The transition from carbon-intensive transport to electric vehicles has reached fever pitch in 2021, with analysts noting the rapid growth is exceeding the traditional adoption curves typical of technology like smartphones.

But the enormous effort to clean up the transport could be stopped in tracks, with reports that carmakers in both Europe and Asia – Japan in particular – are digging their heels in as they seek to not only eek out the last profits from combustion engine R&D, but delay a complete EV transition for as long as they can.

A recent analysis by disruptive technology investment firm Ark Invest said that while year-on-year growth could be expected to sit around 30% this far into the transition, the electric vehicle industry instead is expected to grow by more than 90%.

ev adoption curve ark invest

A rapid uptake of electric vehicles is being seen all around the globe. Growth is largely driven by Europe and China, says a recent report from Bloomberg New Energy Finance.

In China, EVs are rolling off the factory floor in the hundreds of thousands. October saw its EV sales triple to one-in-five cars sold, and year-on-year sales are up 141% to 320,000 that month alone according to China Daily via Forbes.

Polestar 2 production begins in Luqiao, China. Source: Polestar

In Europe, strict vehicle emissions limits are driving sales, and one-in-ten cars sold is a battery-electric vehicle according to automotive analyst Schmidt Automotive.

While plug-in hybrid sales seem to be flattening out, Matthias Schmidt’s latest analysis says that from November 2020 to October 2021, 1.134 million new battery electric cars rolled onto west European roads.


The transition is happening also in Australia, although in extremely small numbers: up to 15,000, or almost 300%, new battery electric vehicles are expected on the road by the end of 2021 compared to 2020’s 5,000+ pure EV sales.

evc ev sales 2021

But although EV sales growth is showing all the signs of reaching a tipping point of no return, there are reports emerging that suggest certain carmakers are making moves to slow the transition down.

With time running out for decisive action on reducing emissions to halt human-induced climate change, this news is extremely alarming.

One such report comes from European clean transport lobby group Transport & Environment. In a new post, the group says that loopholes in the European Union’s vehicle emissions rules could let carmakers sell 840,000 less electric vehicles in 2021 alone.


Put simply, limits on emissions are larger if carmakers sell larger vehicles – something that is easy to do when SUVs are a preferred mode of transport over smaller hatchbacks and sedans.

T&E is particularly critical of Daimler and BMW, which it says are “experts at exploiting sales of fake ‘electric’ plug-in hybrids, which – when not charged – can actually pollute more than fossil fuel engines.”

“Carmakers are desperately advertising their green credentials, but behind all the bluff they’re exploiting every loophole to delay the switch to emissions-free cars,” said T&E’s Alex Keynes in the group’s post.

Unless rectified, the weak EU rules will mean that between 2022 and 2030, there will be 18 million more combustion engine vehicles on the road in Europe than there would otherwise be, according to T&E.

weak eu rules carmakers

Meanwhile, in Japan, Toyota has corralled other Japanese carmakers into a new coalition known as “Team Japan”, that wants to ensure combustion engines continue to generate profits for many years to come.

Toyota – which only days ago refused to sign a climate pledge to phase out combustion engine-powered vehicles by 2040 – has brought together Subaru, Mazda, Kawasaki and Yamaha to work on a range of more efficient combustion engine-based vehicles and technology.

While Subaru and Toyota have both unveiled battery-electric SUVs under a joint R&D agreement (the Solterra and the BZX4 – which are basically the same car with a different badge), they are very late to the EV party.

The Solterra. Source: Subaru

Team Japan will instead work on carbon-neutral fuels for racing, and biodiesel-powered vehicles, while Yamaha and Kawasaki will look to work on hydrogen-powered motorcycles, all with the goal to “provide customers with greater choice.”

Whether the technology developed under the agreement does prove to be carbon-neutral, time will tell, but if anything the new “Team Japan” coalition suggests that the Japanese carmakers realise they have missed the boat on leading on pure electric vehicles and will instead aim to claim leadership elsewhere.

Extracted in full from: Why some auto companies want the electric car revolution to be stopped in its tracks (