Pike forecasts NEV market to remain small, although with double the growth rate of light-duty vehicles to 2017
|Annual worldwide NEV sales by region, 2011–2017. Source: Pike Research. Click to enlarge.
The total number of neighborhood electric vehicles (NEVs)—low-speed street-legal electric vehicles—on the world’s roadways will grow from 479,000 in 2011 to 695,000 by 2017, a 45% increase, according to a new forecast by Pike Research. During that period, annual NEV sales will rise from 37,000 vehicles to nearly 55,000 units by 2017, and North America will account for 45% of annual sales, according to the report.
This represents a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 6.6% between 2011 and 2017. While moderate in terms of volume, the growth rate for NEVs will double that of the light-duty vehicle market during the same period, Pike notes.
The rise in gas prices, the aging population, and the increase in master planning and community density all point to trends that will encourage NEV adoption. However, the market will remain small, as regulators seem unlikely to allow lower-speed vehicles to mix with higher-speed vehicles in any meaningful way on the roads.
Pike notes that the definition of NEV caries by country, with some regions not having a definition at all. In the US, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) defines NEVs as low-speed vehicles (LSVs) that are limited to 25 mph (40 km/h) and to roads with a speed limit of 35 mph. Canada follows the same requirements, although in both countries, the individual states and provinces must explicitly allows NEVs access to public roads. Three Canadian provinces permit very limited NEV access; 43 US states allows NEVs statewide; and municipalities in three other states permit use.
In Europe, NEVs are categorized as a quadricycle, but are limited to a 4 kW motor for light NEVs or 15 kW for heavier quadricycles. Top speed is 45 km/h (28 mph). Japan categorizes NEVs as motorized four-wheel bicycles with four classifications based on power; most other Asia Pacific markets do not yet have a definition for NEVs, Pike says.
The fleet market makes up about 70% of the global NEV marketplace, Pike says. Private consumers in North America are typically older, and use the NEV as a second or third vehicle. The US currently offers federal tax incentives of 10% of the purchase price up to $2,500. NEVs qualify for some EUropean incentives as well.
Technology. Pike notes that essentially all NEVs use deep cycle lead-acid batteries due to their lower cost of between $100 to $200 per kWh. There are three different lead-acid technologies in use: flooded, in which the aqueous-based sulfuric acid electrolyte covers the plates; gelled, in which a thickening gel agent holds the electrolyte in place; and absorbed glass mat, in which the mat, similar to fiberglass, physically holds the electrolyte in place. Because of the solid separator in AGM batteries, they are considered to be sealed valve-regulated lead-acid (VRLA) batteries. Motors are either DC or three-phase AC.
Market forecasts. Pike expects the market for NEVs in Western EUrope to grow at a faster rate than in other regions, due to its history with diesel-fueled quadricycles. Pike calls the Asia Pacific region a challenging market because NEVs have not yet been defined in many countries. Because NEVs remain illegal for city use in China, Pike sees the market there confined largely to fleets.
Key markets for NEVs in Pike’s forecast are the US (14,737 NEV sales in 2011) and France (2,31 NEV sales). These two countries represent the largest single markets now, and will likely remain the largest in coming years.