When future historians go looking for the moment when the electric vehicle revolution truly got underway, they might end up pinpointing last Sunday’s Super Bowl. That’s because amid the ups and downs of the actual football game there was a steady barrage of commercials advertising the arrival of an electric age in America.

BMW, General Motors, Kia, and Polestar (a Tesla competitor) all ran ads about their new electric cars and SUVs, and even Nissan — the one company that didn’t go all-in on EVs — still showcased one of its new electric vehicles. At a record $6.5 million for a 30-second spot, these commercials didn’t come cheap.

In some ways, the North American automakers are just catching up to the reality already unfolding elsewhere in the world. Global passenger EV sales increased 94 per cent on a year-over-year basis in the third quarter of 2021 to almost 1.7 million vehicles, and analysts think that sort of exponential growth is going to continue.

“We believe 2022 will be another strong year in terms of EV sales,” Bloomberg New Energy Finance’s Aleksandra O’Donovan told CleanTechnica. “We expect more than 10 million will be sold globally, with the vast majority of them being pure electric. China will lead the way again, followed by Europe, but we do expect EV sales in the U.S. to nearly double in 2022.”

For those who care about the climate, this is good news. While the growing number of electric vehicles hasn’t chipped away significantly at global demand for oil just yet, their impact will only grow as their market share — already near 10 per cent — keeps increasing. As Atlas Public Policy head Nick Nigro told Vox, “We’re in the early stages of the biggest transition in the auto industry since the car was first invented.”

One question that climate activists should keep asking is why the transition took so long to get underway. Nissan, after all, ran ads during football games back in 2010 promoting its all-electric Leaf — one in which the driver hugged a talking polar bear. And while Nissan has talked a good game in recent years, it hasn’t actually done much to deliver new models and options for buyers. There’s a simple explanation for that: money.

For all the good talk about embracing the next generation of vehicles, the major auto companies wanted to generate as much revenue as possible from the current one. Factories are built and money has been long spent on producing fossil-fuelled vehicles, and they want to get as much mileage out of that as possible. Sunk costs are a thing, in other words, and the automakers know that better than most.

Few have been as transparently or unapologetically obstructionist here as Toyota. Despite developing some of the earliest electric vehicle technology, it has consistently stood in the way of efforts to support the electrification of more vehicles. It refused to sign a climate change pledge to phase out combustion vehicles by 2040, and it spearheaded a “Team Japan” effort that roped in Subaru, Mazda, Kawasaki and Yamaha to work on more efficient combustion engine-based vehicles and technologies. And it lobbied and advertised aggressively (along with Tesla) against efforts by the Biden administration to expand the existing electric vehicle tax credit from $7,500 to $12,500 for cars manufactured in the United States by a unionized workforce.

These sorts of efforts to slow-roll the adoption of electric vehicle technology are at odds with the urgency that’s needed in our response to climate change. Years have now been wasted and the impact that will have on future generations is measurable. Even now, as the surge of electric vehicles becomes unstoppable, it will take more than a decade to replace the fossil-fuel dinosaurs that dominate our roads and highways.

Opinion: The electric vehicle revolution truly got underway at last weekend's Super Bowl when the ads were all EVs all the time. @natobserver columnist @maxfawcett explores why it took so long. #SuperBowl #ElectricVehicles

That’s why it’s probably time for some enterprising legal mind to seek the same sort of redress we’ve received, at least in part, from tobacco companies for their role in feeding a preventable health crisis.

How many trillions of dollars worth of damage have recalcitrant vehicle manufacturers done to the health and wellness of future generations in order to protect the profits of existing shareholders? How long have they known that switching to electric could avoid that damage? And how much did they spend pouring cold water on readily available solutions? These are questions that need to be answered inside a courtroom.

As to the increasingly big (and visible) promises about the future being made by car companies on electric vehicles? It seems far more likely that they’re going to have to live up to them than it was even a year or two ago. The cost of battery technology continues to drop, soaring oil prices should make gas-guzzling SUVs increasingly cost-prohibitive, and the political salience of climate change is at an all-time high.

