6 trends that will drive electric vehicle adoption in 2013

6 trends that will drive electric vehicle adoption in 2013

Summary: Innovations in charging infrastructure and new battery technologies will help get the industry out of first gear over the next 12 months.

TOPICS: Emerging Tech

The electric vehicle industry came in for some pretty sharp criticism during 2012, especially during the Presidential campaign when candidate Mitt Romney called thriving startup Tesla a loser – lumping it in with some of the other failed investments that the Obama administration has made in advancing the industry.

Hmm. I guess someone forgot to tell Mr. Romney that the company's Model S hatchback (pictured below) sold out for this model year, with 5,000 cars made to order.


So, what's the reality? To be sure, there are nowhere near as many electric-powered cars being used in the United States as was hoped just one year ago – research from Mintel estimates shipments for this year at around 50,000 units. President Obama had hoped to have 1 million on the road by 2015, which looks like an incredibly unrealistic goal at this point.

2012 also began with a high-profiles series of recalls related to battery technology, leaving both Fisker and Chevrolet with a bit of a black eye.

Still, the outlook is relatively optimistic for the next 12 months, with probably 400,000 electric vehicles (which includes bicycles, by the way) expected to be on the road by the end of 2013.

Hey, if Washington state feels there are enough electric vehicles on the road now in order to introduce a brand-new EV highway tax, you know mainstream adoption must be accelerating.

So what's around the corner? Cleantech market research firm PikeResearch has issued its set of predictions for the year ahead, implying that the "industry will be racing ahead in second gear."

Here are some highlights:

#1: The e-bicycle market will explode. Pike predicts that North American sales will grow by 50 percent to about 158,000, as component costs decline and the number of brands offering models multiplies. The market for e-motorcycles will remain relatively custom, though.

#2: Higher capacity, 48-volt batteries will charge up the market for stop-start and micro-hybrid vehicles. Right now, the predominant technology is 12 volts, which has seriously limited the applications. This class of teeny vehicles, which is particularly popular in Europe, shuts down at red lights or during stop-and-go traffic, helping to reduce fuel emissions.

#3: Fuel cell vehicles will gain more prominence. This technology uses hydrogen and oxygen from the air to produce enough energy to run the car, but its commercial potential is still relatively limited. Pike predicts that about 3,500 units will be shipped from the likes of Toyota, Daimler, Hyundai and Honda – primarily to companies that manage public and private fleets.

#4: Germany will lead growth in Europe. If you think electric vehicle adoption has been slow in the United States, you'll be surprised to hear that things across the Atlantic Ocean have been even slower. That will change next year, with the emergence of at least seven models optimized for the European market, according to the Pike Research predictions. The most dominant player (at least for the next 12 months) will be Volkswagen, which has six different models in the pipeline that have an electric twist. The company's home market in Germany will emerge as the single biggest market on the continent, with about 14,000 vehicles by the end of 2013. One thing that could help charge up the European market will be the emergence of IBM technology that helps drivers travel regionally, without having to worry about whether or not there is a place to refuel their battery. 

#5: A larger diversity of public charging infrastructure will be in place. There are several forces as work here. First off, we'll finally see some activity around a new fast-charging standard, which should make for more installations. Most of the equipment currently in place takes woefully long to charge up a vehicle – an average of four to eight hours, which is fine if you're parked somewhere for the whole day but not-so-fine if you are traveling outside of your immediate community. Another thing to watch will be deployments of wireless charging infrastructure that don't require plugs at all. Sales should reach 283,000 units annually by 2020, according to a separate Pike Research report.

#6: Natural gas will cut into the electric truck market. The interest in manufacturing or purchasing natural gas trucks has grown along with the abundant supply of natural gas. Cost factors will help the market grow to more than 47,000 vehicles sold in 2013. One limiting factor will be the dearth of places to refuel them.

Of course, many of the same things driving the industry during the past 12 months will also be a factor.

In particular, I believe you will continue to see real-estate companies and retailers continue to invest in offering electric vehicle charging infrastructure as a service in their parking lots. Safety issues will also remain in the spotlight, and more states are likely to adopt policies like the one in Washington, in order to ensure that roads and highway upkeep funds don't dry up as more car owners opt to avoid the high price of gasoline.

Topic: Emerging Tech

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  • thoughts

    "Mitt Romney called thriving startup Tesla a loser"


    Sometimes I wonder if we shouldn't have another political party. Neither dems nor the GOP are IMO really doing a good job of representing us.

    Tesla is IMO a good example of how electrics can be done right - with the exception of their price tags, of course.

    "So, what's the reality?"

    Reality is that battery tech is stuck. Recharge rates are still lousy, batteries with sufficient capacity are still expensive.

    "The e-bicycle market will explode."

