“The tipping point is that magic moment when an idea, trend, or social behavior crosses a threshold, tips and spreads like wildfire.— Malcolm Gladwell in “The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference”
Finally, after decades of warnings of worst-case scenarios and doom-and-gloom reports about climate change, we have good news: According to a Bloomberg analysis, the United States is the latest nation to surpass 5 percent of new car sales powered by electricity.
According to the analysis, this threshold is a tipping point, marking mass adoption of technology around the world, a point at which preferences rapidly flip. Historically, sales of new technologies — as far back as electricity and TV, and as recent as smartphones and LED light bulbs — start slowly when first adopted, then take off once the development goes mainstream.
The U.S. over the past six months has joined Europe and China in surpassing the 5 percent apex. If the United States stays on trend with the 18 nations that already hit that threshold, a quarter of new car sales will be electric by the end of 2025 — a year or two ahead of past forecasts.
Hitting the 5 percent point also helps prompt elimination of obstacles. An increase in public chargers; expanded knowledge of the technology; automakers adapting supply chains and updating factory technologies (in Europe, once automakers reach a point at which 10 percent of quarterly sales are electric, that process is prioritized); and, perhaps most attractively, dropping prices all pave the road for mass adoption of EV cars.
Another main factor in smoothing the route to EV adoption is government action. Last year, the Biden administration called for EVs to comprise half of new vehicle production by 2030. By hitting the 5 percent threshold, the tipping-point analysis in Bloomberg estimates the U.S. will now beat that goal years early.
The International Energy Agency reports that sales of electric vehicles have tripled in the past 24 months. BMW, Ford and Volkswagen each set goals to have at least half their global sales be fully electric by 2029.
According to BloombergNEF forecasts, worldwide electric vehicle sales are on target to surpass the 10 percent tipping point this year, despite difficulty in securing necessary supplies, long waits on vehicle orders and higher-than-gas-fueled-vehicle prices.
As we speed toward a national crossroads, let’s put our foot on the (electric-powered) gas pedal into a cleaner, brighter future.