Shift to electric vehicles in Alberta is ‘inevitable’

Alberta’s oil-based economy needs to prepare itself for a looming consumer shift to electric vehicles, a Calgary crowd heard Tuesday.

Disruptive change in the automotive sector is already here and is likely to reach a crucial tipping point within the next five or six years, said Michael Liebreich, founder and guest contributor of Bloomberg New Energy Finance.

“It will happen at different speeds in different places . . . but there are going to be millions of Canadians and hundreds of thousands of Albertans and Calgarians who are going to be buying these things,” Liebreich said in an interview. “The inevitability is that we will end up with very high penetrations of electric vehicles in the mix, because they’re better vehicles.”

Liebreich, who is also CEO of Liebreich Associates where he provides advisory services on topics such as clean energy and transportation and sustainable development, was one of the speakers at the second annual Energy Disruptors conference taking place at Stampede Park.

He told the audience that EV sales hover at about two per cent of total passenger vehicle sales worldwide, but that figure is already significantly higher in markets such as California, China and Norway. He said with car companies investing heavily in EV development and battery technology rapidly advancing, mass adoption is only years away.

“There’s a demand curve with these things. Going from one per cent adoption to five per cent is like waiting for a sneeze, where you know it’s going to come but it seems to take much longer than you think. And then going from five per cent to 50 per cent is much faster than anticipated,” Liebreich said.

One company that is betting heavily on the expected shift is Volkswagen Group. The German car manufacturer has an ambitious plan to launch 50 new electric vehicle models by 2025 and to have a fully emissions-free fleet by 2050. The company will invest 30 billion euros by 2023 on its EV strategy, said Volkswagen’s head of e-mobility services, Martin Roemheld.

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