Analyst: Micro-Hybrids Will Dominate Roadways by 2015

Global sales of micro-hybrid vehicles will top three million units this year and rise to an astounding 34 million units by mid-decade, according to a new report from Lux Research. Jacob Grose, senior Analyst at Lux Research and the report’s lead author, believes that sales of micro-hybrids will grow much faster than full hybrids or electric cars, and represent a more effective approach to carbon reductions and overall improved vehicle mileage.

In the report, titled “Micro-hybrids: On the Road to Hybrid Vehicle Dominance,” Lux forecasts that 37 percent of new passenger vehicles sold throughout the world will be micro-hybrids by the middle of this decade.

Micro-hybrids don’t use battery power to move the wheels. Instead, the technology—also called stop-start or idle-stop—uses stored energy to stop an engine from idling when it comes to a stop, and then restart the engine when you are ready to drive. The most affordable micro-hybrids can cost as little as $300 and provide a 2 – 5 percent improvement in fuel economy, while the most robust micro-hybrids can cost $1,000 to $1,500 while providing a 10 to 15 efficiency gain. The cars use affordable lead-acid batteries and ultracapacitors for energy storage, rather than the pricey nickel metal hydride and lithium-ion batteries found in hybrids and EVs.

Boring But Better

Most hybrid and EV fans see micro-hybrid technology as a poor substitute for more robust electric drive vehicles. “Americans like to dream big. They don’t want the boring solution, when there’s an exotic exciting solution, certainly for environmentalists and those excited about electric vehicles,” Grose said, in an interview with “They see global warming as a serious problem and believe [micro-hybrids] are not addressing it fast enough.”

Yet, the impact of the nearly 3 million micro-hybrids already on European roads —if estimated to improve fuel economy by 10 percent—provide reductions in carbon emissions equal to hundreds of thousands of grid-connected vehicles, according to Grose.
He believes the high cost of lithium-ion batteries will continue to limit sales of grid-connected vehicles for some time. Lux forecast global sales of electric cars and plug-in hybrids to reach 140,000 units by 2015.

Meanwhile, according to the Lux report, in Europe, sales of 2.8 million micro-hybrid cars projected for 2010 are on track to grow to 10.5 million by 2015, by which time micro-hybrids will comprise 64 percent of European auto sales. Lux sees a similar percentage of new cars using micro-hybrid technology in Japan, and nearly as much in China as well. The main driver of micro-hybrid adoption in these places is aggressive carbon regulations.

Why Not Here?

There are virtually zero micro-hybrids currently on U.S. roads, mostly because the technology is dismissed in favor of sexier alternatives, like electric cars, according to Grose. That sentiment translates into government policy. “The U.S. has invested a lot of money in subsidies originally for hybrid vehicles and now for grid-connected vehicles,” Grose said. “The Obama Administration has spent a lot of money subsidizing battery manufacturers, and bringing battery manufacturing to the U.S. I’m sure micro-hybrids seem like a threat.”

The reluctance to shift to micro-hybrids could turn around very quickly. The micro-hybrid technology is completely proven and ready to roll. It’s strictly a matter of automakers being held accountable for reaching high fuel efficiency and tough emissions standards—with scalable and affordable technology.

“I think all the automakers are going to start bringing micro-hybrids to the U.S. starting in a couple years, and ramp up after that. As carbon targets start getting closer, there’s going to be a lot of push on industry to get those cars out,” Grose said. “It’s something they know how to do. They just have to reconfigure it for the American market, with relatively minor tweaks.”

U.S. fuel efficiency standards are set to rise from 27.5 mpg today to 35.5 mpg by 2016.
Micro-hybrids could play a major role in reaching that target. According to Lux, sales of micro-hybrids in the U.S. will grow from zero today, to 4.6 million units by 2015. “The technology is around today. You see it in Europe.” Grose said. “You see the VW Polo Bluemotion getting 70-plus miles per gallon, and you say why isn’t this in the U.S.?”

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  • Tom Schimmel

    As fuel prices continue to rise, sexy will give way to common sense.

  • ms

    Here in europe we call start and stop system as there is no hybrid motors.

    The system is quite simple and only
    gain efficiency on traffic jam.
    A Lead acid battery with extra capacity;
    And all the rest is already in the car.

    It is the same as you turn off the key on a red light,
    And when you remove the foot from the break turn the engine on.

    Lower consuption on trafic jams and cities

    Unpleasent to fell the turn on every time you stop ap.
    It is said that the system will sufer with the aging of thousands of start and stop per year. May be a myth…or not.
    Higher cost of battery replacement.

    There are systems which go on a third version, and the turn on the car in a lot less time than the first virsion. As it is not automatic the turn on.

