Navigant Research Blog

Report Card: Smart Transportation Predictions for 2013

John Gartner — February 11, 2014

While analysts spend most of their time making predictions and pondering the future of markets, it is also useful (and humbling) to look back at how our thinking has evolved over time.  As we have done for the last few years, below is a scorecard rating the accuracy of the Smart Transportation team’s annual predictions from 2013.

Capital Veers from Vehicles to Battery Components: C

While battery pack companies didn’t see an influx of capital investment in 2013, neither did component manufacturers.  However, considerable research and development (R&D) work is being done to improve the efficiency of lithium batteries, notably at startup Amprius, which in January 2014 received $30 million in venture capital.

Systems Integration Puts Electric Bikes on the Map: D

The e-bike market did not mature as quickly as anticipated in North America due to a continued lack of clear sales channels (and New York City’s ban on e-bikes didn’t help).  When we updated our forecast for e-bikes mid-year, we substantially lowered the forecast to 60,000 units for 2013.

48 Volt Batteries Put a Charge into Stop-Start Systems: A

During 2013, automotive battery supplier Johnson Controls announced a new 48 volt (48V) product, while Chinese original equipment manufacturer (OEM) BYD announced its first car using its own 48V battery.  Tier One suppliers Bosch, Continental, Delphi, and Schaeffler all made significant 48V component announcements during the year, which indicates a robust supply chain is developing.  The strong momentum for 48V throughout the year is detailed in Navigant Research’s recently published report, 48 Volt Systems for Stop-Start Vehicles and Micro Hybrids.

More Than 3,400 Fuel Cell Vehicles Hit the Road: D

The fuel cell industry continues to proceed slowly.  While Honda, Hyundai, and Toyota continue to promise commercial vehicles by 2015, the number of test vehicles on the road in 2013 was closer to 500.  The 3,400 number is more likely to happen in 2016.

Battery Swapping Gives Way to Battery Financing: B-

To the surprise of very few electric vehicle (EV) industry insiders, Better Place and its battery-swapping dream came to an inglorious end in 2013.  Surprising to the same group, however, was Tesla Motors’ summer announcement that it would offer battery swapping.  Battery swapping as a trend has likely seen its moment pass.  However, leasing batteries separate from the vehicle did expand in 2013, as the smart EV in the United States and the Nissan LEAF in Europe can now be purchased without batteries.

Germany Leads Europe’s PEV Growth: D

The BMW i3 and Volkswagen’s E-UP and E-Golf all debuted in 2013, expanding sales of EVs throughout Europe.  But the Nissan LEAF, Renault ZOE, and Tesla Motors’ Model S had a greater impact on sales than the combined German OEMs.  Audi and Mercedes were expected to begin selling EVs in Europe, but consumers are still waiting.

Coasting Technology Pushes Internal Combustion Engine Vehicles Closer to Hybrids: C-

Coasting technology slowly lurched toward commercialization in 2013, as Tier One supplier Bosch announced that the technology would be available for vehicles with 48V systems.  Stop-start vehicles with coasting technology are more likely to show up in model 2015 cars or later, according to the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE).

Slow versus Fast Charging Debate Intensifies: A

The views on the appropriateness of slow (Level 1 and Level 2) versus fast (CHAdeMO or SAE Combo) in satisfying EV charging needs continued to be polarized throughout 2013.  Some companies (Nissan, Tesla, and several hardware suppliers) are committed to fast charging as vital to EV driving, while other companies that operate charging networks have limited interest.

Europe Enables Driving without Borders: B

Interoperability across EV charging in Europe continued to progress, thanks to charging networks plugging into the Hubject platform, which allows drivers to plug into charging stations from a variety of manufacturers.  During 2013, charging networks in Finland, Norway, Copenhagen, Amsterdam, Austria, and Belgium enabled their stations to accept payments using the eRoaming system.

The Natural Gas Glut Will Dampen Interest in Plug-In Electric Trucks: A-

The growing availability of natural gas in the United States has discouraged many truck manufacturers from producing plug-in vehicles in all segments (light, medium, and heavy duty).  Via Motors was among the companies to enter the market while natural gas truck sales are rising.  Navigant Research’s 2013 report, Hybrid and Electric Trucks, reduced our previous forecast for medium and heavy duty trucks for the United States from more than 2,000 to less than 300 due to the increased competition from natural gas.

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