Electric vehicle (EV) sales have skyrocketed since 1999, when the U.S. Department of Transportation reported that only 17 hybrid electric vehicles were sold. Look even further back in the rearview mirror and you’ll find that the story of EVs is much more complicated. In 1900 — 10 years after the first EV appeared in the U.S — EVs were a common sight, accounting for nearly one out of every three cars on the road.
Returning our focus to the present — and the future — there are plenty more surprising tidbits to learn about EVs. So buckle up, let’s hit the road.
1. Uncle Sam wants to see EVs across the U.S.
Although the Energy Department’s Loan Programs Office (LPO) achieved little in spurring innovation for renewable energy during President Trump’s administration, it seems that the LPO — active during the Obama administration — is pressing the gas pedal again. Earlier this month, Secretary of Energy Jennifer Granholm announced that the LPO is “back open for business.” Currently, it has nearly $18 billion available through its Advanced Technology Vehicles Manufacturing Loan Program for two groups of potential borrowers: manufacturers of advanced technology vehicles that achieve defined fuel economy targets, and manufacturers of components or materials that support eligible vehicles’ fuel economy performance.
Ford (NYSE:F), for example, received a $5.9 billion loan from the LPO and used the funds to help develop its hybrid and all-electric vehicles. Similarly, Tesla (NASDAQ:TSLA) received a $465 million loan from the LPO in January 2010. Using the loan to help build its manufacturing facility in Fremont, California, Tesla repaid the loan in full three years later, nearly nine years before it was due.
2. There’s plenty of growth down the road
Despite the challenges wrought by the COVID-19 pandemic, the EV industry prospered in 2020. According to EV-volumes.com, preliminary estimates peg global EV sales at 3.24 million, a 43% increase over the 2.26 million sold in 2019. Clearly the EV industry has come a long way in getting drivers behind the wheels of full-electric and hybrid-electric vehicles, and analysts think there’s plenty of growth remaining. Bloomberg New Energy Finance forecasts that in 2025, EVs will account for 10% of global passenger vehicle sales and will rise steadily to 58% of global sales in 2040.
3. Rare earth elements are a pressing concern
Enthusiasm for the burgeoning EV industry is high, but that’s not to say there aren’t challenges that lie ahead. One formidable speed bump is the industry’s reliance on rare earth elements, important components in the vehicles’ batteries and motors. In addition to the fact that they’re not readily available, a pressing concern is the fact that China is the source of the lion’s share of the global supply — about 90%, according to Adamas Intelligence. This helps explain the considerable interest in MP Materials (NYSE:MP), owner of the only rare-earth minerals mining operation in North America, whose stated mission is “to restore the full rare earth supply chain to the United States of America.” The company recently reported rare earth oxide production of 664 metric tons for 2020, representing an 8% increase over 2019.
4. Traditional auto manufacturers are fired up about all-electric vehicles
Believing that the global appetite for EVs will only continue to grow, numerous automakers have announced their intentions to go all-electric in their offerings. Earlier this month, Swedish automaker Volvo announced that it plans to no longer offer internal combustion engine vehicles, including hybrids, by 2030. Owned by Geely Automobile Holdings (OTC:GELYY), Volvo also stated that it’s targeting half of global sales to be fully electric, with the other half to be hybrid models by 2025.
Domestic automakers are also charged up about going all-in on EVs. General Motors (NYSE:GM), for example, expects to offer 30 all-electric vehicle models globally by 2023, and it plans to only offer all-electric light-duty vehicles by 2035. Ford, moreover, expects to only sell electric passenger vehicles in Europe by 2030.
5. Biden is charging ahead with a charging infrastructure
Espousing enthusiasm for the EV industry during his presidential campaign, President Biden further demonstrated his zeal in January when he announced his desire to transition the government’s fleet of internal combustion vehicles to EVs. But that’s far from the only signal that the Oval Office is fond of the prospect of EVs. In early March, Biden also set a goal of deploying 500,000 charging stations throughout the country. His $3 trillion infrastructure plan, the specifics of which are expected to be released this week, will further detail development of the EV charging station infrastructure.
Reaching the finish line
From the flurry of EV manufacturers that have gone public over the last year by way of special purpose acquisition companies to the legacy automakers that are going all-in on all-electric vehicles, the EV industry represents a viable opportunity for growth-oriented investors. Of course, those expecting EV-related stocks to drive big gains in their portfolios should do their due diligence, as there is still plenty of risk tied to many of the EV-focused companies.
This article represents the opinion of the writer, who may disagree with the “official” recommendation position of a Motley Fool premium advisory service. We’re motley! Questioning an investing thesis — even one of our own — helps us all think critically about investing and make decisions that help us become smarter, happier, and richer.