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 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 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.