Client Protection
Customized Solutions
Book An Introductory Meeting

Electric Vehicles Hit Some Bumps in The Road

Strong growth in recent years is slowing but promise remains.

Writing about electric vehicles (EVs) is a bit complicated these days as news about the sector seems to break weekly. Then there’s the acronyms. The umbrella term ZEV (zero emission vehicles) in many cases includes both BEVs (battery electric vehicles) and plug in hybrids – where both gas-powered, internal combustion and battery electric are present. Since many of us are more familiar with the widely used EV label we’ll use it here to refer to any kind of vehicle powered in part or fully by an electric charge.

So, what’s going on? Well, depending on your perspective, the global EV sector is either being seriously squeezed as price sensitive consumers gear down or continuing to rapidly evolve with new models and technological innovations foreshadowing lower prices and better performance in the future. But there are also questions about the environmental costs of the lithium-ion batteries that power the majority of EVs.

Statistics Canada recently reported that in 2022 global EV sales were 14% of all vehicles sold, up substantially from 9% recorded in 2021. This rise, led by China and Europe, contributed to a total of over 26 million EVs on roads, with BEVs being about 70% of that growth.1 Not bad.

But that rapid adoption rate has stalled out recently. In the US, EV sales jumped 40% in the final quarter of 2023, year over year, but were flat from the third quarter.2 Both GM and Ford have announced they’ll trim US production due to slowing demand. Tesla, the global face of EVs for years, saw its first-quarter 2024 revenues slump 9%, its biggest year-over-year drop since 2012. Not surprisingly, Tesla is laying off 14,000 people, or about 10 % of its global workforce. EV sales have also slipped in Europe but are still up in the huge Chinese market, although the pace of growth there has halved since mid-2023 and most EV manufacturers in China have slashed their prices in 2024. Yet China is developing technological innovations that are cutting battery weight, cost and charge times while extending distance, all key issues for consumers – and China’s EV export potential.3

In Canada governments are pouring money into securing multi-billion-dollar deals with global EV auto and battery manufacturers to make us a key part of the global EV supply chain and develop or protect jobs. The strategy also backs Ottawa’s ambitious targets for 20% of vehicles offered for sale being zero-emission starting in 2026 and 100% by 2035. In the past year alone Honda, Stellantis, Volkswagen, Ford, and Swedish battery manufacturing giant Northvolt have announced investments totaling at least $35 billion to build huge facilities in Ontario and Quebec. In each case the federal and provincial governments cemented these deals with billions in incentives, tax credits and other financial aid to the manufacturers.  

Recent global and domestic EV adoption rates help explain why. In 2017, EVs accounted for just 1% of new vehicles registered in Canada. But by the end of 2023 that number was nearly 11% according to Statistics Canada, with Quebec, Ontario, BC and the territories account for 92% of new EV registrations from 2018 to 2022.  Yet despite that strong growth EVs remain less than 2% of all the cars on the road in Canada.

But in March 2024 Ford said it will delay plans to repurpose its Oakville, Ontario plant for EV production, pushing the start date out from 2025 to 2027 in a sign of a softening market. A recent survey by car review site Edmunds indicates Canadian consumers are hesitating because of high prices, a lack of desirable models, a preference for hybrids, limited battery range and inadequate charging infrastructure. 4

There are also serious questions about the carbon footprint of EVs. Many are powered by lithium-ion batteries, which require huge amounts of energy and water to produce. And they’re not easy to recycle, with research indicating it takes more energy to recycle a battery than to produce one. They contain nickel, manganese, and cobalt, with cobalt mining being particularly expensive and environmentally damaging.5 Demand is soaring for lithium-ion batteries (which are also used in consumer electronics) but the race is on to find better alternatives.  

Potential solutions include lithium-sulphur batteries, solid state batteries and sodium-ion batteries. The latter looks particularly promising because there’s vastly more sodium in the earth than lithium, which makes it cheaper to produce, and Australian researchers believe transitioning lithium-ion battery factories to sodium-ion would be relatively easy.6 Drawbacks include shorter charge ranges and charge life cycles, but Chinese researchers have been able to improve the charge life cycle of sodium-ion batteries. 

EV technology is still very new and despite some current bumps escalating global competition is pushing towards vehicles, whether BEV or hybrid (which is where Toyota is focused), that are cheaper, go further and can be conveniently charged while also delivering on the original environmentally friendly promise. The prize will be a substantial slice of the $3 trillion dollar global automotive industry, although EVs may not completely replace gas powered internal combustion vehicles any time soon, and possibly never.


  1. https://www.statcan.gc.ca/o1/en/plus/5497-watts-electric-vehicles-and-future-electricity-generation-needs
  2. https://www.theglobeandmail.com/business/article-ford-delaying-start-of-ev-production-at-oakville-ont-plant-until-2027/
  3. China’s Electric Cars Keep Improving, a Worry for Rivals Elsewhere – The New York Times (nytimes.com)
  4. https://www.theglobeandmail.com/business/article-ford-delaying-start-of-ev-production-at-oakville-ont-plant-until-2027/
  5. https://www.bbc.com/future/article/20240319-the-most-sustainable-alternatives-to-lithium-batteries
  6. https://www.bbc.com/future/article/20240319-the-most-sustainable-alternatives-to-lithium-batteries