Sales of plug-in vehicles (PEVs) in 2013 will continue to outpace the first years of hybrid vehicle sales as more than 210,000 PEVs will be sold globally and more than three dozen PEV models will debut, according to a year-end free whitepaper published by Pike Research, that makes 10 specific predictions about electric vehicles in 2013.
More broadly, Pike envisions PEV sales in California—the leading market for such in the US—expanding into smaller urban and suburban regions with more dealers beginning to offer the vehicles. Pike also anticipates forward momentum with PEVs in China. The research company also projects that several startup electric vehicle (EV) companies are likely to be absorbed or discontinue operations during the year. Within that context of accelerating sales growth, the 10 specific predictions are:
Capital veers from vehicles to battery components. Private funding for EV companies looking to start a business or expand in 2013 has largely dried up, Pike notes. The lack of funding opportunities will force some companies to exit the market or be acquired on less than generous terms.
During 2013, investment will shift toward companies developing battery components, rather than companies that develop complete packs. For 2013, chemical conglomerates, such as Dow Energy Materials and BASF, will continue to invest heavily in anode, cathode, and electrolyte material research and development (R&D). Established players will face increasing competition from smaller companies and the recent startups.
The EV battery industry continues to await commercially viable breakthroughs in energy and power density that could lead to a new level of performance. Nano-scale components and activated carbon will be among the more popular technologies in 2013, and will be used to raise additional funding and tout new plateaus of performance.
E-bikes surge. Sales of e-bikes in North America will grow by more than 50% in 2013 to more than 158,000 bikes, Pike forecasts. Globally, the e-bike market will grow by 10% to more than 33.6 million units during that year.
48-Volt batteries. Several battery manufacturers including AllCell Technologies, Balqon, and Saft are stepping up with 48-volt lead-acid and Li-ion offerings for increasingly power-hungry vehicles with Stop-Start systems. These higher power batteries will last longer and allow the hotel load systems, such as heating and cooling, to continue to operate when the engine is off without causing the all-too-familiar phenomenon of the headlights dimming due to insufficient power. These higher power batteries are also being introduced in electric bicycles, which should enable battery manufacturers to reduce manufacturing costs by producing in greater volumes.
Noting that higher voltage (42V) batteries were tried—and failed—more than a decade ago, Pike said that at that time, converting all onboard electronics to the higher voltage was viewed as impractical, and the cost of DC-to-DC converters was prohibitive. Since then, the cost has come down and reliability of converters has improved. Pike Research expects several automakers to design vehicles to take advantage of 48-volt batteries.
More than 3,400 Fuel Cell Vehicles on the road. The minority of automakers that have been investing more in fuel cell than in plug-in technology have responded to slower than anticipated PEV sales by reaffirming their commitment to commercializing fuel cell vehicles (FCVs), Pike says. Pike Research projects that 3,442 FCVs will ship in 2013 from vendors that include Toyota, Daimler, Hyundai, and Honda.
The majority of these vehicles will not reach consumers’ hands, but will be deployed through agreements with fleets and made available to qualified participants in public trials.
Battery swapping gives way to battery financing. Battery swapping pioneer Better Place, which saw key executives leave in 2012, has failed to capture the expected number of subscribers to its EV service in the initial launch market of Israel and borrowed money to continue the expensive build-out of battery swap stations in Denmark. So far, only Renault has designed its vehicle to be compatible with Better Place’s battery swapping technology.The concept of battery swapping “will fade further into the rearview mirror in 2013,” Pike predicts.
More companies are likely to follow the lead of Renault and lease the batteries separately, Pike suggests. A lease option reduces the upfront cost of the vehicle, while also reducing the uncertainty of real-world battery performance. Corporations are much better equipped to repurpose end-of-life EV batteries than individuals and will be able to sell into the growing market for grid energy storage. Battery leasing has also been adopted by Mia Electric and Daimler in Europe, and will begin to spread to Asia Pacific and North America by the end of 2013.
Germany leads Europe’s PEV growth. Like other regions of the world, the European PEV market has developed more slowly than expected, Pike acknowledges. But in 2013, the largest German automakers will come to market with at least seven models that will energize sales throughout the continent.
Volkswagen will offer two VW-branded plug-in hybrid EVs (PHEVs) and two BEVs, while the company’s Audi division will launch two e-tron PHEVs. BMW will begin to sell its long awaited BEV (the i3). The arrival of these vehicles will help the German PEV market more than double in 2013 to reach nearly 14,000 vehicles. Overall, Western Europe’s PEV market will grow at a similar rate to reach nearly 70,000 vehicles, with Germany representing the largest single market.
Coasting technology pushes internal combustion engine vehicles closer to hybrids. Stop-start technology enables an ICE vehicle’s engine to turn off when the brake is depressed and the car slows to a stop. That same concept is extending to enable an engine to be shut off when going downhill or at other times when the driver’s foot comes off the accelerator, and then restarted as necessary—i.e., coasting technology.
According to early results from companies including Audi and BMW, coasting technology can reduce fuel consumption by as much as 10%. Coasting can be integrated with cruise control systems to further optimize fuel usage. Similar to stop-start systems upon which the technology builds, a more powerful starter-motor and battery pack are required, but the substantial fuel savings will more than justify the added cost, Pike suggests.
Despite some challenges and liability issues, this technology will be the center of frequent discussion during 2013, Pike predicts.
Slow versus fast charging debate intensifies. 2013 will see a greater diversity of charging rates as the lines between fast and slow charging begin to blur and more host sites opt for less expensive Level 1 charging equipment, Pike predicts.
Workplace and home charging will likely deem Level 1 charging fully adequate. During 2013, the mid-range of charging speeds (between 7 kW and 50 kW) will become occupied in the United States by faster Level 2 chargers that can produce AC power at up to 18 kW (where the infrastructure supports higher power) and with lower power DC chargers. In Europe, 22.7 kW chargers are already growing in popularity, and Renault is pushing 43 kW charging.
Despite the evolution of charging equipment, some EV enthusiasts will continue to argue that EVs will only grow in demand if supported by large networks of fast DC chargers, and a few new fast-charging networks, such as Tesla Motor’s Superchargers, will dot the landscape in 2013, Pike forecasts. However, that viewpoint will be increasingly hard to validate as more PEV drivers learn to depend on slower charging.
Europe enables driving without borders. Enabling PEV owners to reach their destination without worrying about being stranded far from a convenient location to charge requires not only a network of AC and DC charging stations at strategic locations to enable mobility, but also a communications infrastructure that guides drivers to charging locations and a seamless payment system for charging services (i.e., roaming).
Europe will show the greatest progress in simplifying PEV driving in 2013; if the European e-Mobility model proves successful in promoting the adoption and use of PEVs, their American counterparts are likely to at least begin the conversation about a national system later in the year.
The natural gas glut will tamper interest in plug-in electric trucks. Due to extensive discoveries of shale natural gas reserves across the globe during the past few years, the price of natural gas has dipped, while fuel production has expanded rapidly. This has resulted in increasing interest in manufacturing and purchasing natural gas trucks, which will deter interest in purchasing plug-in electric trucks or in manufacturers launching new models in 2013.
Sales of natural gas trucks will grow to more than 47,000 vehicles sold in 2013.