Electric vehicle sales figures, transport news and bumper EV research round-up

January 10, 2014 § Leave a comment

madeira-drive-charging-pointOK, so we all know by now that 2013 was a bumper year in the UK for new car sales (2,264,737, up 10.8% on 2012), but in and amongst that consumer frenzy, sales of hybrid and plug-in cars also rose – up 20.5% to 32,715. Sales of pure electric cars were up 99% to 2,512; and other plug-ins i.e. RE-EV, plug-in hybrids up 8.1% to 1,072. Plug-in vehicles accounted for 11% of all plug-in/hybrid electrified vehicle sales (up from 4.5% in 2011). 26,017 petrol-electric hybrids were sold (up 10.2%), and 3,114 diesel-electric (142.5%). Figures from SMMT.

  • EV sales in France: up 55% in 2013 to 8,779 units (from 5,663 in 2012). Best-seller – unsurprisingly – the Renault Zoe (5,511, 62.8% of the market), followed by the Nissan Leaf (1,438) and Bolloré Bluecar (658). Van-wise, 5,175 sold (up 42% on 2012’s 3,651), and the French also bought 46,785 hybrids (32,799 petrol-electric, 13,986 diesel-electric, up 60% on the 29,120 hybrid registrations in 2012). (Via Green Car Congress).
  • And in the US, hybrids accounted for 3.2% of the total car market last year (compared to 3.0% in 2012); over 96,050 plug-in cars of all types were sold (less than 1% of the market, but a surge on 2012’s 53,172. The exact numbers are slightly hazy – Tesla and Fiat 500e sales estimated – but Hybridcars does a detailed job.
  • Another app launched at CES: EnLighten, from Green Driver, which uses location information and current traffic data to predict when a city’s dynamic traffic light system will turn a light green, and then alerts the driver a few seconds before to refocus their attention and prepare them for the get-go. It syncs with the lights in Portland and Eugene, Oregon; Pasadena, Arcadia and San Jose in California; Las Vegas, Salt Lake City and Provo, Utah, and Garland, Texas so far, with 5o cities targeted to take part by the end of the year. Full story at New Scientist. At the moment, it’s a bit what’s-the-point, but there’s potential here for optimising EV range, smoothing-out progress to aid fuel consumption, integration with autonomous driving/platooning, etc., I reckon.
  • Brussels is considering turning its centre car-free, reports Atlantic Cities: the Belgian (and Euro) capital has a new mayor committed to creating a pedestrian zone. This follows the (not new) story about Hamburg (a ‘green network’ over 4o% of the city’s area) which has been doing the rounds again this week. And continuing on a cars-in-cities theme, London Assembly chair @DarrenJohnsonAM (Green councillor, Lewisham) has just tweeted: “TfL tell me today that research in London has shown casualty rates have halved in those areas with 20mph. That speaks for itself.” Indeed.
  • Plug Power Inc is developing 10kW hydrogen fuel cell range extenders for 20 FedEx electric delivery trucks. This $3million US DoE project also involves Smith Electric Vehicles, and will see a near-doubling of range from the current 80 miles. More at Green Car Congress.

And a load of EV- related research papers I’ve come across in recent issues/volumes of the journal Energy Policy:

