OEMs shifting to electromobility in changing climate of growing global EV sales

July 12, 2017
China, the U.S. and Europe were the three main markets, amounting to 90 percent of all the electric vehicles sold. China remained the largest market in 2016, accounting for more than 40 percent of global EV sales.

When President Donald Trump withdrew the United States from the Paris climate accord in June by declaring that “I was elected to represent the citizens of Pittsburgh, not Paris,” he probably didn’t realize that the Steel City is among the American metropolitan areas at the forefront of implementing electric vehicles (EVs).

The region’s now-rusting blast furnaces underwent their final cool-down years ago, and Pittsburghers have subsequently enacted high-tech revitalization efforts – more than 13,000 people are currently employed in a renewable energy industry that includes increased EV acceptance in conjunction with an accelerating global push towards vehicle electrification.

Automotive sector executives and other decision-makers from throughout the world will gather to further explore electromobility during the Oct. 9-11 International Electric Vehicle Symposium & Exhibition in Stuttgart, Germany.

Known as EVS30, this 30th annual edition of the event is being hosted by the World Electric Vehicle Association (WEVA) and the European Association for Battery, Hybrid and Fuel Cell Electric Vehicles (AVERE).

“Our experience shows that electromobility is about to enter the market in a big way,” said Franz Loogen, managing director of Germany’s e-mobil BW, a Baden-Wuerttemberg state agency promoting advanced vehicle technologies in association with WEVA and AVERE.

“The EVS, as the most important international event on electromobility, is for us the ideal platform not only to ensure access for small- and medium-sized companies to the latest research results from around the world,” says Loogen, “but also for them to make personal contacts and to lay the foundation stone for their own international networks. With the matchmaking and networking events offered at the trade fair, we want to contribute and assist in opening up business opportunities.”

Among the expo’s sponsoring partners is the International Energy Agency (IEA) and its global Implementing Agreement for co-operation on Hybrid and Electric Vehicle Technologies (IA-HEV) Program.

The IEA’s Global EV Outlook 2017 report, issued in June, finds that the amount of EVs traversing the world’s roads in 2016 rose to 2 million, following a previous period of strong growth in 2015.

China, the U.S. and Europe were the three main markets, amounting to 90 percent of all the EVs sold. China remained the largest market in 2016, accounting for more than 40 percent of global EV sales.

“Electric car deployment in some markets is swift,” the report says. In Norway EVs notched the highest nation-specific market share at 29 percent, followed by the Netherlands with 6.4 percent and Sweden at 3.4 percent.

“The electric car market is set to transition from early deployment to mass market adoption over the next decade or so. Between 9 million and 20 million electric cars could be deployed by 2020, and between 40 million and 70 million by 2025,” says the IEA, citing predictions provided by participating automakers.

The IEA’s Clean Energy Ministerial (CEM) and its related Electric Vehicle Initiative (EVI) has unveiled a new program called EV 30@30 to speed up EV deployment and hit a target of increasing EV sales by at least 30 percent by 2030. Governments supporting EV30@30 include Canada, China, Finland, France, India, Japan, Mexico, the Netherlands, Norway and Sweden.

“Despite the progress so far, electric vehicles still have a long way to go before reaching a scale that would make a significant dent in global oil demand growth and greenhouse gas emissions,” says IEA Executive Director Dr. Fatih Birol. “But the Electric Vehicles Initiative’s latest campaign can provide a significant boost to this critical market.”

The rollout “aims to galvanize public and private sector commitments for EV fleet procurement and deployment, strengthening the work begun with the EVI Government Fleet Declaration for public fleets, and reaching out to businesses for commitments on the electrification of private fleets.”

City and fleet leadership

Electric passenger cars, light commercial vans, buses and trucks – including battery-electric, plug-in hybrid and fuel cell vehicle types – are all part of the endeavors along with heightened charging infrastructure development.

“Cities are taking leadership roles in encouraging EV adoption, often because of concerns about air quality. Major urban centers often achieve higher EV market shares compared to national averages,” the IEA says. One third of global EV sales took place in 14 cities in 2015.

“The analysis shows that fleet procurement is an important means of encouraging early EV uptake. Fleet operators, both public and private, can contribute significantly to the deployment of EVs, first from demand signals that they send to the market, and second thanks to their broader role as amplifiers in promoting and facilitating the uptake of EVs by their staff and customers,” says the IEA.

“In that respect, four major U.S. cities – Los Angeles, Seattle, San Francisco and Portland – are leading a partnership of over 30 cities to mass-purchase EVs for their public fleets, including police cruisers, street sweepers and trash haulers,” the IEA reports. “The group is currently seeking to purchase over 110,000 EVs, a significant number when compared to the 160,000 total EVs sold in the United States in 2016.”

On the cusp

“The U.S. market broadly is still in the early adoption phase, with small pockets of a more mature market in select California cities. Nearly half of registered EVs in the U.S. are in California,” says Garrett Fitzgerald, manager of fleet electrification at the Boulder, Colo.-based Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI).

This slower-than-expected pace of EVs in the U.S. over that past several years can be attributed to several factors, including “limited model availability, higher purchase price, lack of awareness of EVs’ lower operational cost, ‘range anxiety,’ un-motivated sales channels and programs at dealerships, among others,” Fitzgerald tells Aftermarket Business World.

“However, the market for EVs is on the cusp of rapid growth with the arrival of ‘second generation’ EVs with higher range and lower purchase price,” he says.

Along with California, Portland and Seattle are also making efforts to increase EV adoption, says Fitzgerald. In 2013 eight governors agreed to a coordinated effort to implement Zero Emission Vehicle (ZEV) programs in their respective states: Connecticut, Maryland, Massachusetts, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont and California.

“Nearly all of the major OEMs will have at least one model, and in many cases several new models available in the 2019-2020 timeframe,” Fitzgerald forecasts.

“The attitude around EVs has changed and OEMs are no longer considering them ‘compliance cars,’” he says. “There has been a fair bit of media attention around many of the larger OEMs converting existing ICE production plants into battery and electric drivetrain plants – Daimler, BMW, Audi, Volkswagen, etc. – and broadly there is a shift in the role of EVs in OEMs’ longer-term strategy.”

Do-it-for-me independents and do-it-yourself parts retailers have yet to see significant EV-related sales. “Generally, EV repairs have been limited and when they are required they typically do happen via dealership service centers. There is a lack of training in some areas for servicing EVs in regions with low EV adoption,” says Fitzgerald, adding that it is crucial for segment to start plugging into the necessary knowledge.

“The EV revolution is here and it’s only a matter of time before EVs dominate the market. Shops should begin the investment in training and equipment for EV service,” he says. “However, the same shops should expect fewer visits and lower repair costs due to the better maintenance performance and drastically fewer parts found in EVs.”

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About the Author

James Guyette

James E. Guyette is a long-time contributing editor to Aftermarket Business World, ABRN and Motor Age magazines.

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