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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883


Mixed bag of EV predictions

Last year, I wrote about a recent EV (electric vehicle) development resurgence.  After the first wave of marginally successful EV marketing, Google, Apple, General Motors, Volkswagen, Ford, Mercedes-Benz, Renault, Nissan, Toyota, Tesla and others are at it again.

Limited range, high cost and difficulty finding locations to recharge the batteries were two outstanding shortcomings of the early EVs.  The number of public charging stations has increased and the cost of home charging stations is declining somewhat.  Researchers at the named companies are addressing the limited range issue (typically less than 100 miles) with proposed models capable of 300-400 miles between charges with pricing in the neighborhood of $30,000.

So, is it the right time for EVs again?  New reports show that predictions vary greatly.

Back in 2012 Renault-Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn predicted his alliance would sell 1.5 million EVs by 2016.  Six years after introducing the world’s top selling EV, the Nissan Leaf, they have failed to reach even one-third of Ghosn’s goal.

Early optimism was obviously dampened, but new industry forecasts are abundant.  Which prediction will be correct remains to be seen, but as mentioned, opinions widely differ.

Financial analysts at Exane BNP Paribus claim that EVs will hold a 16 percent market share globally by 2025, whereas HIS Markit claims a much lower figure of 3.4 percent.  One reason that Markit’s European manager, Christian Mueller, says he is conservative is that he doesn’t believe some of the manufacturer’s boastful forecasts.  For example, Volkswagen predicts sales of up to 3 million battery-elecrtic cars by 2025.

Mueller thinks that such predictions are made as a ploy to get better deals from the battery companies vying for their business.  He says, “Automaker numbers are usually far removed from reality.”  And he added, “A lot of this is price negotiation.  If you’re asking for 1 million units, you get a different price than for a more realistic 500,000.”  According to him, this tactic is not unique to EVs or Volkswagen, but more of an industry standard.

Nevertheless, global EV sales numbers are climbing at a fairly rapid pace.  In the first nine months of 2016, sales of all vehicles with a power cord were up 53 percent in Sweden for a total of 518,000 units.  Europe was up 24 percent to 51, 050 during the same period, United States sales increased 62 percent to 44,530 and China’s volume increased 117 percent to 225,000.

Still, those figures pale in the midst of all vehicle sales.  The total of all U.S. vehicles sold was close to 14 million for the same period, with a global tally of nearly 70 million.  Regardless of forecast variation, EVs will seemingly continue to make up a certain percentage of those totals.

I believe that the main incentive for manufacturers to add EVs to their sales lineups is that ever-tightening CAFÉ (corporate average fuel economy) requirements and emissions restrictions are necessitating it.  The economy and emissions of gasoline engines can only be taken down so far.  Manufacturers must meet certain MPG requirements for the average economy of all vehicles sold, so selling EVs, with zero emissions and MPGe (miles-per-gallon equivalent) ratings of over 100  is a natural way to offset the fuel economy and emissions of hot-selling pickups and SUVs.

EV technology is definitely on the rise, but EVs will not be the choice of the masses in our near future.  Early adopters, however, will have better products to choose from very soon.

Readers may contact Bill Love via e-mail at