Plug-in-Vehicles May Make up 22% of US Auto Sales by 2030

Plug-in electric vehicles, including plug-in hybrids and battery electric vehicles, have the potential to make up 9% of auto sales in 2020 and 22% in 2030 (1.6 million and 4 million vehicle sales respectively), according to research company Bloomberg New Energy Finance. Achieving such growth levels, however, will be dependent on two key factors – aggressive reductions in battery costs and rising gasoline prices.

In the short term, price will be the most significant limitation to the uptake of both plug-in hybrid vehicles like the GM Volt and fully electric vehicles such as the Nissan Leaf. The median base price of autos sold between July 2009 and June 2010 in the US was $21,800. By comparison, the Nissan Leaf will cost $26,280 after federal subsidies (including an allowance for charger installation), which is a higher price point than three quarters of all new auto sales.

The forecast is based on first identifying the ‘addressable market’ for plug-in vehicles – those consumer segments which can afford the vehicle, have suitable range requirements and have access to an appropriate location for charging. The second step models the proportion of consumers within the addressable market that might actually purchase such a vehicle.

Bloomberg New Energy Finance estimates that in 2011, the GM Volt will be targeting an addressable market of 7% of total US auto sales, and the Nissan Leaf 11%. However, actual sales will be much lower and limited by vehicle availability.

The model also forecasts sensitivity to gas prices, which will have a considerable effect on uptake. Rises in electricity prices do not affect sales as severely, Bloomberg New Energy Finance concludes, as fuel costs are a lower proportion of the total cost of ownership for electric vehicles.

Michael Liebreich, chief executive of Bloomberg New Energy Finance, commented: “2011 will see the launch of a large number of new plug-in hybrid and electric vehicle models around the world. It’s not just car companies who have a lot riding on their success – utilities; oil companies; whole countries will feel the impact if there is rapid uptake."

Glen Walker, lead transportation analyst at Bloomberg New Energy Finance said: “Once we’ve seen the launch of mainstream plug-in electric vehicles, we’ll have much more empirical data on consumer reactions, which will be vital in future forecasts.”

Bloomberg New Energy Finance’s plug-in vehicle forecasts are published as part of its Energy Smart Technologies Insight Service.