General Motors And Other Car Makers Have Big EV Goals. Why The Numbers Make No Sense.
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General Motors And Other Car Makers Have Big EV Goals. Why The Numbers Make No Sense.

By Al Root
Fri, Feb 5, 2021 5:40amGrey Clock 4 min

General Motors shook up the car industry this past week, saying it is aiming to stop selling gasoline-powered cars by 2035, much sooner than many on Wall Street would have predicted.

It is a sign that analysts and investors should be sharpening their pencils to figure out what is likely—and what is possible—for global electric-vehicle demand. The results of that number crunching will help to show whether the market has valued highflying EV stocks correctly and which, if any, still offer good value.

It isn’t an easy equation to solve. Auto makers express their goals—one indication of what might happen in the market—in different ways.

General Motors (ticker: GM) has its target for 2035. Tesla (TSLA) CEO Elon Musk has talked about selling 20 million EVs by 2030 and plans to increase its production volume at 50% a year for the foreseeable future.

Volkswagen (VOW. Germany) wants up to 25% of vehicle sales to come from battery-powered electric vehicles by 2030. And Toyota (TM) plans to sell 5.5 million electrified vehicles by 2030—a figure that includes hybrid electric cars as well as fuel-cell vehicles.

Barron’s added up the numbers in the publicly announced goals, aligning them by year and filling in some gaps. We calculate that, based on company comments, somewhere between 15 million and 20 million EVs will be sold a year by 2025. That implies an average annual growth rate of about 50% between last year and then. With that growth, EVs would account for roughly 15% to 20% of total light-vehicle sales.

Wedbush analyst Dan Ives qualifies as an electric-vehicle bull, but his estimate of EVs’ share of the market isn’t that high. “I am laser-focused on the skyrocketing EV demand out of China, Biden green initiatives, and [battery innovation] across the EV supply chain,” he tells Barron’s. “It looks like a golden age for EVs.”

Still, he is assuming EVs will win about 10% of the global market by 2025.

Focusing on China is a good idea. It’s the largest new-car market in the world and government incentives make buying an EV a “no brainer” for most consumers, according to Ives. Goldman Sachs analyst Fei Fang has predicted EVs will have 20% of the Chinese market by 2025.

RBC analyst Joseph Spak recently projected battery- and hybrid-electric vehicles could account for roughly 15% of new-car sales by 2025. That call was made back in December, before GM announced its aspiration to be all-electric by 2035.

Now Spak believes his projection could be too low. He did his own math to illustrate why.

“GM historically has had [about] 17% total U.S. market share,” he wrote in a recent research note. In December, he expected EVs to account for 40% of U.S. new-car sales by 2035. But for GM to go all-electric by then, assuming it keeps its historic 17% of the market, it would have to win 43% of U.S. EV sales, he said.

“The other way to interpret this [math] is that there could be upside to our 40% [battery electric] mix assumption,” added the analyst. That would be bullish for EV stocks, but he has a word of caution too. “A massive ramp in battery supply is needed to support this,” he said.

That gets at another important point for investors. There are many tertiary effects from faster EV penetration.

For one, as EVs take a bigger share of the market, they will start to get more of the capital the industry is willing to spend on product development. GM, for instance, is spending about half its capital over the next few years on EV and autonomous-driving technologies. By 2030, cars powered by internal combustion engines—ICE cars, in industry jargon—won’t look as attractive, relatively speaking, as those programs are drained of resources.

Electricity infrastructure is another critical issue. Right now oil and the refining industry essentially power cars. In the future, utilities and the electric grid will bear the burden.

The math needed to predict global electricity demand is harder, but higher EV penetration in 2025 would probably boost growth, now at roughly 3% a year, by a couple of percentage points. That seems manageable, but it means more investment in utilities.

The other side off the electricity equation is oil. Oil demand could fall slightly compared with 2019, a pre-pandemic year, if the world’s pool of EVs grows faster than expected. There are roughly 2 billion light vehicles on the road and nearly all take gasoline.

The next step in this math class is to value the EV sector. That isn’t easy either.

Given the growth and accelerating penetration, figures for 2025, when EV companies should be making real money, seem like a reasonable place to start. Apple (AAPL), the world’s most valuable company, trades for about 19 times estimated 2025 cash flow of about $120 billion.

Tesla is trading for about 65 times estimated 2025 cash flows. That is triple the figure for Apple, although if Musk’s goals are met, Tesla’s annual sales will go from more than 4 million vehicles to about 20 million over the next five years—between 2025 and 2030.

China’s NIO (NIO) is another highly valued EV stock. Analysts haven’t made public projections for its 2025 financials. But its shares trade for about 30 times estimated 2024 cash flow. According to analysts, NIO vehicle shipments are expected to go from roughly 345,000 to about 800,00 from 2025 to 2030. That is less growth than Tesla is looking to produce, but it still implies sales would more than double.

The 2025 valuation math can’t tell investors to buy or sell the stock, or the sector, but it does offer context about the coming golden age of EVs. Tesla stock is up about 21% year to date. NIO shares are up almost 19%. The S&P 500 is up about 2%.

Investors expect a lot. Morgan Stanley’s Adam Jonas pointed out that January EV sales in the U.S. were still less than 3% of the total, but he isn’t an EV bear. He rates Tesla stock at Buy and has a target of $880 for the stock-price target.

The ICE Age is ending. If the switch to EVs is rapid, valuations for manufacturers might not be unreasonable. The effects on other industries are just starting to be felt.



