Switzerland has voted in a referendum to provide billions of dollars in subsidies for renewable energy and to ban new nuclear plants. A proposed new Swiss law (“Energy Strategy 2050) plans to increase domestic renewable energy, reduce fossil fuel use, and reduce reliance on foreign energy supplies. The European country wants to increase solar and wind power capacity by 400% by 2035. The government estimates this goal will cost the average family 40 francs more a year, based on a higher electric grid surcharge to fund renewable subsidies. Solar and wind now account for less than 5% of Switzerland’s energy output, compared with 60% for hydro and 35% for nuclear. The country has 5 nuclear plants with plans to close them.  The first will close in 2019.

The Chinese government is expecting seven million electric vehicles to be sold per year by 2025 and EVs will account for all new vehicle sales growth. By 2025 EVs will account for 20% of all vehicles sold in China. Last year EV sales in the Asian country represented just 2% of total car sales. The plan also hopes to double average lithium-ion battery energy density and reduce battery pack prices to $150 per kilowatt-hour by 2020. According to analysis from Bloomberg New Energy Finance, the price target looks achievable but the density target will be very challenging.

By next year electric vehicles in Europe will be at price parity with gasoline and diesel vehicles according to investment bank UBS. Parity will reach China in 2023 and the US in 2025. The firm said the EV powertrain is $4600 cheaper to produce than it had estimated previously and there is more cost reduction potential in the system as EV production reaches economies of scale.  UBS also raised its forecasts for global electric car sales by 50% to 14% by 2025 or 14.2 million vehicles. Europe will lead the way with 30% of its total automobile sales electric by 2025. The current share is close to 1%. The US will  electric car sales reach 5% of total sales in 2025.

Mainstream forecasts for electric car sales range from between 10 and 15% of the global market by 2025. Volkswagen expects this to hit 25%.

The International Energy Agency has weighed in on India’s plan to sell only electric vehicles by 2030.  The purpose of the plan is to cut oil imports and reduce pollution from the transportation sector. The IEA says the plan is ambitious and will require more than 10 million EVs will have to be sold if the country is to meet this goal. This is nearly eight times the existing global stock of such vehicles. Successful implementation would reduce India’s oil imports by 10% and, coupled with China’s plans, have major implications for world crude oil prices. Currently India has about 5000 EVs on its roads. EVs sell for 3 times the price of a vehicle with an internal combustion engine.

Consumer Affairs says self-driving cars are expected to drive big changes in the car insurance business. A report from Accenture and Stevens Institute of Technology predicts by the middle of the next decade individual consumers in the US will begin dropping their traditional insurance policies as self-driving cars become commonplace. “Autonomous-vehicle technology will drive a significant shift in risk from human error to malicious third party, software, hardware and infrastructure risk,” said Chen Liu, co-author of the report. While there will still be car insurance, it will cover different and less costly risks. Human error is the major cause of automobile accidents and the human aspect will be gradually removed from the equation as self-driving vehicles take over the road. The implication is that individual insurance premiums should be quite low for self-driving cars. The risk will shift to automakers, fleet owners, software publishers, and others taking out policies covering cybersecurity, product liability, and public infrastructure insurance. Cybersecurity insurance is expected to be the most essential new coverage and biggest source of new revenue for insurance companies. It would provide protection against remote vehicle theft, unauthorized entry, ransomware, and hijacking of vehicle controls, as well as coverage for identity theft, privacy breaches, and the theft or misuse of personal data.

A recent survey by the American Automobile Association found more than three out of four respondents say they are afraid of riding in a self-driving car. While over 50% say they want autonomous technology in their next vehicles, giving full control to a computer seems to be the line most drivers are not ready to cross just yet.  Moreover, 90% of drivers said they not would feel safer sharing the road with an autonomous car.

South Korea is in the process of building a whole new city for self-driving cars. The mock city is being designed to help facilitate the development of autonomous vehicle technology. The goal is to run self-driving cars through identical scenarios multiple times, something not always possible when a self-driving car tests on public roads. Korean firms Samsung, Hyundai, and Kia are involved with the project as it gives them an opportunity to test their technology. The city will at first only encompass highways, but next year dense urban areas will be added, bus-only lanes, and other challenges for self-driving cars will be put in place.

A new study by the McKinsey Global Institute says that robots and other forms of automation will dramatically impact at least half of North American jobs by as early as 2035. In Latin America and Asia, the impact of automation may be bigger, because more people work in repetitive manufacturing or agricultural jobs that can be easily replaced by robots. Automation may affect more than 51% of the jobs in Mexico, Colombia and Peru; about 50% in China, India and Brazil; 48% in Argentina; and 46% in the United States and Canada, the study says. However, McKinsey paints a pretty optimistic picture, saying that only 5% of worldwide jobs will be fully automated, and that most jobs will be only partially replaced by machines. Most people will work alongside robots that will take over the most tedious parts of their jobs, productivity will increase, and countries that embrace automation will become more prosperous. Yet many economists are concerned that technology is increasing at such an incredibly fast pace that it may create greater unemployment in many countries.

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