By Joseph Tohill
For years petroleum-backed analysts have been down-playing the importance of EVs as a viable form of personal transportation. Arguing that EVs will only serve a micro-niche segment of the population, they claim that sales have been underwhelming and that the market will soon approach saturation.
However, a look at the cold hard numbers paints a different picture of the EV economy.
Yes EVs still constitute a small share of the automobile market. But new reports from industry analysts and EV manufacturers themselves suggest that the EV market has been performing exceptionally well for such a brand new industry. Current EV users are some of the most satisfied automobile owners in the country, and EV technology is improving by leaps and bounds every year.
In fact, 2013 has been one of the best years for the EV market.
So without further ado, let’s look at the cold hard number of the EV economy and how far things have come over the past year.
The EV Market: Comparisons, Sales, and Trends
Neal Dikeman from Jane Capital Partners LLC perhaps sums up the EV market best: “EVs may have been underselling the hype, but they are outselling the reality.” While initial projections of the EV market were perhaps a bit too optimistic, when one compares the performance of the EV market with other brand new technologies, it becomes immediately apparent EVs are performing exceptionally well.
By comparing sales of hybrids and EVs (which includes both full electric and plug-ins hybrids), Dikeman reveals that EVs have been outperforming hybrids by three to one. Hybrids took 6 years years to achieve 100,000 units sold and 1% market share. EVs are on pace to accomplish the same thing in just three years. Therefore, EVs are being adopted much faster than hybrids when they were first released.
Tesla, often considered one of the benchmarks of EV success, has already achieved profitability – and ahead of schedule too. It will meet its goal of moving 20,000 units this year and has had to revise its goal upwards to 21,000. It cannot keep up with demand in some locations and has had to ramp up production.
In addition, BMW has released its first ever EV – the Active E – and the race is now on to tap into the burgeoning luxury EV market. Tesla will be hard to knock off its throne in this category, but it will be interesting to see how the luxury EV market will play out in the coming years.
Since Nissan released the new model for the Leaf in March, sales have surged 335%. The Leaf is currently Nissan’s top selling vehicle in Seattle, Portland, and San Francisco with sales taking off in other markets across the country as well. The Chevy Volt and the Nissan Leaf are now neck and neck in the race to dominate the mid-range EV market.
Navigant Research reveals that growth in EVs sales have been driven by appeal for new technology, lower lifetime operating costs, government regulations, and a rebounding economy.
The Emerging EV Consumer
What are some defining features of the current EV owner? Are there certain characteristics future EV buyers will share?
Current and future EV drivers are predominantly eco-minded individuals who embrace new technology and favor convenience and efficiency. They are not as obsessed with horsepower and RPM’s as their parents were. Realizing this, Nissan has decided to recast itself as a high-tech company defined by sustainability and cool electronics. It realizes that tomorrow’s car buyers will be increasingly selecting companies that align with their own personal values.
And most user reviews of EVs reveal that these cars perform exceptionally well, feature sleek and sexy designs, and tap into existing technologies.
A whopping 92% of current Chevy Volt owners say they would buy their car again – which is the highest satisfaction rating of any car according to Consumer Reports. Consumer Reports also gave the Tesla Model S an incredible 99/100 review rating, the highest rating they’ve ever given to a car.
EVs feature a user interface that taps into smart technologies and mobile devices. For instance, the MyFord interface establishes a network between the owner’s mobile devices and their car, so they can easily track driving information and get the most out of their EV driving experience.
M2M technology is not merely some gimmick meant to eke out a few extra sales – it is rapidly becoming a defining feature of the coming transportation revolution.
EV Charging Stations – The Infrastructure for the Future EV Network
One of the most important components of the emerging EV economy is the infrastructure. Realizing that there are increasing numbers of EVs on the road yet not enough infrastructure to support them, many companies and government agencies have decided to invest in EV charging stations in a big way.
For the past few years EV charging station have emerged at Walgreens, Ikea, office buildings, sports stadiums, and even airports. Over the past year, many companies have come to the realization that tapping into the EV market is one of the easiest but most important ways to remain ahead of the curve in the future economy.
And when it comes to providing the actual EV charging stations, the most successful companies have been the ones that tap right into the emerging EV ownership lifestyle. This means providing charging stations that are sleekly designed, feature easy payment options, and easy to locate via mobile devices. M2M technology is also a key component of EV charging stations – just like in EVs themselves.
SemaConnect understands the necessity of tapping into mobile devices and providing convenient payment options. By implementing Pay-By-Cell at charging stations, we allow customers to simply scan a QR code to pay for charging. No longer is it necessary to pull out a credit card or call into customer service to charge an EV (of course these are still options).
Over the past year the playing field for EV charging stations has started to level out. Some companies have failed while others have established themselves as leaders in providing EV charging stations. The ones that have succeeded understand their customers and are able to effectively tap into the EV lifestyle.
2013 has been a big year for the EV economy in nearly every facet – from the EV themselves, to the drivers, to the EV charging stations. Although initial projections regarding the EV market were a bit over-optimistic, when compared to reality EVs have been performing exceptionally well in virtually every department.
So what is the biggest takeaway from 2013 going forward?
The EV economy is not merely defined by its vehicles. Instead the EV economy is multi-faceted, and includes a network of EV charging stations, driver interfaces, and smart devices. An EV lifestyle is emerging that is defined by sustainability, high technology, fluid networks, and a high degree of connectivity.
All of these components are defining features of the clean transportation revolution. Companies that are able to sufficiently tap into the emerging EV economy will succeed, while those that don’t will be left in the dust.
Joseph Tohill is a freelance writer and online communications specialist for organizations in the sustainability sector. He has a B.A. in Interdisciplinary Studies from the University of British Columbia and spent most of his academic career studying sustainable urban development; namely the interdisciplinary relationship between built form and natural environment.