Production of low-emission electric drive vehicles is no longer an interesting sideline for global automakers. It’s becoming the big show. Industry analysts—as well as consumers considering their next purchase—are now wondering which technology holds the most promise: Hybrids or Electric Cars?
“Hybrids are the only vehicles that can address both fuel efficiency and cost issues while maintaining driving performance,” Toyota President Akio Toyoda said at this year’s Tokyo Motor Show. Nissan’s reply is that only all-electric cars, like the Nissan Leaf expected next year, gives you zero emissions at the tailpipe. Meanwhile, General Motors, Toyota and others have plug-in hybrids in the works, which operate (to varying degrees) like an electric car, but rely much more heavily on electric motors and rechargeable batteries.
As reported on MarketWatch today, Tokyo-based Macquarie Securities recently raised its 2020 global market-share estimate of all alternative vehicles to 12.0 percent of total drivetrains, from 10.6 percent in its previous estimate. Hybrid electric vehicles account for 7.1 percent of the total, up from 5.6 percent previously.
“We assume, then, that pure EVs will account for just under 2 percent of total volumes in 2020,” said Macquarie analyst Clive Wiggins in a report. “Our assumption that sales of hybrid electric vehicles will outpace those of pure EVs is more favorable for Toyota and Honda than Nissan,” he said.
“The fact that [Toyota] is so far ahead may lead to a situation where its peers contrive to steer the market away from hybrid cars to avoid losing out,” said Wiggins.
Peugeot Citroën is another company moving ahead with electric cars in order to not be left out. The UK’s Times, among others, is reporting the company is ready to spend about US $3.3 billion to purchase a large share of Mitsubishi, in order to create an alliance for producing electric vehicles. The French group’s investment would also allow Mitsubishi to continue developing its i-MiEV electric vehicle. In September, Mitsubishi and Peugeot agreed to develop a vehicle based on Mitsubishi’s i-MiEV electric car, to be sold in Europe by the end of 2010 under the Peugeot and Citroën brands.
The i-MiEV went on sale in July, but, considering the purchase price near $40,000, sales have been disappointing. Cost is a major concern.
GM Vice-Chairman Bob Lutz, speaking at the Los Angeles Auto Show earlier this week, said most Americans would not be willing to spend the premium of thousands of dollars for an electric car. He pegged the total market for plug-in vehicles by 2015 at 250,000 to 300,000 units. That’s approximately 3 percent of the new car market, roughly the size of today’s market for gas-electric hybrid cars—10 years after the first hybrids were introduced in the United States.
As carmakers race to figure out their respective places in the new world of electrified vehicles, consumers wanting to drive a hybrid that uses less petroleum—or a pure electric car that uses none at all—will soon have an unprecedented number of options.