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IHS Markit: vehicle miles traveled to increase 65% in key markets by 2040, while vehicle sales slow

In a new study, IHS Markit forecasts that vehicle miles traveled (VMT) will by 2040 grow to an all-time high of around 11 billion miles per year (a 65% increase since 2017) in China, Europe, India and the United States—the key markets examined for the study—and will keep growing. At the same time, sales growth of new light-duty vehicles will slow substantially.

A shift from buying cars to buying “mobility” will be a driving force of change in the automotive future, the study says. These findings are part of the baseline scenario (“Rivalry”) in Reinventing the Wheel, a major new multi-client, scenarios-based research initiative by IHS Markit that combines the industry-leading expertise of the company’s energy, automotive and chemical teams to provide a system-wide analysis of the new reality of transportation.

Vehicle Miles Traveled - Light Duty Vehicles in China, Europe, India and the United States (Baseline Scenario). IHS Markit, “Reinventing the Wheel.” Click to enlarge.

The competition between the internal combustion engine and electric vehicles, the disruptive force of “mobility-as-a-service” (MaaS)—such as ride-hailing—and the much-anticipated emergence of autonomous vehicles will lead to more profound changes in personal transportation than experienced over the past century combined, the study says.

A great ‘automotive paradox’—where more travel via car than ever, but fewer cars will be needed by individuals—will be a defining quality of the new automotive future. The shift is just beginning. By 2040, the changes in transportation will be accelerating in a way that will be visible on roads and highways around the world. The pace and degree of this dynamic shift will have significant implications for industry, for public transportation systems and for how people get to work and live their lives—and spend their money on transport.

—Daniel Yergin, IHS Markit vice chairman, Pulitzer Prize-winner and project chairman

The continued emergence of mobility-as-a-service (MaaS) providers will be among the most important and disruptive forces in the future, the study says. The MaaS industry is expected to purchase more than 10 million cars in the study’s key markets in 2040—compared to just 300,000 in 2017.

Oil’s monopoly as a transport fuel will erode, though it will remain a major part of the automotive landscape, the study says. Market share for cars primarily powered by gasoline and diesel will still account for 62% of new cars in 2040 in the four major key markets (down from 98% in 2016) with a total of 54 million new vehicle sales in 2040, according to the study’s baseline scenario.

Energy consumption by type of energy - Light Duty Vehicles in China, Europe, India and the United States (Baseline Scenario). IHS Markit, “Reinventing the Wheel.” Click to enlarge.

In this scenario, global oil demand still rises from 98 mbd today to 115 mbd in 2040 (the study also explores a more radical scenario in which oil demand in 2040 is less than it is today).

The dominance of the full internal combustion engine (ICE) will slide away, the study says. ICE vehicles still comprise a majority of new car sales in 2040—buoyed by sales of mild to full hybrids, which still primarily rely on internal combustion engines. However, cars powered solely by gasoline or diesel will have fallen below 50% of new cars sales by 2031.

Total sales by powertrain - Light Duty Vehicles in China, Europe, India and the United States (Baseline Scenario). IHS Markit, “Reinventing the Wheel.” Click to enlarge.

Higher fuel economy and emissions standards and the reduction in gasoline’s share of new vehicle sales will lead to a decline in aggregate gasoline demand in key markets during the 2020s, the study says, even though overall oil demand will rise.

Oil’s monopoly as a transport fuel will erode as a new era of multidimensional competition takes hold—but it will remain a major player. Many of its advantages as a fuel, such as its high energy density, will persist. And the size of the current automotive ecosystem will moderate the pace of change.

—Jim Burkhard, vice president, global energy markets and mobility

Plug-in hybrid electric vehicles and battery electric vehicles (together, EVs) will account for more than 30% of new cars sold in key automotive markets examined for the study by 2040—up from just 1% of new car sales in 2016. A key tipping point will be battery pack costs, which are expected to decline to a price point in the 2030s that will make EVs cost competitive with internal combustion engine vehicles, the study says.

Autonomous vehicles are also expected to emerge as a significant share of new vehicle sales after 2030, the study finds.

It’s not only a matter of technology. Political, regulatory, social and psychological barriers to adoption will also need to be overcome.

