Report Makes 10 Predictions For The 2012 Electric Vehicle Market

The range of choices in plug-in electric vehicles (PEVs) will become more diversified in 2012 with the introduction of the Toyota Prius Plug-in Hybrid, the Ford Focus EV, the Tesla Model S, the Volvo V-70 and others, according to a white paper from Pike Research.

However, throughout 2012, EV and battery manufacturers in the U.S. will continue to face scrutiny due to the ‘Solyndra Effect.’ That is, clean technology companies that have received federal funding will remain under the media microscope.

The white paper analyzes 10 key trends that will influence the development of the EV market in 2012 and beyond. Predictions for the market include the following:

1. The global availability and increasing sales of electric vehicles (EVs) will put an end to the ‘are they for real?’ speculation. In 2009, Pike Research predicted that 2012 would be a make-or-break year for EVs to transition from having limited availability to being a viable transportation option for consumers everywhere.

Despite a slower-than-expected start in EV sales, 2012 will likely see sufficient expansion in model selections and global availability of EVs to establish the category's permanency. During 2012, Pike Research estimates that global PEV sales will surpass 257,000 units.

2. Car sharing services will expand the market for EVs and hybrids. Car sharing is one of the hottest trends in transportation, with start-ups and established rental companies launching commercial and peer-to-peer services. Services that enable renting per hour and on demand fit well with EVs because the higher up-front cost of the vehicles can be recovered through higher rates paid for short-term rentals.

3. Battery production will get ahead of vehicle production. Manufacturers of lithium-ion batteries in the U.S. spent this year readying new and established factories for the expected surge in PEV sales. The 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act provided funding for scaling up production so that companies in the U.S. (including Saft, EnerDel, Johnson Controls, LG Chem and Dow Kokam) have their facilities fully online and ready to produce.

4. Road tax legislation in the U.S. that will require PEV owner contributions will fail. Funding for road maintenance is in a dire condition in nearly every state. The federal Highway Trust Fund, which provides much of the money, is nearly broke. Revenue from gas taxes has been shrinking due to increases in fuel economy and vehicle electrification that reduces the fuel per mile traveled.

5. The Asia Pacific region will become the early leader in vehicle-to-grid technology. The market for vehicles that can provide power to a building or the grid will be in its infancy in 2012 and will be driven primarily by fleets that can derive the most value from a vehicle's battery.

Asia Pacific (47% global share in 2012) will dominate this market because the higher penetration of PEVs in the region will create a sufficient amount of power potential for the grid. China, where the grid is less reliable than in other regions and which will see increasing power demand, has a strong need for ancillary services via energy-storage devices such as batteries.

6. Prices will continue to disappoint many consumers. Some potential EV buyers were disappointed that Nissan raised the price of the LEAF for 2012, and although the Chevrolet Volt will sell for $1,000 less, the car will now come without several previously standard features. According to data from Pike Research's Electric Vehicle Consumer Survey, the optimal price for an EV to engage consumers is $23,750.

7. Third-party EV charging companies will dominate public charging sales. Commercial entities looking to offer EV charging at their locations can choose between purchasing the equipment and maintaining and managing any revenue flow themselves, or partnering with an EV supply equipment service company to handle some or all of the details. Companies that choose to keep the equipment largely under their own control have the advantage of setting the fee structure or giving away charging for free if the goal is to attract customers.

8. Germany, South Korea and Japan will see the most progress toward the commercialization of fuel cell vehicles and rollout of hydrogen infrastructure in 2012.

9. Employers will begin to purchase EV chargers in large numbers. Employers looking to attract and retain young professionals will begin to offer free or low-cost EV charging at work in 2012. Workplace charging can effectively double the range of an EV when employees know that they can reliably charge at the office.

The average workday provides more than enough time for a Level 2 EV charger to fully replenish an EV's battery pack, and several vehicles could share a charger during the workday. Wireless charging is also set to get real-world tests through increased workplace charging partnerships.

10. EVs will begin to function as home appliances. In many households, the EV will be the device that consumes the most energy and power. In 2012, manufacturers of the vehicles – as well as charging equipment – will introduce technology that will enable EVs to interact with other home appliances.

Automakers want EVs to be good citizens in balancing their energy requirement with the rest of the building, which requires establishing communications with smart meters, home energy management devices, and other types of appliances.

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