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Landmark EV report answers question: where are we?

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.


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Last year, the EV City Casebook set a baseline for global electric vehicle (EV) market discussions. Yesterday, the landmark Global EV Outlook (GEO) report took readers from this city-focus to a global one, painting a data-driven picture of the global EV market trajectory. Authored by the Clean Energy Ministerial’s Electric Vehicles Initiative (EVI), these reports show that EVs are emerging as a window of opportunity in a global clean-energy transition.

Global electric vehicle (EV) sales more than doubled between 2011 and 2012, leading to a global stock topping 180,000. This represents just 0.02% of total passenger cars on the road. But, it is ahead of schedule to reach international goals of having 20 million EVs on the road by 2020.

According to Tali Trigg (@talitrigg), EV and sustainable mobility expert at the International Energy Agency (IEA), the GEO does not say that it is necessarily all sunny days ahead for EVs. Trigg cautions that “it is easier to more than double sales in the beginning of a market than in a more mature market… but we are getting to the interim steps that we need to get to 2020 targets.”

According to the numbers, EV market growth is ahead of schedule. Trigg says that “if you look at the growth rates you would need from 2011 to get to the 20 million by 2020 target, we surpassed them in 2012.” And, the marketplace appears to be preparing itself for continued growth, with significant infrastructure deployment throughout EVI countries.

Trigg points out that the report includes a discussion of the history of EVs, which provides context for today’s discussions. The original electric vehicle dates back to the the 1830s. The differences between found in today’s “third age” for EVs sheds light on future potential.

Both the “EV City Casebook” and the “Global EV Outlook” (GEO) report were authored by the Clean Energy Ministerial’s Electric Vehicles Initiative (EVI). The EVI member group includes 15 governments from Africa, Asia, Europe, and North America as well as participation from the International Energy Agency. Included are 8 of the world’s 10 largest auto markets, representing 63% of the world’s vehicle demand. These markets are expected to account for 83% of EV sales between now and 2020. Data from these countries shows the distinct geographic distribution of EVs, and the fact sheet goes into detail on where and what type.

The GEO also discusses where EVs are with respect to the growth of hybrid electric vehicles in the market as it tries to answer the question of “where should we be today?” In 2012, hybrid-electric vehicle (HEV) sales reached 1.2 million (43% growth rate), with Japan and the US representing 91% of global sales. EV sales more than doubled in 2012, with more than 100,000 in total sales. In order to meet 2DS target deployment rates, HEV and EV sales need to average 50% and 80% annual growth rates, respectively.

In order to achieve these growth rates, the report includes an “Opportunity Matrix,” which plots out pathways forward for the coming decade. These pathways identify where opportunities exist for public and private support in addition to key areas for collaboration.

Overall, the data presented today in the “Global EV Outlook” (GEO) illustrated a rapidly growing EV market that is on track to reach 20 million EVs on the road by 2020. But, there is still a long way to go. The GEO cautions that there is still a long way to go, with current market shares for EVs still sitting below 1% in major markets. Regardless, current sales are on track to meet or exceed the IEA’s 2DS scenario goals.

Melissa C. Lott About the Author: An engineer and researcher who works at the intersection of energy, environment, technology, and policy. Follow on Twitter @mclott.

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.





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  1. 1. jerryd 1:59 pm 04/18/2013

    Since there are now 3 billion new customers for oil it won’t be practical to burn in 20 yrs. So far more EV’s than they think will get sold.

    Basically 2 golfcarts worth of materials, labor, overhead can make a very nice 2seat 80 mph, 80 mile range EV selling at $12k for a nice 30% profit.

    With a 5kw generator they become unlimited range at over 100mpg.

    Yet where are these common sense EV’s?

    Link to this

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