Electric Vehicles: 10 Predictions for 2010

Plug and Shopper

A new era of the electrified vehicle will soon be upon us. That’s incredibly exciting for everyone who wants our cars and trucks to have a smaller environmental footprint, and for those who understand the importance of reducing our dependence on oil. At the same time, it’s critical that enthusiasts, companies, and governments take a cold hard look at the realities of the transition to plug-in hybrids and electric cars.

Pike Research, a market intelligence firm specializing in clean technology, spent most of 2009 looking at various dimensions of electric-drive vehicles. The firm asked HybridCars.com to play a supporting role in distilling its solid industry and consumer research into a 10,000-foot view of where electric cars are going in 2010 and beyond. Nobody has a crystal ball, but Pike Research was guided by the best research and journalistic practices, and HybridCars.com was guided by our mission of providing the most useful and trustworthy information to consumers interested in fuel-efficient vehicles, regardless of technology.

We encourage your comments and feedback.

The Predictions

You can download the entire 14-page white paper, with eight tables and charts, at the Pike Research website. Meanwhile, here are the top predictions.

  1. The cost of owning and driving an electric vehicle is not likely to be cheaper than using gasoline.

    Proponents of EVs suggest that driving on electric power will cost a fraction of using gasoline as fuel. That’s true. However, these estimates do not include the premium paid for a plug-in hybrid or electric car and its batteries. The economics will limit consumer adoption.

  2. 2012 will be a critical year for the commercialization of EVs and plug-in hybrids.

    The federal government has spent billions of dollars to support the manufacture and introduction of electric cars. A reduction in the government support around 2012, after the first wave of early adopters purchase plug-in cars, could remove a vital safety net—as the market moves toward independence.

  3. Despite the arrival of plug-in hybrids, the hybrid market will continue to grow by adding a greater variety of subcategories.

    The conventional hybrid vehicle market has a 10-year head start on plug-in cars. EVs will trickle on to roads, but the market for conventional hybrids will grow in several directions by offering new levels of fuel efficiency for mainstream models, with micro, mild and full hybrid systems.

  4. The plug-in hybrids of 2020 may not resemble the plug-ins of 2010.

    Automakers, estimating that vehicle owners drive 13,000 miles per year, designed many of the first wave of plug-in hybrids with the ability to travel 30 miles or more on electric-power only. If a significant consumer audience fails to embrace the initial class of plug-ins because of the cost, it is likely that auto companies will shift to designing vehicles with shorter all-electric range, and smaller, less costly battery packs.

Among the remaining predictions: Battery swapping, vehicle-to-grid, and operating commercial electric vehicle charging stations will not be very significant or profitable industries.

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  • AC

    I think cost and options will drive the market for hybrid, plug-in and EV cars.

    (rubbing the crystal ball…)

    1. Gasoline Only vehicles will continue to lead, until the cost of a hybrid is the same.

    2. Hybrids will lead in sales until the cost of the Plug-In Hybrid is the same.

    3. Plug-In Hybrids will lead in sales until the cost of a 300 Mile EV is the same.

    Over the next two years, as the first new crop of hybrid/electric products hit the market, many will choose a hybrid or plug-in hybrid as their primary or only vehicle, while electric vehicles will be a second car/commuter car.

    Not many will opt for the battery lease concept, since it will cost more than purchasing gasoline. Even fewer will opt for a battery swap concept. However manufacturers offering various size batteries, and pro-rated battery upgrade options, will help elevate the fear of buying to little or too much battery power than necessary.

    2012 should offer the biggest spike in hybrid car sales, as many people will need a year or more to mentally/financially recover from the current economic downturn worldwide.

    Within the next 5 years, as battery prices come down, consumers will expect every new vehicle to offer have at minimum some version of hybrid technology, whether it’s Stop-Start, Brake Regeneration, Electric Assist, plug-in, or at least 2 miles of pure Electric Mode as standard.

  • ex-EV1 driver

    Market studies such as this generally are terrible at predicting revolutionary breakthroughs. They are only good at predicting incremental changes to existing products.
    Pessimistic predictions such as this may fulfill themselves just as optimistic predictions drove the internet bubble of the ’90’s which turned out to be mostly hollow.
    If auto manufacturers continue to downplay the benefit of the electric drivetrain as Honda and Toyota do, I believe that this prophesy will be correct.
    If, however, auto manufacturers embrace the electric drivetrain as Tesla and Fisker have, they will first show how the new technology exceeds the old junk in a way you can feel. This will create demand, then they (or others) will bring prices of the expensive component (battery) down to where they are affordable.
    Toyota and the rest of the ICE industry can continue to cling to their Maximal ICE, minimal EV just as Smith Corona did with their technology while the market transitioned from typewriters to word processors. History is littered with examples of people who couldn’t make the change.

