EVs could reshape auto export market
But protectionism risks may stem EV trade flows, while potential developing world destinations need to be properly prepared for any EV influx
Developed countries could be exporting as many as 20mn EVs per year to emerging markets by 2040, more than a third of total auto exports, according to a study by the International Transport Forum. But restrictions on used EV exports could erode these projections.
Current such exports of EVs are negligible. But the introduction of internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles bans from 2035 in a number of exporting nations may lead to a rapid upsurge.
Assuming that sales of EVs in the main used vehicle exporting regions (China, Europe, Japan and South Korea and the United States and Canada) reach 100pc by 2035, exports of EVs could then reach 45mn EVs per year in 2050.
But the study, entitled: 'New but Used: The Electric Vehicle Transition and the Global Second-hand Car Trade', warns that there is a good chance that developed countries could restrict exports of used EVs in order to support development of a domestic second-hand market or to control the supply of critical materials used in batteries — in which case these numbers would be lower.
Batteries from EVs have the potential for secondary applications, such as energy storage or recycling.
"Developed countries should not be overly restrictive on the export of used electric vehicles," the report says.
There are further potential barriers to adoption in emerging markets. For EVs to take off in these markets private and public investment in charging infrastructure will be needed, as well as supportive public policy.
And a potential glut in the availability of cheap ICE vehicles no longer wanted in the developed world before 2035 could prevent such investments and policies being put in place — with negative consequences not just for EV demand but for developing nations' mobility ecosystems in general.
"An over-dependence on [ICE] cars...can cause urban sprawl and congestion and entrench high energy demand and air pollution," the report warns.
However, should e-mobility adoption in emerging markets take off, there may also be a higher risk that many EVs are not disposed of properly at end-of life.
It is illegal to dispose of batteries and other non-inert waste in landfills in most developed economies.
"However, not all regions have such restrictions, meaning vehicles may end up being discarded or improperly disposed of," the report cautions.
Such policies should be adopted if emerging nations want to encourage EV uptake.
A report from non-profit Carbon Tracker last month added that emerging economies should also introduce emissions standards to encourage a technology leapfrog from ICE vehicles to BEVs and avoid locking in dependence on fossil fuel infrastructure.
Some OEMs such as China's BYD might even begin selling new BEVs in emerging economies under such a scenario, the report notes.