All the pieces are in place for the long-promised revolution to take place, and maybe faster than most people realize right now. Your next car, in other words, will almost certainly be electric. It’s just a shame it took so long for that to happen.

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>>We believe 2022 will be another strong year in terms of EV sales,<< Bloomberg […]

“For those who care about the climate, this is good news.”

For those who care about urbanism and the horrific toll the deaths, injuries and healthcare costs that car dependency bring us, this is merely the status quo. Displacing Alberta oil and Canadian emissions with electricity through EVs is a good thing when seen only through a narrow, car-centric lens.

This piece is indicative of how blind we are about our automobile dependency. The benefits of EVs are first constrained by the public money (read: subsidies) that will continue to underpin the vast network of roads that consume so much urban land (30%-50%).

Second, they will also impose an energy penalty on a society that will need to triple or quadruple its electrical generation capacity instead of only doubling it while decreasing the level of overall energy transportation currently consumes, half of it wasted by vehicle over-consumption stimulated by constant advertising for unaffordable cars and SUVs.

Traffic engineering and car-centric planning has literally brought mass destruction to cities with freeways and unstable long-term finances to car-dependent, single-zoned, low density suburbs. EVs will do nothing to fix this egregiously stupid 20th Century urban planning model.

Moreover, until the cost of a new EV plummets to less than $30K, a level below which is more in keeping with average family budgets, there will be a limitation on sales. This will of course only happen with a reduction in size to a micro econobox EV, not exactly a vehicle for families with more than one kid.

Having said that, one can be forgiven for underestimating people’s willingness to be sucked in by ads, over consume and take on more debt with multiple cars per household, even in the very walkable inner city and when their circumstances do not warrant more than one car.

Families that move to the suburbs from the city for cheaper housing and bigger yards often find their budgets are just as stretched because they failed to consider the significant additional transportation costs imposed by increased car use. There is also a personal penalty paid with more time spent on the road than with one’s family.

Transportation planners / analysts Peter Neuman and Jeff Kenworthy wrote a book in 2015 that proved world car dependency plateaued around 2013-14 and was showing signs of decline. They supplied a stupendous amount of data and evidence to back their observations. This was made possible primarily with the construction of mass urban transit networks in Asian and European cities. And that is one big clue to what needs to be done to defeat climate heating and instil efficacious urbanism.

I would add that planning for more high-capacity rail and modestly urbanizing the suburbs with transit-oriented town centres surrounded by walkable neighbourhoods with energy efficient buildings and continuous sidewalk retail will do far, far more to fight climate change than packing more Teslas into existing freeway traffic jams.

We will also create quieter, more humane communities with individuals and families having more disposable income not spent on driving cars so much.

Regarding Toyota, we own their smallest model. We hardly drive it because we are retired and live within a 15-minute walk from 500 stores, one subway line and three bus routes, one that was inconvenient but a nonetheless available alternative for commuting to my former employer. Four trips of five away from the house are done by shoe leather. If it wasn't for that one trip out of town on a necessary monthly elder care mission, we likely wouldn't own a car of any kind, neither EV or ICE.

Before this we went 10 years being car-free. At one point my commute was just 3-minutes on foot, door-to-desk in an architectural office located four buildings away from home.

During a car service appointment with a Toyota dealer a couple of years back, I mentioned that I read about Toyota's plan to provide electric vehicles covering half of all production "by 2025." That was pre-pandemic. The employee mentioned that the remaining half will be hybrids.

I have no idea how the published plans and commentary by knowledgable staff would square with Fawcett's comments above on Toyota.

We are somewhat rural and require all-wheel-drive and studded tires for drama-free driving through most of the winter. We don't drive as much as we used to, it seems less and less every year, and our current paid-for rides aren't biodegrading and so might still be buffeting planned obsolescence headwinds right up to 2030. And so, difficult to know at what point to pull the trigger on electric. I've read various things on carbon full-lifecycle cost of various autos but would be handy to have some kind of online calculator to help us know when we should make the switch. In the meantime (notwithstanding COVID) prices on EV's will hopefully continue to drop and more AWD options may become available.