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Phil Covington headshot

Electric Vehicle Market Forecast - 10 Year Horizon Looks Strong

"Any Motor manufacturer without a compelling line up of electric vehicles [by 2025] is signing its death warrant."

This is an unequivocally bold assertion, not made by any government, EV manufacturer, media source or advocacy group, but rather, by the independent consulting and research organization IDTechEX, who claim to be the only analyst with 18 current reports - continuously updated - forecasting sales of electric vehicles and their components.

IDTechEx has been tracking developments in the electric vehicle market for the last eleven years by touring the world's companies, research institutes and conferences to gain insights into key technology changes and business opportunities in the EV market. They have just published their new 2012 forecast with a 10 year horizon, and whether you like EVs or not - their take is that they are here to stay.

Here are the headline forecasts from IDTechEX's analysis.

  • We have not only moved into the decade of the hybrid, but plug-in hybrids are now key and the most aggressive manufacturers will be selling more plug-in hybrids than traditional ones by the end of the decade.

  • By 2025, 35% of all cars sold will be electric, 25% of which will be hybrids and 10% pure EVs.

  • China will host 32% of all electric traction motor suppliers, with the USA hosting 28%. The next nearest country in terms of supplier volume is way down in the single digits.

  • Energy harvesting will become increasingly important. Up to now, most attention has been focused on getting better battery energy density, but recovering wasted energy will increasingly pay dividends. This will include routine use of regenerative braking, energy generation from shock absorbers, heat harvesting (thermoelectrics) and wider use of photovoltaics. Multiple energy harvesting technologies are seen as key to working around battery limitations.

  • Greater use of range extenders will take place with up to 30 million vehicles being fitted with them over the next decade. At the moment, the most famous example is the gasoline powered engine fitted to the Chevrolet Volt - there only for the purpose of generating electricity. But, the concept of merely modifying existing piston engines (as with the volt) will fall by the wayside. They are not the best tool for the job since they were designed to turn wheels, not produce electricity. Expect to see more designed-to-purpose piston engine extenders, or even mini-turbine extenders.

  • We are already moving beyond electric vehicles being viewed as a "one-day-maybe" business - in Japan, 25% of all cars sold are electric, most of them hybrids.

  • Electric vehicles will increasingly go beyond cars. Big growth markets will likely be in military applications, heavy forklifts, and hybrid-electric power trains in seagoing leisure boats. The non-car electric vehicle business will rise beyond 50% of where it is today.

Overall, IDTechEX's report is very bullish about the future of EVs. Even so, they mention that the price premium of electric vehicles and hybrids must become small to non existent to be successful, and the electric-only range of vehicles must be a useful one - not a token gesture - to be compelling.

Additionally, they discuss that electric motors themselves will become a more significant cost component for makers, whereas today, expensive lithium-ion batteries are where much of the cost is incurred, such that, "the battery is the car." IDTechEx identifies that since the costs of magnetic materials such as dysprosium and neodymium are rocketing, leading electric motor manufacturers are racing towards making magnet free motors or those which avoid rare metals. Manufacturers sticking with conventional magnets and brush-motors will be "blown out of the business."

Clearly however, the consultancy considers any factors pulling against a wider-spread deployment of EVs are surmountable.

And in terms of the 10 year horizon, the future of the electric vehicle seems almost assured. To be sure, IDTechEx talks about EVs and hybrids almost interchangeably, such that it's almost irrelevant whether we are talking about pure EVs or hybrids as dominating the future of transportation - electric drive seems set to feature strongly in the transportation mix either way.

Image credit: David Villarreal Fernández

Phil Covington headshotPhil Covington

Phil Covington holds an MBA in Sustainable Management from Presidio Graduate School. In the past, he spent 16 years in the freight transportation and logistics industry. Today, Phil's writing focuses on transportation, forestry, technology and matters of sustainability in business.

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