The US Department of Energy has this week released a very interesting graph which shows the early-stage development of the hybrid market compared to the electric plug-in market. Many people have been of the opinion that hybrids offer an interesting steppingstone for the electric vehicle market but if sales forecasts are anything to go by the electric vehicle market is likely to outperform its hybrid counterpart.
The graph took into account sales of electric vehicles and hybrids over the first three years of the technology. The start date for hybrids was 2000 and the start date for electric vehicles was 2011 - while some will point at an earlier Tesla Roadster Model made available before 2011 this was not designed for the main market.
If you look at the sales graph above you will see that even before the half year the line indicating the increase in electric vehicle sales began to detach itself from hybrid electric vehicle sales. Indeed, after 12 months electric vehicle sales were reached 17,500 while hybrid electric vehicle sales were languishing around the 10,000 level. The situation after two years is even more marked with hybrid electric vehicle sales under 30,000, while electric vehicle sales topped 65,000.
Quote from ElectricForum.com : "It strikes me that the only real thing holding back the EV market is, in some cases, the limited distances which are reachable using pure electric power. I think there are great similarities with the early mobile phone market where the battery power seemed to be well behind the mobile phone technology. Once mobile phone battery technology caught up we saw the sector fly - will the same happen to the EV market?"
If we look towards the 30 month level will see that hybrid electric vehicles were languishing around 50,000 while plug-in electric vehicles were moving towards the 120,000 level. These cumulative sales figures give an interesting indication of the relative development of these two markets from the beginning up to 30 months. Note that the graph supplied by the U.S. Department of Energy states USD on the vertical axis in error as these numbers are actual cumulative car sales NOT value.
If you look back at the trend in the sale of plug-in electric vehicles you will see that around 17,500 were sold during 2011, this figure tripled to 53,000 in 2012 and experts believe plug-in electric vehicle sales for 2013 will top 100,000. It may well be that plug-in electric vehicles are having an impact upon the hybrid market with more and more motorists now looking to miss out this historically important stepping stone and look directly towards electric vehicles.
We must also take into account the relative financial incentives from governments and companies in the EV industry, not to mention the ongoing issue of "green travel" which continues to be highlighted. We can only imagine where the electric vehicle industry would have been but for the 2008 economic downturn because introducing a new technology, a groundbreaking technology at that, in boom times is still difficult let alone introducing electric vehicles in a major economic downturn.
Have we turned the corner?
Time and time again EV enthusiasts believe that we have turned the corner with regards to electric vehicles and their march towards the mass market. This time there seems to be more momentum behind this move in relative sales and indeed you only need to look at the growing number of EVs launched into the marketplace to see that the profile of electric vehicles has grown significantly.
Without wishing to jinx the EV market we do seem to have turned the corner, enthusiasm continues to build and now we can only hope that the EV market does not shoot itself in the foot, as has happened on many occasions in the past!