—Daniel Yergin

MaaS companies are expected to be among the key adopters of electric and driverless cars with a shift towards buying their own fleets as opposed to drivers providing their own cars. The cheaper cost of electricity versus gasoline, easier maintenance from fewer moving parts and the ability to utilize centralized charging depots and networks for fleet-based transportation are among the factors expected to contribute to adoption of electric and autonomous vehicles for mobility as a service.

Reinventing the Wheel also examines the impacts of the new automotive future on important industries such as chemicals and electric power. For chemicals, changes to the automotive ecosystem will deeply impact what is a major market for the industry, affect the availability of feedstocks and have critical implications for investments and competitive strategy.

The move from ICEs to EVs offers one example of the big impacts that will result from coming changes in the automotive industry. The growth of EVs as a share of new vehicle sales means decreases in demand for chemicals and plastics materials traditionally used in “under-the-hood” applications, including engineering plastics, that can withstand high temperatures, as well as for commodity plastics, used in gasoline tanks. But the transition to EVs also means new opportunities for chemical companies, which are preparing for the changes by investing significantly in future production for battery materials.

—Anthony Palmer, vice president, chemical consulting for IHS Markit

The change in the use of liquid transportation fuels, as the automotive industry moves toward EVs, will also affect the chemical industry, Palmer said.

As the demand for gasoline and diesel fuel used in light-duty vehicles weakens, more refinery products will be available to serve as chemical feedstocks. Such a shift would encourage investment in naphtha crackers in the growing Asian demand centers, including China and India.

—Anthony Palmer

For the power industry, greater adoption of EVs will nudge electricity demand higher in the United States and Europe by 2040. With US and European on-grid electricity demand growth slowing relative to historical rates, EVs provide an uplift to the electricity market, the study says.

Though the coming decades will be a transformative period for the automotive future, the sheer scale of the current automotive ecosystem will serve as a moderating influence on the pace of change, the study says.

The automotive future will be defined by transformation unlike anything we’ve seen since the dawn of the automotive age. Still our analysis shows that there will be much that looks familiar, even in 2040. The majority of new cars sold and miles traveled will be in vehicles purchased for personal use. And a large share of those will have internal combustion engines that run on refined crude products. But the future of automotive transport will be an era defined by multidimensional competition. And the changes that future brings about will be profound and permanent.

—Tom De Vleesschauwer, transport and mobility practice leader, IHS Markit

Reinventing the Wheel also includes an accelerated scenario, Autonomy which examines an increased pace of change exceeding the baseline findings.



BEVs penetration will depend a lot on batteries increased performance and lower cost.

Miles/Km traveled is something else. It will not drop with cheaper miles with EVs but it may go up unless e-buses, e-trains and e-planes play a much wider role?


The interesting thing is this could go either way.

Yes ownership is falling fast per capita in certain countries. Mostly because cars have been taxed out of reach, and cheaper alternatives exist, like mass transit.

I think it could go either way in the states.

Autonomous BEVs could be a great disrupter. Autonomous is an enabler of many things, one of them would be vastly more costly cars.

If today a $30K car, and a driver that makes lets say $45,000/yr, and his insurance is substantially higher than a lay man being a service driver, and company benefits etc... That car, and driver over ten years might be a million dollar investment. Now if you get rid of the driver, and divert all those potential funds to the cost of the car, not to mention getting a car that is 10x less expensive to "fuel"/drive. There could be a half million dollar autonomous taxis that run 20/7,(basically 3 drivers) and have that 500+ mile range, built to last 15years 3 million miles, and just be luxury, something that you would want to travel in.

We'll start seeing cars of permanence, not just cars of economy. Advanced materials, like aluminum bodies, advanced plastic films instead of paint, rugged interiors, advanced suspensions and so on.

The other thing, is car pooling, that could drastically reduce miles and cost. These taxi fleets aren't going to stage enough vehicles for just rush hours. There will be scarcity in peak times, creating the need, and want of carpooling. There are services companies that do this already, but with a larger pool to drive around, odds are carpooling could be easier in the future.

Jody Muelaner

How can miles driven "grow to an all-time high of around 11 billion miles per year" when in the USA alone drivers already do 3 trillion miles ?! These numbers are WAY out!

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