be manufactured with hardware that will enable the cars to completely drive itself in all situations, according to Recode. This means when Tesla’s fully self-driving software is ready, all it will take is an over-the-air update to turn semi-autonomous Teslas into fully autonomous cars, according to the website. New Scientist posted the breathtaking video below, showing a demo of a Tesla car driving itself with a human in the seat only for legal reasons.
11. Electric cars will be like Night Rider’s KITT.
If you’re old enough to remember the 1980s TV hit Night Rider with David Hasselhoff as Michael Night – or young enough to have seen the various remakes – you’ll find that today’s self-driving cars have a lot in common with Night’s driverless car, the Knight Industries Two Thousand (KITT), which Night would summon by speaking to his smart watch. On Twitter, Tesla’s Elon Musk explains how this would work in 2016. “When you want your car to return, tap Summon on your phone. It will eventually find you even if you are on the other side of the country.”
When you want your car to return, tap Summon on your phone. It will eventually find you even if you are on the other side of the country
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) October 20, 2016
12. And… European venture capitalists are going to make flying cars a reality.
TechCrunch reported that the European venture firm Atomico has invested €10 million in the electrical vertical take-off and landing plane company Lilium Aviation – a German start-up supported by Climate-KIC, the EU’s climate innovation initiative. The funding is intended to help develop the company into a manufacturer of a commuter alternative to helicopters and traditional planes, according to TechCrunch.
Want to get involved in the electric car industry? Find out how Climate-KIC could help you get started.