Electric mobility still light years away from mainstream, consultant says

Electric mobility still light years away from mainstream, consultant says

Market news |
By eeNews Europe

Along with its partner, market researcher FKA, Roland Berger compiled an e-mobility index which compared the competitive positions of the seven leading car-manufacturing nations – China, Germany, France, Italy, Japan, and South Korea – in the field of e-mobility. The result: From the perspective of the carmakers as well as from the user’s point of view, electrical vehicles are not attractive, at least at the present point in time. "OEMs earn much lower margins on the sale of EVs than on regular cars," says Wolfgang Bernhart, Partner at Roland Berger Strategy Consultants. "The total cost of ownership of EVs over their useful life is much higher than for conventional vehicles."

Also the batteries are an issue. Especially the battery type used in most e-cars, the lithium-ion batteries, are expensive, heavy, and not overly safe – they can explode or burst into flames when damaged. Since this risk is not acceptable, battery makers should "sort out this safety problem fast with innovative security concepts, not rely on rigid, heavy safety structures as they did before", analyses FKA Senior Engineer Markus Thoennes.

Another problem is the lack of infrastructure for EVs, along with the limited range of this kind of cars. Since the range problem probably won’t be solved before 2020, the availability of a charging infrastructure will be crucial for the acceptance of electric vehicles – which is not en entirely new finding but nevertheless still an urgent one. There is still a long way to go, for instance in Germany, from today’s 2200 public recharging points to the 150.000 recharging points which would be necessary.

The experts from Roland Berger and FKA analysed the seven most important carmaking countries in the categories of technology, industry and market. The resulting rankings were as follows:

Technology: South Korea is still the leader in technology, although the vehicles announced are not yet in showrooms. Germany comes a close second, having greatly improved EVs’ value for money. By contrast, the US is becoming less competitive, with total EV sales falling and expensive models becoming more relevant. In all countries analysed, public subsidies for e-mobility R&D are decreasing. The only exception is China, which is investing some EUR 7.7 billion in current programs.

Industry: Japan is top of the industry ranking, but due to declining production forecasts for EVs and battery cells, the country is slowly losing ground. Between now and 2015, Japan will manufacture 283,000 electric and hybrid vehicles. South Korea, in particular, is gaining ground in the industry – the country is expanding its production of vehicles and batteries. Germany and France, too, are boosting their car production forecasts. But overall, EV production is declining worldwide. Due to market consolidation, future battery cell production will mainly be limited to Japan and South Korea. Experts expect cell production of over 7,000 MWh in Japan and over 4,200 MWh in South Korea by 2015, while Germany will play only a minor role in battery production with just over 200 MWh.

Market: The proportion of electric and hybrid models among total new car sales has risen slightly in recent months but is still tiny. Japan leads the pack, as the programs that ran until the end of 2012 have had a positive effect. China, South Korea and France, by contrast, have boosted subsidies for EVs to help e mobility achieve a breakthrough.

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