We know (or at least, we think we know) that electric vehicles are the future. But when will electric vehicles go from being niche products to dominating the world’s roadways? In this Motley Fool Live broadcast, recorded on May 27, Industry Focus host Nick Sciple and Motley Fool senior auto specialist John Rosevear move from a discussion of Ford Motor Company‘s (NYSE: F) new electric F-150 Lightning pickup to examine the bigger question: When will EVs take over the world?
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John Rosevear owns shares of Ford and General Motors. Nick Sciple has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Tesla. The Motley Fool recommends the following options: long December 2021 $130 calls on Ferrari. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.
Nick Sciple: Some auto gurus are predicting the end of internal combustion engine vehicles in the foreseeable future. What do you think about those predictions, John?
John Rosevear: I think it’s up to the customers. I think you might see internal combustion vehicles die and say Chinese cities long before you see them die in rural Texas, for instance. I think what Ford is saying is, we’re going to try to lead our customers to electric vehicles. In fact, more than one Ford executive has said that to me over the last few years, more or less than those words. Going back to Mark Fields when he was CEO a few years ago. But there may be some people who just don’t want them, and as long as they’re legal as gasoline is available and people want to pay money for them. I think automakers will continue to make them available. I don’t see a magical by 2031, all of them are going to be gone or anything like that. I do think that as people get into electric vehicles, as well engineered electric vehicles continue to come out in more and more market segments and people try and go, “Hey, this isn’t that bad.” As recharging times come down. As the technology advances, as people get to like the torque from zero RPM, the low noise levels, the lower maintenance perhaps of electric vehicles. I think they will sell themselves. I know this is what Tesla people have been saying for a decade, but the auto industry is buying into that story and we’re going to see in the next decade.
Sciple: On the end of I see in the foreseeable future, I think that’s one of those things that makes a great headline and certainly a lot of people will click when they see that. I think when you compare that to the reality on the ground, I think the foreseeable future that I would put almost zero chance of that happening. Even if you want to say in the U.S. or Europe or at some of these places, we’re going to ban internal combustion engines. We got a great big world out there and it’s a great big world out there that doesn’t have super, super robust energy infrastructure to all the sudden switch your entire transportation over to something that depends on really, really robust energy infrastructure. Also, I think the typical car on the road’s like 12 years old. So even if you assume 2030, every new vehicle sold is an electric vehicle, it’s going to take at least a dozen years for the existing fleet to roll off. So both in terms of what can people actually deliver on with the resources available on the ground on a global basis. And two, how do people actually go about buying cars, foreseeable future? No, I don’t think ICE is going away in the foreseeable future, and foreseeable future, I say next decade.
Rosevear: Let me give you an anecdote. Raj Nair, who was the executive who ran Ford’s global product initiatives for several years, was found of saying, and this is like three, four years ago. So this isn’t ancient history. He was fond of saying, we know of people who still drive Model Ts every day. [laughs] Internal combustion is going to be with us a long time unless governments step up in say no, you can’t do that anymore. Going really, really long term, you might note that people still ride horses. I think it will be like that. I think a 100 years from now, you’ll still have eccentrics driving their antique internal combustion vehicles. Maybe on Sundays, maybe only in some areas, maybe not in cities, whatever. But perhaps nobody has built a new one, except for maybe tiny niche products for many years. Maybe Ford is all electric by 2040. Maybe [General Motors] really does go all electric by 2035 as they aspire to. Toyota has said more like 2050 they think is when they will stop selling internal combustion. Of course, if you’ve been in the investing game for a while, the other thing to remember is that when you go out 10, 15, 20 years on a forecast, who knows, especially when you’re talking about regulators and so forth. If you’d asked me in 2013, where are we going to be in 2021? I would have predicted a lot of things, but probably not quite the mix that we have right now. I would have thought maybe the big incumbents would’ve been earlier to market with EVs, that maybe there would be more regulatory pressure and so forth. It has moved more slowly than I think a lot of us thought it might. Don’t be surprised if we get to 2030 and there’s still an awful lot of people driving pickup trucks with gasoline engines or diesel engines. Every truck that gets replaced with a zero-emissions vehicle helps the air, and I think there will be plenty of those by 2030. But this idea that it’s just all going to go away one day, I’m sure it will mostly go away one day, but that day may not be for quite a while.
Sciple: I would predict, if you want to look out super long term, EVs have taken over. I think there’s still going to be internal combustion engines in the market and it will be you have to try really hard to find a standard transmission car these days, it’s like 2% of the cars on the road. If you really want one, you can find one, but usually, you have to talk to the dealership and maybe make a request, or what have you. I think that’s the future for ICE whenever we get to maturity.
Rosevear: I think there will be niches. I wouldn’t be surprised if a company like Ferrari found a way to continue to build hybrids instead of pure electrics for a while longer, given that the romance in their brand is so tied up in their engines. I would be surprised if we went out 20 years and most people were not mostly driving EVs, if that makes sense. Maybe a special car that’s internal combustion for a hobbyist, for a sports car enthusiast, for somebody doing something specific with it, but most people commuting to work and going to the grocery store and maybe taking a road trip once a year, any of these will be better for them, if not now, then soon. I think consumer adoption will follow that.