March 3, 2011

Green Tech Trends: Sputnik! (Unconventional/Electric Vehicles)

Green Tech Trends: Sputnik!

Unconventional Vehicles

Unconventional include Hybrid Electric Vehicles (HEVs), Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicles (PHEVs), Battery Electric Vehicles (BEVs), and FlexFuel Vehicles. HEVs have entered the mainstream over the last decade; the PHEVs will offer longer drive range as the offer the ability to plug in to recharge. BEVs plug into the electric grid and do not require any petroleum and rely on improving battery technology for cost and range improvements. E85 is a flex fuel mixture of 85% ethanol fuel; flex fuels have benefits such as local production of fuel in agricultural areas and potentially reduced pollution however large-scale production may be cost prohibitive and run into issues with agricultural subsidies.

USEIA Annual Energy Outlook Early Release Millions Light-Duty Cars & Trucks Sold 2000-2035 

Unconventional vehicles are predicted to experience rapid sales growth. Whereas conventional gasoline vehicles made up 84.83% of the market in 2009, the Energy Information Administration (EIA) predicts that by 2035 they are forecast to make up 58.40%. The largest growth is predicted to be in E85 flex fuel vehicles at 19.88% of the market, followed by various electric hybrid electric and plug-in electric vehicles at over 16%, and diesel vehicles at 5.43%.

The plug-in market (combined BEVs and PHEVs) is poised for the fastest growth. Pike Research forecasts the sale of 1,081,294 plug-ins in 2015 worldwide, with North American consumption at approximately 300,000. The main plug-in markets are thought to be the New York metropolitan area and the Los Angeles metropolitan area. The “traditional” hybrid electric vehicle (HEV) market is also forecast to grow extensively, at a rate of 12.7% between 2010 and 2015 as compared to the overall light-duty vehicle market growth rate prediction of 4.8%.  A study by UK-based Trend Tracker Ltd., ‘Electric Vehicles: Energy, Infrastructure and the Mobility Market in the Real World’, indicates that the potential global market for battery-powered electric vehicles could achieve 30 million sales by 2050.

The greatest challenges to growing the number of EVs include: the time to market for powertrain technologies (forecast at 20 years); inertia in the automotive market due to the long life of vehicles, battery costs and energy densities; the attractive pricing of conventional vehicles; and the automotive industry’s entrenched position in conventional vehicles. The Trend Tracker report concludes that to “electrify” the car market by 2050, we’d need to increase sales of electric vehicles by 2 million cars per year over the next 23 years.

The US is working on incentives such as three proposed initiatives aiming at putting one million advanced technology vehicles on the road by 2015. The first initiative would change the PEV tax credit, making a $7500 rebate available to the consumer at the time of sale. Additionally, two initiatives are proposed to advance investment in R&D of electric drive, batteries and energy storage technologies, and to provide grants incentivizing communities to invest in EV infrastructure. Will it get through the budget process?

So a million-plus plug-in vehicles in 2015 or 30 million BEVs by 2050 worldwide? Which is more likely? What do you think it will take to “electrify” the U.S. light-duty vehicle market?car sputnik moment

References:

Study: Worldwide sales of electric vehicles could hit 30M by 2050 - AutoBlog Green

EIA projects rapid growth in unconventional vehicle sales

New report from Trend Tracker questions whether electric cars can effectively combat oil dependence

Pike Research forecasts global NGV sales to hit 3.2M units annually by 2016

Plug-in Electric Vehicles – Pike Research

Vice President Biden Announces Plan to Put One Million Advanced Technology Vehicles on the Road by 2015

One Million Electric Vehicles By 2015 February 2011 Status Report

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