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Electric car sales to fail expectations, says new report

 

That’s the finding of a new report, which says that it will be improvements to internal combustion engines that will help average new car emissions meet the EU target of 95g/km by 2020. Dubbed ‘Powering Ahead’, the report by the consultancy Ricardo-AEA has been commissioned jointly by the RAC Foundation and the UK Petroleum Industry Association and finds that the key to making electric cars a commercial success is a major advance in battery technology. However, until then these vehicles are likely to remain too expensive and too impractical to penetrate the mass market. The report analysed the predictions made in 14 other major studies for the take-up of low-carbon cars and shows even the more positive assessments foresee only 200,000 plug-in hybrid and pure battery powered cars being sold each year in the UK by 2020. 0 false 18 pt 18 pt 0 0 false false false

That’s the finding of a new report, which says that it will be improvements to internal combustion engines that will help average new car emissions meet the EU target of 95g/km by 2020.

Dubbed ‘Powering Ahead’, the report by the consultancy Ricardo-AEA has been commissioned jointly by the RAC Foundation and the UK Petroleum Industry Association and finds that the key to making electric cars a commercial success is a major advance in battery technology. However, until then these vehicles are likely to remain too expensive and too impractical to penetrate the mass market.

The report analysed the predictions made in 14 other major studies for the take-up of low-carbon cars and shows even the more positive assessments foresee only 200,000 plug-in hybrid and pure battery powered cars being sold each year in the UK by 2020.

It adds that some experts think sales of these types of vehicle will actually be as low as 40,000. This compares to total sales of just over two million new cars in the UK in 2012.

Recognising the varying assumptions made in the other reports, and after discounting the most extreme projections, Ricardo-AEA still found widely differing assessments for the scale of green car sales in 2020:

 

Technology

Market share in 2020

Volume (based on the number of cars sold in 2012)

Market share in 2030

Volume (based on the number of cars sold in 2012)

Hybrids

5-20%

100,000-400,000

20-50%

400,000 – 1m

Plug-in hybrids

1-5%

20,000-100,000

15-30%

300,000 – 600,000

Pure battery electric cars

1-5%

20,000-100,000

5-20%

100,000 – 400,000

Range-extended electric cars

1-2%

20,000 – 40,000

5-20%

100,000 – 400,000

 

Note: Figures based on analysis of 14 major studies into the take-up of low-carbon vehicles. In 2012 2,044,000 new cars were sold in the UK. Figures in the table are based on a rounded number of 2,000,000.

The report says: ‘In the longer term, the likely mix of technologies is extremely difficult to predict. The speed with which plug-in hybrids and pure electric vehicles achieve significant market shares is highly dependent on their total cost of ownership in comparison to that of more conventional alternatives. This is, in turn, dependent on factors such as oil prices, further battery and fuel cell cost reductions, and government policies.’

Professor Stephen Glaister, director of the RAC Foundation, added: ‘Estimating future sales of electric cars is not quite like sticking the tail on the donkey, but not far from it. There are so many variables to factor in that even those paid to predict the future of low-carbon vehicles cannot agree on what is in store. The only common ground amongst the experts is that we are unlikely to see as many electric cars sold as politicians might like.

‘It is more than two years since the Government introduced the plug-in car grant. Yet even with subsidies of £5,000 per vehicle available only 3,600 cars have been purchased through the scheme.’

He added: ‘Eventually there will need to be a step change in the type of cars we drive. To help achieve this, the RAC Foundation believes a target for new car CO2 emissions of nearing 60g/km is needed for 2025. This challenging goal would help preserve the impetus car manufacturers are already demonstrating in terms of technological advancement. Electric cars might eventually come into their own: but there is no guarantee that they won't be beaten at their own game by other low-carbon technologies.’

Natalie Middleton

Natalie has worked as a fleet journalist for 14 years, previously as assistant editor on the former Company Car magazine before joining Fleet World in 2006. Prior to this, she worked on a range of B2B titles, including Insurance Age and Insurance Day. Natalie works across the magazine portfolio and updates the company websites with daily news, interviews and road test content.

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