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Electric cars as A means of sustainable transportation

May 2018

Electric driving more of an e-volution than a revolution

Electric cars could be a gamechanger in the field of sustainable transportation. But delivering on that promise will take time.

Our world faces a number of major challenges. For example, biodiversity1 is declining and clean water is becoming increasingly scarce2. These developments affect investors in different ways. In many cases they represent an additional risk for companies that will have to deal with scarcer resources and increasing costs for carbon emissions3. However, solutions are being developed. ‘There are interesting opportunities for companies aiming to solve the environmental problems that we are currently struggling with’, says Marc-Olivier Buffle. Buffle is senior product specialist of the Pictet-Global Environmental Opportunities (GEO) fund.

‘Within our selection process, we have a very focused approach in determining which companies are eligible for investment. To measure the ecological footprint of companies, we use a model that combines the life cycle analysis with a framework developed by a team of leading scientists and biologists4. This model attributes a company’s ecological impact on nine factors, such as climate change, chemical pollution and ozone depletion.’

Clean and efficient

Two of the most important themes in our environmental portfolios are energy efficiency and the transition to cleaner sources of energy. These trends show up repeatedly in our everyday lives. ‘It is, for example, no longer rare to pass by an electric car on the road, said Buffle. Governments are creating incentives for making electric vehicles more attractive, for example by installing lower duties for electric cars. But that does not mean that we will all be driving electric vehicles within a couple of years.’ In a European country such as the Netherlands, cars are on average 17.9 years old when they are demolished. This means it will take quite some time for existing vehicles to disappear from European roads. In addition, gasoline vehicles are still dominating car sales. Despite a sharp growth of almost 40%5, electric models represented only 1.4% of total European car sales in 2017.

The shift to electric driving

‘We need to construct a whole new infrastructure to provide electricity for millions of vehicles, says Buffle, and we will have to make sure that electric driving truly puts less pressure on the environment than cars on gasoline. In countries with coal-fired power stations, an electric car is not automatically a more sustainable alternative than a gasoline fueled vehicle.' Considering the current state of electric driving, we prefer to invest in companies that play a role in improving energy efficiency in cars rather than investing in the car manufacturers themselves.

It will take several decades until we see more electric than petrol cars on European roads. That does not mean we should sit still. Why not reap the opportunities that this change provides us?

Marc-Olivier Buffle, Senior Product Specialist


This is one of a series of articles investigating the themes driving our healthy living thematic funds – four actively managed global equity funds.
Focusing on the structural forces shaping our world, our investment managers seek to deliver a compelling risk-adjusted return over the long run.

Discover more on our range of healthy living strategies.