US, Europe catching up in global e-car market

US, Europe catching up in global e-car market

Market news |
By Christoph Hammerschmidt

According to CAM, an independent research institute based in Bergisch Gladbach (Germany), the sale of New Energy vehicles in China during the first half of 2017 amounted to 195.000 units. The term New Energy includes battery-electric vehicles (BEV) Plug-in hybrids (PHEV) and fuel cell vehicles and also buses. This figure represents a rise of 14% over the same period last year. The market share among new admissions rose to 1.5% from 1.3%. In China, it is noticeable that the number of purely electric vehicles (BEVs) with 160,000 units (82%) is much higher than that of plug-in hybrids (PHEV), which are only 35,000 units (18%). The number of plug-in hybrids has fallen by more than 20 percent in the first half of the year. The most popular e-car models are built by local OEMs; Tesla is the only non-Chinese vendor in the top 20.

In the USA, new registrations of electric cars have risen by 36 percent compared to the first half of 2016. More than 87,000 electric vehicles were sold from January to June 2017, with approximately 44,000 battery-electric vehicles (BEV) among them (+ 29%). Market leader is Tesla, whose models S and X account for almost half of the sales, followed by Chevrolet Bolt and Nissan Leaf. Compared to the same period last year, the plug-in hybrid increased by 44 percent, mainly due to increases in the Chevrolet Volt, the Toyota Prius and the Ford C-Max Energi.

Japan is taking a leap forward and can almost double the e-car sales. The Toyota Prius PHV accounts for about half of the E-car sales in Japan, followed by Nissan Leaf and the Mitsubishi Outlander.

In Europe, Norway continues its special role, and in the first half of 2017 it will reach more than 27,000 electric vehicles (+ 23%). As in the previous year, the UK can also increase its e-vehicle sales and sells more than 22,300 units, 15 percent more than in the same period of the previous year. Here a trend reversal can be observed: in the previous years, the Plug-in hybrids exhibited the strongest growth, the picture is now turning. Only three percent more plug-in hybrids were sold. By contrast, sales of the BEVs grew by 46 % to more than 7,600 units. In France, e-car new registrations also increased significantly to 18,453 (+ 14%). At the same time, BEVs account for 73 % of the car sales, while plug-in hybrids account for 27 %. The number of full hybrid vehicles (HEV) is also increasing by more than one third to nearly 40,000 new registrations. Like Germany, diesel-oriented France shows a sharp drop in the number of new registrations of diesel vehicles to 48 % in the first half of 2017 (1st half of 2016: 53%). Due to the high level of air pollution in Paris in the last months, plans are being discussed to driving restrictions on diesel vehicles, which has translated into a growing uncertainty among car buyers.

The increasing discussions about diesel bans are also causing a revival of e-car sales in Germany for the first time. From January to June 2017, 22,453 electric vehicles (+ 114%) were sold, increasing the market share from 0.6 to 1.3 percent. Plug-in hybrids add up to 12,264 (+ 100%) and the pure electric vehicles to 10,189 (+ 134%) vehicles. This makes plug-in hybrids again more popular than BEVs. Compared to the first half of 2016, diesel passenger cars experienced a drop in sales of more than 9 percent and fell to only 41.3 % of new admissions.

Though electric mobility will only be able to achieve moderate growth rates in key automotive markets for the two to three years ahead, CAM expects a clear increase in market dynamics at the beginning of the 2020s. Decisive factors are the massive product efforts of the manufacturers and the expected regulatory environment in economies with a strong automotive industry. Thus, the currently comparatively low market shares cannot hide the fact that a massive upheaval of drive technologies is about to occur in the next ten to fifteen years.

Current analysis of manufacturers’ innovations in the Electrical range show that the driving ranges of the models are increasing quickly (see fig. 1)

Driving range of BEVs (blue) and PHEVs (red) at fleet level in kilometers.
Figures include car studies, pre-series and series innovations. (C) CAM  

Based on the CAM scenarios, the global new registrations of electric cars will only increase moderately by the year 2020 – between 2.5 % (conservative scenario) and 6 % (optimistic scenario). After this period however, the CAM researchers expect the changeover to signifiacntly accelerate, fueled by a massive new product offerings from global manufacturers. In the year 2025, an estimated 25 % and 25 million units per year of newly registered electric cars are expected in the optimistic scenario (conservative scenario: 12%). These figures could subsequently rise to 40 %, or around 40 million electric cars, by the year 2030 (conservative: 25%).

These trend figures are based on assumptions about the developments in the political-regulatory environment as well as on the comparative competitive advantages of electric mobility compared to the internal combustion engine. In particular, the researcher assume that the manufacturing costs for gasoline and diesel vehicles will be significantly higher in the coming years due to tightening environmental regulations. At the same time, the costs for (pure) electric vehicles will drop significantly, especially due to cheaper battery cell costs per kWh. Likewise, technological innovations, in particular with regard to range and charging time, will increase the number of customers. The scenarios also require a corresponding density of (fast) loading infrastructure in the core markets of China, Europe and the USA.

Stefan Bratzel, Head of the CAM research team, comments: “Even though the growth in electromobility is still moderate, it will gain a strong momentum through the diesel crisis, CO2 targets and China over the next few years. The German manufacturers are currently developing intensively on pure electric models in order to catch up their leeways. At the beginning of the 2020s, the supply problem will be increasingly eliminated and vehicles with appropriate range will be available. It is important to establish a the charging infrastructure in parallel to the rising demand to and increasing maturity of electric vehicles.”

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