  • Mr.Bear

    I hate to say it, but I agree with Pike Research.

    At $2 – $3 per gallon of gas, hybrids are very competitive. But gas will have to be $4 – $6 per gallon for the extra $10,000 to $20,000 premium being proposed fro EVs and PHEVs to be economical. That is unless you throw in a $7,500 government credit.

    Even if it were economical, most people aren’t early adopters of new tech. I watched Priuses for 8 years before considering buying one. Most people still haven’t accepted the hybrid technology. Hybrids currently have, what, a 3% market share after a decade? PHEVs and EVs will probably do the same.

    I will disagree on one point though. After a decade, EVs and PHEVs won’t have changed that much. Either cheaper in price or longer in range. But really, is the Gen I Prius that much different than the Gen III Prius?

    Technology, and especially car technology, doesn’t change that fast.

  • veek

    Thanks for the article. Pike generally seems to perform defensible research, and while you may disagree with the conclusions, the manner in which they have researched those conclusions seems well done. Thanks for providing a good summary of independent research into a complex area.

  • Lost Prius to wife

    I truly think that the rising price of gas and some of the alternative fuels will drive the all the above predictions. The faster the rise, the more likely Pike is right. The slower the rise, the more likely ex-EV1 driver’s slow pace prediction will be true. At the beginning of this year, some contributors suggested that the price of gas would stay under $2 per gallon for a year or two. I said it would rise to at least $2.50 if not possibly $3. My $3 was off. But for all intents and purposes, the $2.50 was accurate enough. I will rub my crystal ball again and see $3 by the end of 2010. It could be more, but with how slow the economy is turning around, I doubt that it will be more. I feel this will drive hybrids under the Pike implied rate prediction and much closer to AC’s and Mr. Bear’s implied rate predictions.

    I disagree somewhat with ex-EV1 driver about Toyota trying “to downplay the benefit of the electric drivetrain”. I think they feel people want Toyotas to go 400+ miles on whatever fuel, electric or otherwise, they are running on. I know that I do. I think it is because of this that they realize that the EV is still too expensive a technology for the masses at this time. Still, being in a country that is totally dependent on imported oil, they realize even more so than we do that they must start to break that dependency on oil. Hence the running of ICEs at optimum fuel economy / emissions (except when extra power is needed) and using electric motors for everything else. As other electrical components and batteries become cheaper and better, I have no doubt that Toyota and other mass vehicle manufactures will provide good EV vehicles for the masses. Gas prices, especially higher ones, will drive that.

  • John K.

    AC, I think you meant to write, “However manufacturers offering various size batteries, and pro-rated battery upgrade options, will help *eliminate* the fear of buying to little or too much battery power than necessary.”

  • AC

    Thanks John!!

  • bill nixtorf

    I think this site is very biased towards hybrids wonder why lol

    I think EV is the future so this site is worried that it will no longer be.

    I would if I was the owner of this site change the name to hybrid and electric cars .com

    To stay in business as they say.

  • Norman Mattson

    Re: Prediction 1 – Cost of Ownership
    Don’t forget maintenance costs. An electric car should be far less expensive than any vehicle with an internal combustion engine, no matter how efficient or whatever combination of hybrid. No oil, , filters, transmission fluid, coolant and possibly no hydraulics for brakes (brakes are going to be electric too in the near future). All the adjustments and replacemet parts combustion engines require during the course of their operational lives (timing belts, air & fuel filters, oxygen sensors, plugs etc… sound familiar?). How can you beat the shear simplicity of one moving part in an electric motor: the rotor vs hundreds of components in even the simplest internal combustion engine?

  • Carl

    Don’t worry, there will still be a reason to visit the dealer/mechanic.
    EC’s have tires, brakes,bearings(wheel,motor,drivetraine),lights,windshield wipers,control modules,wiring,suspension(shocks ball joints etc.) and batteries!

    After the first battery changeout, oil changes will be a fond memory.

