Even though during the initial impact of the pandemic the oil price was in historically low territory, our future mobility solutions remain perfectly suited for electrification despite the COVID-19 outbreak. The pandemic highlighted the perceived contagion fear of handling the liquid fuel pump to fill up the internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicle. Even in times of exceptionally low oil prices most consumers are still likely to value safety, and this newfound fear could help to persuade drivers to safely ‘refuel’ their electric vehicle (EV) at home knowing that no strangers have handled the charger before them. Of course, in the short term we do expect some initial setback to EV penetration (depending on geographic region and fuel-efficiency regulation) as the pandemic did increase indebted consumer levels, which challenge EV affordability, and further policy support such as ‘green’ scrappage schemes could be necessary to further address this. But overall, the COVID-19 pandemic led to improved air quality, less traffic, and more active mobility. So gradually expect more consumers to put EVs on their shopping list in the mid-term by 2030.
Ironically, one of the beneficiaries of this trend could also include the automotive sector, as the COVID-19 pandemic also exposed the vulnerability of the world’s manufacturing supply chain, and as the EV typically comprises significantly fewer components compared with more complex ICE vehicles, it could help to simplify the supply chain.
Finally, another sector that appeared to be affected by COVID-19 was the prospect of AV in the medium term. Paradoxically, instead of AVs transporting people, the 2020 image of AVs are robot-shuttles carrying COVID-19 test samples and/or equipment within a hospital campus: smaller autonomous robots disinfecting offices and metro stations or contactless delivery of essential food supplies. These new technology applications were highly visible in Wuhan and other major Chinese cities, where they facilitated people’s lives during the severe pandemic lockdown resulting in very high trust levels among the Chinese people. Now that contactless delivery has become critical in times of social distancing, the AVs seem to have found a more immediate usage-case that could appeal to a larger business community, but which could delay the originally planned roll-out for AV passenger cars significantly.