  • JamesDavis

    I don’t think the American auto makers know or care what the American people want. The American people are screaming to the top of their voices for clean energy vehicles, ie., electric cars with super charge batteries…Japan has them, why can’t we have them??? and the auto makers ignores every word and pushes these worthless, dirty, junky, and over inflated priced hybrids down our throats that can’t even get the gas millage their old outdated fossil fuel cousins can get.

    The American auto makers tell us that it is going to be at least 50 years before they can produce a battery for an electric car that can get you past your neighbor’s driveway…then you will have to recharge it for 16 hours before it can get you to the next neighbor’s drive way…and they just can’t seem to make electric cars sexy enough to please these over-sexed American people.

    These American auto makers are idiots and they are only fooling themselves and they are going to fool themselves right out of business. Smart Americans will order their electric cars from Japan and snub their noses at these stupid American auto makers junky, over priced hybrids.

  • Nelson Lu

    JamesDavis, by this time next year, Ford will have more EV models on the road than Toyota, Honda, and Nissan combined, so I don’t know what you are complaining about. Unless, of course, Ford became a Japanese automaker when I wasn’t looking.

  • Van

    Micro-hybrid is a fictitious term for stop/start technology, something that should already be part of the design the foreign oil burners. The reason it will be widespread is that it squeezes out a few more miles to the gallon on the city driving cycle.

    And the idea that only 140,000 plug-in vehicles will be sold globally in 2015 is insane. By 2013, Volt production could ramp up to 30,000 if the pricey EREV sales go well. The Prius PHV will add another 30,000. Then we have the LEAF, which will add another 60,000 or so. Ford will have a plug-in or two, not to mention Honda and Hyundai. It is fair to say annual says in 2013 might fall below 140,000, but to say the cumulative sales will not exceed 140,000 by the end of 2015 is simply insane.

  • Yegor

    “Micro-Hybrid”, “Mild-Hybrid”, “stop-start”, “idle-stop”
    Why not to call it what it is – “non-idle” technology?

  • allan j birmantas

    A car for $300-$1500 dollars? Where does that piece of fiction come from.

  • guyverfanboy

    I think they mean the price of micro-hybrids range from $300-$1,500.

  • unite tyre changer

    I think it’s because micro hybrids are practical to buy.It incorporates the beat feature of hybrids.I’m really impressed to car makers bringing hybrids in the market and continuously developing each year.

  • Radlager Vergleich

    Hopefully, sales of 2.8 million micro-hybrid cars projected for 2010 will really grow to 10.5 million by 2015. Would be a good thing if everyone had a micro-hybrid!

  • Yegor

    “non-idle” technology is so inexpensive that it makes sense to legislate it to make mandatory.

  • Lad

    To the best I know, there is only one auto maker building mass production BEVs, Nissan. To me that begs the question: “Why are they the only ones?” And, why is there only vapor from the others? Some say range is the reason; but, I say there’s another reason and that is the need by the auto industry to continue in a evolutionary mode so they can recover funding already spend on the current models. Their lobbying alliance, The AAM, plays a large part in planning and coordinating the plans of their member auto companies. Nissan is not a member of the alliance and marches over a different path. Almost all the other large auto companies are members.

    A disruptive technology, like the Leaf, is slowed down by this need to recover investment and it will take some time for the other majors to crank up their lines to produce the latest tech autos.

    I believe GM has an early lead with the Volt. However, it’s an engineering nightmare, full of complex systems, two motors, etc, and microcomputers. I fear it will suffer from many break downs and become a discouragement to the growth of electric drive cars.

  • Dom

    This technology isn’t boring when you put it on a TDI model, like the VW Polo Bluemotion in the picture. But then again, the exciting part is the TDI motor not the stop-start… that’s just another “trick” to further increase the fuel milliage without turning it into an expensive full hybrid+diesel engine machine. I’m all for these stop-start systems. That way I can still get my TDI with a manual transmission, but also get some of the hybrid bits too.

  • NickR

    The reason why non-idle systems have so far not entered the US market is due to a major deficiency in the EPA city test cycle, which distorts the results, making non-idle systems look useless (on paper). Once the EPA corrects this considerable error, their value will be readily apparent.

  • Lucas

    I have been saying this since 2002. You can still find my suggestion scattered around the net.

  • resoh02

    The Chevy Volt is a joke. 350 mile range, 40k+ for the base model, 220 charge system is expensive, 110 volt charge overnight.
    What happens when you get to the motel on a long trip, where do you charge it. If motels/hotels have to install chargers it will increase the rates to stay, especially if its the 220 version. We have heard about the volt it seems like forever and its going to be a big flop. The auto makers are not listening to the American People, a car that gets at least 40mpg and somewhere around 20k.

  • JohnM2

    Ha Ha, the joke is on us. US taxpayers are paying the rich to buy them.