Tesla is Pwning Markets Traditionally Dominated by ICEs as Manufacturers Desperately Call for More Battery Production

Last year, the world produced more than 1.2 million electrical vehicles. This was nearly 60 percent growth from the previous year when just shy of 800,000 EVs hit the world stage. During 2018, the world is expected to achieve anywhere between 1.6 and 2 million electrical vehicle sales. And by 2020, the number is likely to exceed 3 million. In other words, clean transportation that transitions away from climate change producing fossil fuel burning is a major emerging and rapidly growing global market.

(Tesla is surging ahead in the race to produce clean energy vehicles. But Volkswagen has promised to spend 48 billion on batteries in a bid to catch up. Image source: Inside EVs.)

Today, Tesla presently dominates global clean transport sales. Producing just three models — the S, the X, and the 3 — this new automaker is seriously disrupting a number of traditional segments. During most weeks, Tesla now produces more than 4,000 all electrical vehicles in total. This makes it the largest global EV producer by a long shot at a present pace of more than 200,000 vehicles per year. In the key U.S. market, Tesla appears to have sold between 5,000 and 8,500 vehicles during April alone. And the mass-produced Model 3 is presently making up more than half those sales at between 3,875 and 4,777 according to estimates by InsideEVs and CleanTechnica.

For Tesla, it’s just another milestone on the road to mass vehicle electrification. By summer, the clean energy company expects to be producing around 7,000 electrical vehicles per week in total — with fully 5,000 of that number coming from the Model 3 alone.

What this means is that Tesla is both racing ahead of other automakers in the EV field and that it will also start to dominate markets traditionally ruled by carbon-belching ICE makers. As one example of this trend, the Model 3 is presently the #21 best-selling car in the U.S. — out of all cars sold. By summer, it is likely to be #6. In its segment — small to medium sized premium cars — it is presently crushing the likes of Acura, Infiniti, and Jaguar to take the #5 spot. But with 5,000 per week production on the way, in just a few months it will assuredly take the crown from Mercedes and BMW.

(According to CleanTechnica analysis, Tesla appears likely to dominate the small to mid-size luxury vehicle segment in the U.S. come May to June. Image source: CleanTechnica.)

This from a type of vehicle — electric — that was once thought to be humble and non-competitive. One can practically hear the crack of the world-spanning shot running through the global auto industry at this time. An industry that has been mostly caught flat-footed by a trend that us clean energy advocates have long been predicting.

The reaction by traditional industry has been predictably varied and chaotic. Ford appears to be in full retreat from segments that are now increasingly dominated by high-quality EVs — recently announcing that it will no longer build sedans, but will instead focus on trucks and SUVs. On the other side of the spectrum, a Volkswagen still reeling from the PR disaster that was dieselgate appears to have seen the electric light. That OEM has now pledged to spend 48 billion in battery orders in an effort to beat or at least confront Tesla in the market that it created.

Batteries are the key enabler to mass EV production. Hyundai had a hard lesson in this over past days as the all-electric Ioniq — celebrated for its efficient design — ran into a supply wall. The reason? Hyundai had only planned for 1,200 battery packs per month. But demand for the clean energy vehicle quickly outstripped supply. Hyundai subsequently stretched Ioniq production to 1,800 per month. But, at that point, the automaker was dead in the water on further expansions due to a 2 year lead time for battery contracts. In other words — if you don’t have battery production or suppliers, then you’re out of luck if you want to produce EVs in higher volumes.

(Global lithium battery supply and demand keep running ahead of expectations. By 2021, racing global battery producers are likely to supply 344 GWh of battery production or more. Image source: Bloomberg New Energy Finance.)

Battery manufacturers are thus scrambling to meet a rapidly rising demand. In 2017, global battery production capacity stood at about 100 gigawatt-hours (GWh). And global expansion plans appear to be aiming for around 300 to 350 GWh by 2021. But even this estimate could be low. For Volkwagen’s own recent 48 billion dollar call for EV batteries is likely to generate even more supply chain expansions even as other automakers call for more production.

Returning to Tesla, we would be remiss if we didn’t highlight one of its many key advantages — it owns its battery supply chain. Tesla’s Gigafactory in Reno, through its partner Panasonic, is expected to be able to produce 35 GWh of batteries all by itself over the next year or two. This is enough to support annual Tesla EV production in the range of 400,000 to 500,000. Gigafactory battery capacity is expected to expand to 150 GWh by the early to mid 2020s — which would support two million or more EVs each year.

(Without the Tesla Gigafactory in Reno, U.S. battery production would be dead in the water due to myopic and harmful policies produced by the republican-dominated federal government and various similar state legislatures. Europe, China and Tesla have realized that large scale battery production is necessary for a clean energy future and a related strong response to climate change.)

By contrast, Volkswagen is presently targeting 3 million EVs per year by 2025. In 2018, it is well behind Tesla — unlikely to see sales across all EV models exceeding 100,000 while Tesla is likely to at least double┬áthat number. So VW will have to race to catch up. A 48 billion dollar battery buy will be key to achieving this goal. It’s a very aggressive move that will enable the manufacturer to produce millions of EVs in the future. But, at the present time, it is seriously lagging. A situation that doesn’t have much chance of changing until the early 2020s even as Tesla gains both credibility and market share.

At least Volkswagen appears to have seen the proverbial writing on the wall. Transition is, after all, the best option in the face of competition from far more healthy and desirable EVs. For the other laggards in the traditional auto industry — time’s a-wasting.

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