  • ex-EV1 driver

    You’re right that the battery change in 10 years will be steep. Eventually, the prices will drop but it will always be the most expensive part of the vehicle.
    Remember that for a well-designed EV (note the caveat):
    – the motor and drivetrain bearings on a well designed EV are pretty trivial
    – the brakes will seldom be used (expect 200K miles for normal driving)
    – control electronic modules should last the life of the vehicle. Remember, there is no need for high current to drive spark plugs.
    – wiring won’t be exposed to as much heat and vibration as with an ICE, therefore expect it to last the life of the vehicle
    – tires, suspension, lights, and wipers will, of course have similar lives as ICE vehicles.
    There will be no maintenance required on the alternator, fuel pump, transmission, engine, pollution controls, fuel system, starter, etc, however.

  • eddie

    A lot of interesting comments and opinions, but how many of those who post comments actually drive an all-electric-vehicle on any kind of a regular basis? Having converted a number of vehicles to electric and driven them a lot of miles it becomes apparent most of those who post comments are simply unaware of what an all electric vehicle is about.

    Electric vehicles are not limited by range, but by capacity to recharge. If one drives the average miles and can fast charge the vehicle more miles are possible. Personal best is 158 miles in a day on four fast charges.

    Newer gasoline powered cars are going all electric with steering, brakes, and other devices that use fluids. Why? So when they do manufacture all-electrric cars they will not use any petrolum based products. What does that tell the oil industry? Spread a lot of propoganda about electric cars.

    Have done several news videos and a YouTube video on electric cars. email me for the links if you’re interested.

  • Craig

    I would love to have an electric car. Until it is available, I’m saving lots of money and putting a whole lot less junk in the air with my Honda Civic GX. After the Oklahoma and federal tax credits take care of the incremental $6,900 for the GX when I file my 2009 tax return, I’ll be driving this car for the same investment that I would have spent on a gasoline powered Civic LX and thousands cheaper than a hybrid Civic.

  • ex-EV1 driver

    My personal best is 400 miles in a single day with my EV (over mountains in outdoor temperatures exceeding 115 degrees F) that is also my daily driver for an 80 mile per day commute. My EV can charge easily, today with over 200 miles of range in about 3.5 hours.
    Better technology is available today. It is a bit more expensive but getting cheaper as it is not in mass production yet.

  • John K.

    Haven’t read the white paper, but re. the 4 points highlighted:

    1) True. But if gas spikes, *fear* of gas lines and/or rationing *will* make those who need cars *for their work* (vs commuting to their work), buy a hybrid/PHEV rather than put at risk their jobs/income/livelihoods, esp in this economy. (BTW with the pending Alt-A/Option ARM and sovereign debt crises hitting the fan over the next 2 yrs, we won’t be recovering for 2-3 years. JMHO)

    2) True. But, IIRC, NiMH batts will be coming off patent in 2015. Hopefully, competing battery manufacturers are breaking ground on new NiMH plants as we speak so that they will significantly drive down NiMH prices ASAP (and offer large format NiMH batts), which will in turn drive down Li ion batt prices somewhat. BTW cheaper NiMH may be used by PHEVs/EVs as their main energy storage unit with a smaller Li ion batt pack providing power.

    3) True.

    4) True, but see my reply to #2 above.

    If/when EEStor releases its ultracap *and* if it lives up to its hype, it will be a game-changer and all bets are off. Predictions #1, 3, and 4 will be wrong and vehicle-to-grid and operating commercial EV charging stations will be viable.

  • ha1ku

    Whatever happens, I know that right now I cannot afford to take out a loan for a new car irregardless of how much it will reduce my gasoline expenses.

    What I can do now is use my bicycle for short trips (less than 10 miles) and telecommute whenever it benefits me and my employer.

    Do what you can, with what you have.

  • CharlesC

    Gasoline will continue to rise. By 2012, it will be above $5 per gallon and by 2013, it will soar above $8 per gallon. By 2020 it will cost $13 per gallon. America will have new driving habit appear. The top one third will be driving new technology cars( electric). The middle class will complain of the high gasoline prices but will be able to afford it. 1/3rd are poor to lower middle class. These people will start riding scooters, motorcycles, electric quadracycles, electric mopeds, ect.. to keep up with hire prices. Food will increase with gas prices, wages increase with food prices, ect.. What the poor will do, like me( ride a 250cc scooter( gets 70 mpg and does 69 mph), live in a modest home( not real big but not to small) maybe by a electric quadracycle( a 4 wheel electric bicycle) to gather food with, go to doctors, ect.. Still own the car for emergency travel..

  • rolinasa

    I would love to have an electric car. Until it is available, I’m saving lots of money and putting a whole lot less junk in the air with my Honda Civic GX