Every car on the road will be electric within 15 years, says Richard Branson

The rise of electric vehicles (EV) as a mainstream automotive option gained more traction this week, after Sir Richard Branson, founder of Virgin Group, predicted that within 15 years "every car on the road will be electric".

Speaking to CNN at the FIA Formula E Championship at London’s Battersea Park last week, Branson claimed that Formula E – an all-electric racing championship event – is “pushing boundaries forward” to the extent that by 2030 all vehicles on the road could be electric.

“What we’re doing with these race cars is pushing the technology forward so that road cars one day will be able to go hundreds of miles without having to recharge their batteries,” Branson told reporters.

Branson is no stranger to the EV concept, as his DS Virgin Racing team has formed an integral part of the E Championship since its inception in 2014. Last week’s event saw European solar company Lightsource create an entire eVillage fan zone that offers solar powered mobile charging stations, 10 electric, solar-charged buggies for disabled transport and solar powered ticket booths.

EV escalation

However, Branson’s prediction of a global EV portfolio differs from recent studies. The global EV market almost doubled in 2015 as sales reached 1.3m, according to Germany-based renewables industry analyst ZSW. While this represents a 68% jump in new registrations from 2014, IRENA figures suggest that EVs account for just 0.1% of global car numbers.

But EV market shares appear to have a promising future. Sales look set to skyrocket over the next 25 years, with Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF) predicting that the 1.3 million figure could reach more than 40 million – accounting for 35% of all car sales by 2040.

Moves are already being made in the industry to account for this transition. The past few months has seen the likes of Honda – which has pledged to electrify two-thirds of its portfolio – and General Motors – which has re-branded its R&D division – shaking up their business models to account for EV production.

With BNEF figures also revealing that EVs will add 2,701TWh, or 8%, to global electricity demand in 2040, car makers are already turning to energy storage and innovative vehicle-to-grid systems to lower Grid risks.

Funding change

If Branson’s prediction seems slightly too optimistic, it shouldn’t detract from the work that the billionaire has done to encourage low-carbon and renewable uptake. He helped form an environmental coalition of 22 business leaders including Unilever’s Paul Polman, which has constantly called for “actionable” global net-zero commitments by 2050.

Alongside Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg, Branson also fronted a new collaboration aimed at creating affordable and reliable clean energy for the entire planet. The Breakthrough Energy Coalition, which also includes Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos and Alibaba executive chairman Jack Ma among others, has been set up to invest in zero-carbon energy technology around the world.

Matt Mace

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