    In Europe. Where cities and towns are DESIGNED to handle bicycles. Unfortunately, that's not the case in the USA. Maybe in select cities and towns, it's the case, but the vast majority are simply not bicycle friendly.
    • I agree, the US cities (large and small)

      need more guidance and planning on e-bicycles. Bike lanes are not the answer, as you are mixing e-bicycles with human power bicycles and the speeds are different.

      "The market for e-motorcycles will remain relatively custom, though."

      Why is this market not moving more. It seems like there would be more innovation here. Three wheeled e-motorcycles, being lighter than e-cars seems like a good place to see more growth. With the right cowling and perhaps, a steering wheel, e-motortrikes could fit a wider range of driver types than e-motorbikes. With the stability of three wheels it just seems to be a good way to increase user-ship.
    • When he called it "a Loser"

      did he mean in reference to money? They sold 5000 cars, but did they make any real profit? Hence their price tag - too high for you and me, the average consumer. Sure the rich and well to do can buy as many as they like, but until the tech becomes affordable, I would hardly call it a slam dunk winner.
      William Farrel
      • Tesla is not marketed as a mass consumer electric car

        It is a luxury sports car with similar performance. Does anyone call a Bugatti a loser car just because only the rich can afford it?

        The Tesla put electric cars on the map as an exotic machine that someone would actually aspire to own. I think it was trying to throw off it's image as a tree hugger nerd mobile driven by the likes of Ed Begley & co. and it certainly has.
        • The Veyron is rumored to cost...

          nearly five times as much to build as its selling price.
        • also...

          Also, let's not forget: all those convenient features and driver aids we all enjoy, like power steering, electric windows, cruise control, GPS, etc. started out as luxury car appointments that made their way down to everyday, consumer grade vehicles. Many of these innovations begin as toys for the rich, but eventually become conveniences fit the rest of of us.
    • Is Tesla motors

      Profitable yet? Or are they still getting your tax money to stay afloat?
      • because...

        Because if an idea isn't profitable from the very get go it isn't worth pursuing.

        If all entrepreneurs thought like you we'd still be chiselling out our thoughts on stone tablets.
    • Battery tech not "stuck"

      Much better batteries are already in the pipeline. However, there's no way to prove that new battery types are durable enough except years of testing. Thus, there's a delay between the development of new battery tech and adoption. Progress on battery tech has been rapid, and it continues.
  • electricity?

    Will it matter after the new fossil fuel power plant regulations kick in, along with the anti-fracking regs? Cost of electricity will be as high as running a gasoline powered vehicle. 100-300 mile range (Leaf-Volt-Tesla) vehicle isn't practical for most, and that range is not using heat, air, radio, Bluetooth, charger for phone etc, and within spec outside temperatures.
    • I wouldn't put the Volt in there...

      as it works differently from the Leaf and the Tesla. It's range isn't limited by its electric capacity.
      • you're right

        Volt is more like a large Prius
        • Not quite

          The Prius is a hybrid car. The Volt is an electric car with a built in charger.

          Totally different animals.
  • Wishful thinking

    By the blog author. The only way electric cars will see massive adoption is through the government ordering you to buy one. Don't put it past them. They've already established they can order you to buy things for the common good. Hmmm. Come to think of it, I'll bet the blog author wouldn't have a problem with that.
    • Maybe you should ask her...

      ...instead of just assuming.
      John L. Ries
    • LOL

      They said the same about hybrids, and now you can't walk down a city block without seeing a Prius, and that's just the easiest one to spot.
    • OR

      Or they could just price carbon fuels properly and electric would be more than competitive.

      Add the pollution costs and the price to keep the world shipping lanes open and you have $15 a gallon at least.

      Americans drive big trucks because we keep gas cheap enough to waste. What a shame.
  • Dream on

    Come back next year and try to defend your pie-in-the-sky predictions
    • Actually, not my predictions ...

      They are Pike's, and I regularly revisit posts like this.
      Heather Clancy
  • ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha

    more magical thinking about national transportation needs. If we'd ever get our energy act together and drill, frack, dig, and build, we'd be not only energy independent in about ten years, we'd be net exporters of both source material like natgas and electricity itself. But no... the fern fondlers and bunny huggers are succeeding in killing off our own supplies.

    North America has the world's largest deposits of energy. In addition, if we cancelled Jimmy Carter's fatwa against fast neuton reactors we could simply burn up 95% of all the nuclear waste as fuel. Lots of luck getting that done. So then tell me about how great electic cars will be with KWh rates soaring over the next ten years?

    Then there's the issue of my drive to Chicago, some 345 miles with airconditioning and the radio turned on. And... not having to wait eight hours to drive again. I guess I'm just one of those greedy people killing the planet. [/sarc]