  • Some data and number-crunching from Newcastle University and the Switch EV trial: analysis of over 7700 recharging ‘events’ and 31,765 electric vehicle journeys found that peak electricity demand from private users was in the evening at home; individual ‘organisation’ vehicles were mostly plugged in at work upon arrival; and ‘pool’ EVs were recharged at work and at public recharging points throughout the day. It also emerged (in focus groups) that some drivers who could recharge at home instead chose to recharge at public facilities – because these were free and, even more crucially, gave them free parking in town. The researchers recommend smart meters to defer home recharging to off-peak times (after 23.00) and pay-as-you-go charging at public points to even out demand. Full study (open access) here; lots of very useful (for me) references, too.
  • Here’s an Italian case study on smart grids, smart metering and electromobility, looking at the role of regulation and intervention.
  • A look-ahead on evolution of the transport sector this century, and how to decarbonize it: the latter will happen later than in the power sector, due to the cost of changes; hydrogen and fuel cells will become dominant but not till after 2050 due to the cost of infrastructure; electric cars better fit the current infrastructure and short-term;  but electric transportation more expensive long-term, unless electric car costs drop by at least 40%.
  • A paper in the latest Energy Policy (February 2014) argues that US federal policies to incentivise EV take-up have been misguided in focusing on mainstream consumers: instead, they should focus in niche markets, and specifically car-sharing and postal fleets, as well as ‘green’ consumers/early-adopters. It’s all about strategic niche management.
  • From the same issue (65) of Energy Policy: a study of EVs in Germany modelling hourly power demand according to size of car suggests that in a future power system, the cars would demand only 2% more electricity, which would not affect system stability if adequate grid-to-vehicle tech for charging/discharging batteries was deployed. Vehicle-to-grid tech (electricity back to the grid from cars) is not a viable economic solution due to battery costs, however, but EV use and G2V/V2G can help further solar/wind power integration into the grid.
  • And here’s a discussion about ‘peak oil’ – the biases and inaccuracies on either side, why the debate has died down, but why it has ongoing relevance.
  • And some modelling (forecasts) of light-duty electric fleets for transportation planners in the US: three case studies looking at investments over 40 years and subsequent cost/gasoline/emissions savings. Demand for electricity will rise, but greenhouse gas emissions could be reduced for little cost by switching from coal-fired to renewable-source power stations.
  • Oh, and a survey of over 2300 adult drivers in 21 of the largest cities in the US found that nearly two-thirds gave incorrect answers to factual questions about EVs, 75% underestimated their value and advantages, and 94.5% were unaware of consumer or federal incentives for EV purchase in their area. Demographic and attitudinal characteristics had the most effect on interest in EVs or plug-in hybrids; misperceptions all round and better consumer information needed.
  • Not just hot air: a substantial part of the extra electricity demanded by EVs in Germany could be met by ‘otherwise unused’ wind power – if there is sufficient conventional power to stabilise the grid. Wind power use is limited by ‘bottlenecks in the transmission grid’ and cars’ charging demand. Full study/projections here. But again, using EVs as back-up energy storage (‘secondary reserve’) is not economically viable for consumers/customers, according to this study.
  • And in Ireland, an ‘environmental’ premium and subsidies for EVs would have to be hiked to “incredible” levels to reach the government’s 10% market share target, according to this forecast. (And consumer tax credits for EVs crucial in the US, too, says this one).
  • An Italian study argues that success of EVs is hampered by the limits and costs of battery systems, and that research and development spend needs to be doubled if battery cost is to be competitive by 2030; it recommends investment in lithium-ion and nickel-metal hydride.
  • And another, modelling R&D spend: EVs will not dominate till after 2050, and limited innovation in batteries means a higher cost in policies; but even if capital costs of EVs remains higher than for ICEs, EVs will still play key role in the necessary policy-driven decarbonisation of transport.
  • In more of a wider-view approach, the barriers to EV adoption are down to socio-technical inertia, this paper argues. Its authors cite the immaturity of developing technologies as a cause of non-commercialisation; EVs not currently representing a significant benefit to the electricity sector; reliance on regulatory and governmental measures; and the problem of ‘lock-in’ to unsustainable technologies. They call for a “positive milieu for innovation”
  • One from Carnegie Mellon University, PA: Lifetime costs and emissions savings of electric, hybrid, plug-in and extended-range vehicles are highly dependent upon how, and where, they are driven: lifecycle emissions on the ‘NYC’ cycle can be cut by up to 60%, and costs by up to 20%, but reductions are marginal on highway test conditions at higher costs. But aggressive driving reduces the all-electric range of plug-ins by up to 45%. The authors advise careful targeting of drivers to encourage adoption, representative testing to enhance consumer perception, and discuss policy implications.
  • Some thoughts and recommendations for the development of EV use in China here.
  • Smart-charging of EVs can give annual savings for energy providers in electricity-sourcing costs of up to 45%, but the saving per car is minimal; discussion of incentives to deploy smart infrastructure here in this one.
  • But why are we bothering with alt-fuel vehicles at all? To contain emissions and improve vehicle energy efficiency, we’d be better off (in the US and China, at least), we’d be better off focusing on the sectors that supply fuel than the choice of fuels for cars itself, as well as managing travel demand and improving efficiency of existing ICE technologies, this paper from the University of Michigan argues.
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