The Future of Electric Vehicles: Technology, Infrastructure Developments and the Future Outlook

Interest in electric vehicles is on the rise. For a variety of reasons this interest is unlikely to dissipate in the foreseeable future. These reasons range from climate change and environmental pollution, to the gradual depletion of fossil fuels worldwide, and to the nationalistic desire to reduce dependence on imported oil.

Each country faces its own unique set of challenges but environmental pressures and the looming background threat of global warming are common to all. In the US, it has been estimated by the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory that if 73% of the country’s cars and light vehicles turned electric, it could cut oil demand by an estimated 6.2 million barrels per day, approximately half of the country’s current imports.

For this reason alone, interest in cleaner vehicles as alternatives to traditional gasoline powered cars will grow. Electric vehicles stand poised to fulfill a need at this important time, providing this cleaner mode of transport, to aid the effort to curb harmful emissions from liquid fuels. Technology, economic context, environmental issues are all aligning to create a more commercial backdrop for electric vehicles.

Key features of this report

• The context for the development of the electric vehicles sector including an analysis of future energy demand and the expected sustained demand for fossil fuels

• Analysis of the opportunities and challenges for utility companies faced with a significant rise in the level of electric vehicles worldwide

• Potential investment requirements across the energy value chain arising from growth in the electric vehicles sector

• Examination of the differing and emerging technologies available for electric vehicles, including batteries and smart charging

Scope of this report

• Analyse the opportunities for future investment through careful study of the development and evolution of the electric vehicles market

• Plan infrastructure enhancements better through the understanding of how the electric vehicles segment will take shape in the years ahead

• Guard against potential shortcomings, to infrastructure, distribution, generation, as a result of the growth of electric vehicles sector

• Assess the attraction and the risks for your company of aligning more closely to other players within the electric vehicles market such as automotive manufacturers

Key Market Issues

• Technology opens up new possibilities: Electric vehicles are not new but have been around for well over a century. However, it is improvements in modern technology that mean these vehicles may now provide a viable alternative to traditional gasoline powered cars

• Get smart: Millions of new electric cars on the roads could place a strain on the world’s electricity network. This becomes more manageable with the introduction of a smart grid and the adoption of vehicle smart charging to help balance the load

• The future is now: Despite the limited number of electric vehicles on the roads, and other hybrids, the rate of growth in recent years, has been very high. With more manufacturers launching commercial models in the next few years, the electric vehicles sector and related hybrids market is entering a new era

• Sustained fossil fuels reliance: Despite climate change pressures, fossil fuels still dominate global energy demand, but clean and renewable energy is on the high priority list, an area in which electric vehicles can dovetail neatly

Key findings from this report

• The IEA group believes the number and type of hybrid electric cars available to the market will grow substantially through to 2015, which will accelerate sales, albeit from this modest base. In its 2009 outlook, the IEA states that, by 2012, global hybrid electric vehicle sales may reach 2.2m units

• Major corporations such as Coca-Cola, AT&T, FedEx and Wal-Mart all now include hybrids in their vehicle fleets, as do forward thinking utilities such as Tokyo Electric Power Corporation

• Dozens of new hybrids and pure electric vehicles are to hit the market during the 2010-2014 window from commercial manufacturers such as Renault, which is launching a full range of passenger cars

• Electric vehicle costs are falling. In the US, the base model Nissan Leaf, with federal tax credits, plus a home charging station installation, will cost $26,380, although this could drop to $21,380 in California, with an extra $5,000 state rebate.

• The administration of President Obama in the US has called for 1m plug-in electric drive vehicles on US roads by 2015, which would require significant upgrading to the electric vehicle infrastructure.

Key questions answered

• How will the electricity network need to respond to the growth in the number of electric vehicles on the roads?

• How much investment will be required in power infrastructure as a result of the projected rise in the number of electric vehicles?

• Which automotive companies are active in this sector with investment in electric vehicle products?

• How can utilities take advantage of the electric vehicles sector for distributed generation and storage?

• To what extent will the growth of the electric vehicles sector place a strain on the global power system and the world’s energy resources?