Battery Cars For Masses Fail To Show In Geneva.
“We believe the market under appreciates the speed of the tipping point to battery electric vehicles”
GENEVA, Switzerland – Visitors to the annual car show might wonder where all the new electric cars are hiding, but they can save their energy; there aren’t any, at least not any affordable ones.
There will be a few examples of expensive electric cars, and concept cars which drive themselves, but that’s another revolution waiting in the wings for the technology to catch up.
After the last big European car show in Paris last October, the new Opel Ampera e (European version of the Chevy Bolt) and longer range Renault Zoe were leading the new wave of battery-only new cars.
Late last year investment banker Morgan Stanley revised its estimate for electric car sales up to between 10 and 15% of the global market by 2025, what it said were more than three times the current average of expectations. The current global level is less than 2%, but sales still refuse to embrace the brave new world expected by experts.
And new examples are thin on the ground in Geneva.
But that doesn’t mean the revolution has been cancelled. Off stage, the industry is working frantically to bring user-friendly, affordable technology to the market, according to Barclays Equity Research.
“We believe the market under appreciates the speed of the tipping point to battery electric vehicles (BEV) and the companies demonstrating the most flexible approach could find they can reduce spending on ICE (internal combustion engines) and HEVs (hybrid electric vehicles) in order to combat the rise in investment for other mobility trends,” said Barclays analyst Kristina Church.
Urgent in Europe
This is becoming urgent in Europe because government regulators insist on car fuel efficiency levels impossible for traditional internal combustion engines to meet. Diesels, long the engine of choice to limit carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions in Europe, are also being fingered as a serious health hazard for particulate emissions, and face physical bans from cities like Paris and London and also run the risk of being taxed out of the market. So it has to be electric, with plug-in hybrids which use ICE technology too to bridge the gap. Fuel cells might have a role to play too.
“There is no doubt, that electrification of powertrain is a must,” said Peter Fuss, partner at consultants EY’s Global Automotive Center in Frankfurt, Germany, led by China.
“In Europe, where the overall climate situation may be different to China, the need for a change to EV´s may be not as urgent. However, when cities like Paris would no longer allow diesel cars to enter the city, EV´s may be needed for the industry in order to further reduce the CO2 of their gasoline fleets. This can be seen in the launch of many new hybrids and EVs since the Paris Motorshow. This is not just a hype,” Fuss said.
Fuel cells, forgotten for the moment by many as battery electric power is touted, could still be a factor.
“There will always be a parallel development of battery and fuel cell technology. The advantages of fuel cell technology should not be underestimated: No new loading infrastructure necessary. The waterpower stations can be build on the ground of gasoline stations. The customer does not need to change his behaviour. There is no need to load up the cars at home or at an office,” Fuss said
Market share puzzle
Professor David Bailey of the Aston Business School in Birmingham, England said he expects a lot more hybrids as battery only is developed, although it isn’t clear yet just what kind of market share battery-only cars will reach by 2030.
“I think hydrogen and fuel cells will always be in the future. Nissan (with the Leaf to the fore) has gone for full electric. Even Toyota is now saying it will develop electric cars,” Bailey said.
Toyota has led the way with hybrids but was always less than enthusiastic for battery only power, as it invested heavily in fuel cells to develop its Mirai.
The most eye-catching autonomous concept car is from Rinspeed, which can always be relied on to provide some light relief at serious car shows with ingenious and fanciful new ideas. The Rinspeed Oasis, an “ingenious self-driving vehicle for the city and surrounding areas” has a small garden plot behind the windshield to underline its green credentials.
“(the Oasis) is reminiscent of the Star Wars icon R2-D2, can rotate 360°, offers a modern living room space and personal assistant for passengers, social media connectivity, retractable steering wheel, office workstation, and much more.”
If the electric car batteries behave like smartphone batteries there is no the vast majority of drivers will ever buy such cars.
Amazon has switched thousands of forklifts to fuel cells because they are superior to batteries even while Amazon had a system of quick switching of batteries to minimize down time.
The only thing holding back fuel cell cars is the lack of refueling stations; the same problem gasoline powered cars encountered at the beginning.