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I.M. Pei was the confident visionary behind such transformative structures as the Bank of China Tower in Hong Kong and the Louvre Pyramid in Paris, but he was also humble, and for years resisted a retrospective of his work.

Pei, a Chinese-American architect who died in 2019 at 102 , would always protest any suggestion of a major exhibition, saying, “why me,” noting, too, that he was still actively at work, recalls his youngest son, Li Chung “Sandi” Pei. A decade ago, when Pei was in his mid-to-late 90s, he relented, finally telling Aric Chen, a curator at the M+ museum in Hong Kong, “all right, if you want to do it, go ahead,” Sandi says.

A sweeping retrospective, “I.M. Pei: Life Is Architecture,” will open June 29 at M+ in the city’s West Kowloon Cultural District. The exhibition of more than 300 objects, including drawings, architectural models, photographs, films, and other archival documents, will feature Pei’s influential structures, but in dialogue with his “social, cultural, and biographical trajectories, showing architecture and life to be inseparable,” the museum said in a news release.

As a Chinese citizen who moved to the U.S. in 1935 to learn architecture, Pei—whose full first name was Ieoh Ming—brought a unique cultural perspective to his work.

“His life is what’s really interesting and separates him from many other architects,” Sandi says. “He brought with him so many sensibilities, cultural connections to China, and yet he was a man of America, the West.”

Facade of the Bank of China Tower in Hong Kong in a photograph commissioned by M+ in 2021.
© South Ho Siu Nam

Pei’s architectural work was significant particularly because of its emphasis on cultural institutions—from the East Building of the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., to the Museum of Islamic Art in Doha, Qatar—“buildings that have a major impact in their communities,” Sandi says. But he also did several urban redevelopment projects, including Kips Bay Towers in Manhattan and Society Hill in Philadelphia.

“These are all places for people,” Sandi says. “He believed in the importance of architecture as a way to bring and celebrate life. Whether it was a housing development or museum or a tall building or whatever—he really felt a responsibility to try to bring something to wherever he was working that would uplift people.”

A critical juncture in Pei’s career was 1948, when he was recruited from the Harvard Graduate School of Design (where he received a master’s degree in architecture) by New York real estate developer William Zeckendorf.

With Zeckendorf, Pei traveled across the country, meeting politicians and other “movers and shakers” from Denver and Los Angeles, to Philadelphia, Washington D.C., Boston, and New York. “He became very adept at working in that environment, where you had to know how to persuade people,” Sandi says.

During the seven-year period Pei worked with Zeckendorf, the developer fostered the growth of his architecture practice, supporting an office that included urban, industrial, graphic, and interior designers, in addition to architects and other specialists, Sandi says.

When Pei started his own practice in 1955, “he had this wealth of a firm that could do anything almost anywhere,” Sandi says. “It was an incredible springboard for what became his own practice, which had no parallel in the profession.”

According to Sandi, Chinese culture, traditions, and art were inherent to his father’s life as he grew up, and “he brought that sensibility when he came into America and it always influenced his work.” This largely showed up in the way he thought of architecture as a “play of solids and voids,” or buildings and landscape.

“He always felt that they worked together in tandem—you can’t separate one from the other—and both of them are influenced by the play of light,” Sandi says.

View of the National Center for Atmospheric Research, on the mesa, in a photograph commissioned by M+ in 2021.
© Naho Kubota

Pei also often said that “architecture follows art,” and was particularly influenced by cubism, an artistic movement exploring time and space that was practiced in the early 20th century by Pablo Picasso, Georges Braque, and the sculptor Jacques Lipchitz, among others. This influence is apparent in the laboratory at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colo., and at the Everson Museum of Art in Syracuse, N.Y. “Those two buildings, if you look at them, have a play of solid and void, which are very cubistic,” Sandi says.

Yet Sandi argues that his father didn’t have a specific architectural style. Geometry may have been a consistent feature to his work, but his projects always were designed in response to their intended site. The resulting structure emerged as almost inevitable, he says. “It just was the right solution.”

Pei also intended his buildings “not only to be themselves a magnet for life,” but also to influence the area where they existed. “He never felt that a building stood alone,” Sandi says. “Urban design, urban planning, was a very important part of his approach to architecture, always.”

After he closed his own firm to supposedly “retire” in the early 1990s, Pei worked alongside Sandi and his older brother, Chien Chung (Didi) Pei, who died late last year, at PEI Architects, formerly Pei Partnership Architects. Pei would work on his own projects, with their assistance, and would guide his sons, too. The firm had substantial involvement in the Museum of Islamic Art, among other initiatives, for instance, Sandi says.

Working with his father was fun, he says. In starting a project, Pei was often deliberately vague about his intentions. The structure would coalesce “through a process of dialogue and sketches and sometimes just having lunch over a bottle of wine,” Sandi says. “He was able to draw from each of us who was working on the project our best efforts to help to guide [it] to some kind of form.”

The M+ retrospective, which will run through Jan. 5, is divided into six areas of focus, from Pei’s upbringing and education through to his work in real estate and urban redevelopment, art and civic projects, to how he reinterpreted history through design.

Sandi, who will participate in a free public discussion moderated by exhibition co-curator Shirley Surya on the day it opens, is interested “in the opportunity to look at my father anew and to see his work in a different light now that it’s over, his last buildings are complete. You can take a full assessment of his career.”

And, he says, “I’m excited for other people to become familiar with his life.”