Six events in 2012 that will shape the future of EV’s
2012 was another disappointing year for EV’s/Hybrid. But some events that took place in that year helped clarify its future.
At 60 MPH, who needs a Hybrid? The launch of the turbo revolution in the US by Ford will have a ripple effect on the electric and EV car industry because turbo engines represent a quantum leap in car efficiency. At 60 to 65 MPH, they are as efficient as hybrid vehicles for a significant lower purchasing price and will represent a very tough competition for them. Another advantage of this technology is that is eliminate the worry about battery recycling. Ford should be followed by other car manufacturers; GM and the Japanese manufacturers are also able to put turbo engine propelled cars on the market and Chrysler should benefit from Fiat’s experience in that matter.
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Time pressure on Better Place. The Israeli start up was one of the big disappointments of 2012. Its battery switch service concept has made little progress. This should not come as a surprise since this kind of initiative relies on many moving parts, government, regulators, car industry, many of which are out of its control. The company burned more cash than the shareholders were expecting and lost its founder and a couple key people. It just decided to lay off 200 employees inIsrael, its primary market.
Time is working against the. The more time Better Place takes to take to develop, the more likely it is to face the consequences of quantum leaps in storage technology. Better Place cannot succeed without developing broad and numerous partnerships in many directions; the car industry to try to develop a more tempting product offering, retail and distribution for faster expansion of the battery switch facilities network, and maybe to new more ambitious investors that are ready to take a long term bet.
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EV and hybrid sales remain marginal. True, electric and hybrid cars gained acceptance in the US and market share improved significantly in 2012 compared to 2011. However, EV and hybrid sales remain marginal.
Good news on the overall automotive market is that consumers are more and more interested in fuel efficiency but when they have the choice they still prefer to switch to small or midsize cars instead EV/Hybrid. Small cars sales jumped 48% in 2012(at end of November), almost as much as EV/hybrids (+53%), and midsize cars jumped 18%. Both represented almost 6 million units sold, close to half of the market.
Will standardization save EV’s/hybrid? If short term does not look so good for electric/hybrid cars, long term offers many reasons for hope. One of them is that the US and the EU recently agreed on developing common battery and charging standards in critical areas such as fast charging, wireless charging, safety and, more importantly, interoperability with significant impact to expect on purchasing prices.
Europe is taking the lead. At the same time, Europe seems to be ready to set the tone and move fast in car electrification with the ambition to implement a network of 4 million EV chargers by 2020.
This timeframe confirms the impression we get from what happened with EV/hybrids in 2012. The technology will gain adoption but very likely at the end of the decade and later than many expected.
Better battery is the key. The very ambitious battery research programrecently launched by the DOE and for which $120M should be invested should called 5/5/5. It aims at cutting the cost of batteries by five and at improving their capacity by five, by 2018, roughly five years.
In case of success, the whole car industry landscape will change. On the condition no other radical breakthrough emerges from elsewhere in particular bio-fuel and GPL.