EV Sales Growing Fast, Unevenly

Global electric vehicle sales are growing rapidly from a small base but are concentrated to date in a handful of countries, including Scandinavia, Germany, France and the United Kingdom, according to a new report from LubesnGreases about EVs and their impact on lube markets.

The trends point to a future in which some car populations may shift heavily toward electric vehicles while others remain dominated by internal combustion engines, according to LubesnGreases Perspective on Electric Vehicles.

Photo: DPA Picture Alliance/Alamy

A Volkswagen e-Golf being assembled at a factory in Dresden, Germany.

Maybe at some point a threshold will be passed and other countries will start to catch up in terms of penetration of electric vehicles, Executive Editor Tim Sullivan said. But in the nearer term we could see a polarization of passenger car populations, and that would certainly impact lubricant demand patterns and likely the way that lube marketers approach their business.

Launched Nov. 30, Perspective on Electric Vehicles is a paid-subscription product with two components - an annual report that comprehensively analyzes EVs and their impacts on lubricants supplemented by quarterly reports with news about EVs and the response of the lubricant industry.

As noted in the inaugural 2019 Annual Report, several European countries ranked among the 10 largest markets for sales of EVs - including hybrids and vehicles powered purely by battery - during the first quarter of 2018, including Norway, Germany, France, the U.K. and the Netherlands. Norway ranked third on that list - behind China and the United States - but has by far the greatest proportional penetration of EVs, which accounted for 39 percent of all passenger car sales during the period.

EV sales have also started to take off in countries such as Finland and Sweden, but the uptake is scant in other parts of Europe, as well as most of the Middle East and Africa. There are also varied rates of penetration within countries, with larger cities generally having higher concentrations of EVs. In Oslo, for example, EVs account for 70 percent of new car sales.

Unsurprisingly, countries with higher numbers of EV sales generally offer significant incentives, although the particulars of strategies vary from nation to nation. The 2019 Annual Report illustrates that variety by discussing pro-EV policies in eight countries: Germany, France, Norway, the U.K., China, Japan, South Korea, the U.S. and Brazil. Investment in EV battery recharging points is one key indicator. Germany has the highest number of public charging points in Europe at 26,162, compared to 24,770 for France, 18,158 for the U.K. and 11,487 for Norway.

The rapid pace of growth in EV sales has concerns within the lubricants industry, largely due to the fact that cars running only on battery power do not contain engine oil. As the annual report notes, forecasts of future EV penetration vary a lot, but several analyses have predicted that EVs will have a moderating impact on passenger car motor oil sales volumes and that global PCMO volumes will continue rising for a few decades, though at a slower pace than they would were it not for EVs.

The report also discusses performance demands for lubricants used in EVs and concludes that electrification will create new demands for transmission fluids and greases, though the specific needs will vary depending on the particulars of vehicle design.

Subscriptions to LubesnGreases Perspective on Electric Vehicles are $2,500. Information is available at this link.