10 electric vehicle predictions for 2014

Cleantech market research firm Navigant Research has come out with a new report on 10 electric vehicle predictions for 2014. Here are my thoughts on these.

A leading cleantech market research firm, Navigant Research (formerly known as Pike Research), has come out with a new report on 10 electric vehicle predictions it is making for 2014. Below are the predictions, along with my own commentary on each of them.

1. Automakers Accelerate Push for Changes in the California ZEV Mandates

This is an interesting one to start with because the California car market is one of the biggest car markets in the world, and the state has very strong vehicle standards. As part of that are its zero-emissions vehicle standards. Most automakers have to make zero-emissions vehicles (primarily battery-electric vehicles) in order to sell their products in this market, so they do. Certain automakers are better than others at leading the burgeoning electric vehicle revolution (as some of us call it). With this market growing and electric vehicles becoming much more competitive, there’s no doubt that leading EV companies are going to push for even stricter standards while laggards try to weaken the standards. We’ll see which way this tug of war goes in 2014.

2. Tesla Motors Will Have a Volatile Year

This is another interesting prediction. Tesla is certainly still a very young company, and it’s the first US car company to go public since Ford Motors (which went public nearly six decades earlier). Last year, Tesla was the highest-trending car company on Google, despite only manufacturing one model at the moment. Its steep stock rise and subsequent skydive (though, not nearly as big as the rise) was one of the overall investment stories of the year. The company also logged its first quarterly profit in 2013. On the other hand, it has faced some controversies with the media. It has been a wild year or so for Tesla, and it’s pretty safe to bet that 2014 will be a year of ups and downs as well. Tesla is entering the European and Chinese markets, while also having some trouble with supplier bottlenecks — and you can’t build a car with just 95% of its parts. The bottlenecks are supposed to be clearing up by the second quarter, but there’s still plenty of room for volatility before and after that.

3. Electric Motorcycles Breakout as Transportation Alternative

I think this one is a bit questionable. There are some electric motorcycles that have just come to market and some that will come to market in 2014, and electric vehicles definitely come with one of the things motorcyclists love — awesome torque. So, I do think the EV motorcycle market will grow. But I don’t see it as being a very big year for electric motorcycles. I think they will need a little more time to “break out.”

4. EV Makers Pursue Revenue Beyond Vehicle Sales

Electric vehicles are integrating smartphone apps and more “connected technologies” faster than their gasoline-powered rivals, and EV makers could certainly look to monetize those. Furthermore, EV makers have been partnering with solar power companies and now even energy storage companies, and those partnerships could grow into more serious revenue streams in 2014. With electric vehicles running on the “fuel source” that powers most of human society (electricity), there are definitely more possibilities beyond the above avenues as well.

5. Fuel Cell Car Launches Will Spur a New Round of “Fuel Cell Vehicle versus Battery Electric Vehicle” Hype

Indeed. Despite both being alternative vehicle solutions to oil-based transport, there’s a long-standing rivalry of sorts between battery-electric vehicles and fuel cell vehicles. With a couple of major automakers on the verge of releasing some fuel cell vehicles to the market, the battling (or at least strong words) have started again. As some examples, the CEO & Chairman of Renault & Nissan, Carlos Ghosn, has argued that fuel cell vehicles will not be mass produced anytime soon (if ever), while Volkswagen executive Rudolf Krebs has said that, “For the time being, to switch from electric to hydrogen is much too early.” The bottom line is cost, and hydrogen fuel cell vehicles are just much more expensive than battery-electric vehicles at the moment. They may have an effect in the long term, but no time soon. As Dr Joe Romm, author of The Hype About Hydrogen, has argued that they will have very little impact in the coming few decades. However, with a couple of automakers starting to cell fuel cell models, even if they are very expensive and only going to be produced in minute quantities, the discussion threads have already gotten rolling

6. EVs Will Play a Leading Role in Carshare Growth

EVs are a perfect match for carsharing, and vice versa. For customers or uses that require a lot of driving, EVs can offer massive savings, since electricity is a few times more efficient and cheaper than gasoline for powering cars. Carsharing programs could make use of these big savings and either make more profit or pass those savings on to their members. The key downside of electric vehicles at the moment is that they don’t have as much range on a full charge as gasoline-powered vehicles have on a full tank of gas. However, members of carsharing programs generally use the cars for trips around town and then drop them off again at a parking spot dedicated to the carsharing program. If those parking spots include EV charging stations, keeping the EVs charged up shouldn’t be a problem. Furthermore, a carsharing member generally has a wide selection of cars to choose from when she or he wants a car, so these members can use EVs when they don’t need to drive a long distance but then gasoline-powered vehicles when they do. I think Navigant Research made a great insight here — EVs are going to be excellent partners for carsharing and will help it to grow.

7. Wireless Charging Moves from the Lab to the Street

Wireless charging research has been heating up, and a few companies have been brining their technology to market. We’ll see a little more advancement in that arena this year, but I wouldn’t get too excited yet. Conventional EV chargers still offer efficiency benefits, which can add up to a lot, and cost less overall. Wireless charging may make it to more streets, but I don’t see a lot changing in the EV charging market.

8. EVs Will Reduce Vehicle Carbon Dioxide Emissions in the United States by More Than 1 Million Tons

I’m sure this is a simple math equation based on a pretty solid projection of EV growth in the US. No argument here!

9. More Than 2.2 Million Electric-Drive Motors Will Ship in 2014

Projections like these are Navigant’s bread and butter, and projections one year out are much easier than projections a few years out. I’d trust Navigant on this one again.

10. Vehicle-to-Grid Pilot Projects will Expand and Begin Generating Revenue across the United States

This is a topic that really excites a lot of people. Vehicle-to-grid technology is another major step in the democratization of energy. It comes with some great potential for the grid, but it has been living primarily in the research world. I do think that vehicle-to-grid pilot projects will increase in 2014. Whether or not any will start generating revenue is more questionable, but perhaps Navigant has some insider knowledge off of which it is basing this prediction.

I think those are some quite good predictions for 2014. Chime in below to add your own perspective on these electric vehicle predictions or others!

Editor’s note: This is a guest post written by Zachary Shahan, editor of CleanTechnica and Planetsave. The views expressed in this post do not necessarily reflect or represent the views of ABB or its employees.

Feature image credit: John McStravick under a CC license via Flickr


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About the author

Zachary Shahan

I'm the director of the CleanTechnica and Planetsave news sites. I've been covering green news of various sorts since 2008, and I've been especially focused on solar energy, electric vehicles, and wind energy for the past four years or so. I'm also the Owner/Founder of Solar Love, EV Obsession, and Bikocity.
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