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Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Oil Prices Amplify Prospects for the Passenger Electric Vehicle Market

Driven by factors such as volatile oil prices, energy independence goals of many countries, and global warming concerns, the North American passenger electric vehicle (EV) market has taken a quantum leap forward. The price of oil expects to be relatively high over a longer term, boosting the value proposition of hybrid and electric vehicles, and driving their uptake. These new dynamics have revived consumer and vehicle manufacturer interest in electric vehicles, revving up growth in the EV market and ensuring its emergence as a mass market in the foreseeable future. The unstable geopolitical situation also encourages the active pursuit of energy independence.

New analysis from Frost & Sullivan, Strategic Analysis of North American Passenger Electric Vehicle Market, expects the total EV market to show a favorable growth due to a host of new technological advancements.

"Compliance with federal regulations and corporate average fuel economy (CAFE) standards remains one of the most challenging issues the automotive market faces," says Frost & Sullivan Research Analyst Niranjan Manohar. "Governments worldwide are progressively tightening emission and fuel efficiency standards for motor vehicles. U.S. federal regulations too require vehicle makers to meet CAFE standards."

With governments at the federal and state levels providing subsidies and incentives to manufacturers and consumers for the manufacture and purchase of alternate fuel and pure electric vehicles in pursuit of their clean environment goals, automakers are considering design changes and a shift toward alternate fuel technologies. This is enabled by strategic business models leveraging cost effective sourcing and manufacturing technologies.

"As the automotive industry advances towards alternate fuel vehicle solutions, the need for fuel-efficient and cost-effective technologies is on the upswing," says Niranjan. "Automakers are trying to differentiate their vehicles based on the technologies offered, and suppliers see this as an opportunity to penetrate this volume-driven vehicle market."

The market has to be self sustaining and incentives have to be offset by cost reductions. The cost price reduction is expected to come from batteries.
Proven technological developments in Lithium Ion (Li-ion) batteries are giving shape to the goal of an affordable and capable electric vehicle. The performance attributes of Li-ion technology make it the ideal energy solution available currently. However, the technology is in the fledgling stage and costs are high. At current prices, the battery accounts for about a third of a plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV) cost.

Although the battery prices expect to decline as volumes increase and technology matures, the current high price is the biggest bottleneck for the electric propulsion systems market. Charging infrastructure remains vital for the adoption of EVs. Typically, the full-charge of City Electric Vehicles is approximately 6 hours, to offer 100 miles.

"Access to charging stations, range-anxiety, and long charging time are seen as major restraints to the development of a viable electric vehicle market," observes Niranjan. "Strategic alliances, including joint ventures between utility companies, automakers, and cities to develop a charging infrastructure that supports the electric vehicle market is crucial."

Another matter of concern is that Li-ion batteries are inherently prone to exploding in the event of a thermal run out. A major safety incident could damage a manufacturers brand and dent consumer acceptance. These issues have raised concerns over consumer acceptance of EVs. Hence, participants in this space must scale up productivity and enhance safety, reliability, and robustness in all battery systems.

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