Navigant Research Blog

Purchase Incentives More Cost-Effective for E-Bikes Than EVs

— March 24, 2017

Electric bicycles (e-bikes) continue to be the highest selling EV on the planet, with nearly 35 million unit sales forecast for 2017. Increasing urbanization and a desire from consumers and city officials to move away from cars for motorized transportation are opening opportunities for alternative mobility devices. E-bikes are uniquely positioned to be a primary benefactor of this trend since they are low in cost relative to cars, do not require licensing, have no emissions, and can take advantage of existing bicycling infrastructure. The European Cyclists’ Federation (ECF) published a report that shows e-bikes are a particularly cost-effective way to decarbonize the transport system through incentives. However, e-bikes have received little in the way of purchase incentives within most countries’ electric mobility strategies.

Germany has spent an enormous sum of money on electric cars, with unimpressive results. The country spent €1.4 billion ($1.5 billion) through 2014 on R&D and added an additional nearly €1 billion ($1.07 billion) subsidy scheme in 2016. Yet, there are just 25,500 pure EVs on the road in Germany. Meanwhile, e-bike sales exploded in the country during the same period with virtually no subsidies, aside from a few small pilot projects. Over 2.5 million e-bikes are in use in Germany, and Navigant Research expects nearly 650,000 unit sales for 2017. One wonders how much higher this figure could be if e-bikes had the same public financial support as EVs in Germany.

Differences in E-Bike and EV Policy, Germany: 2016

(Source: European Cyclists’ Federation)

New E-Bike Purchase Incentives in Europe

Several new e-bike purchase incentives have popped up across Europe, providing a boost to the industry and demonstrating new confidence in e-bikes as a cost-effective way to reduce traffic congestion and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. France announced a $200 subsidy for e-bike purchases in February 2017, and earlier in the year, Oslo, Norway began a $1,200 incentive program for electric cargo (e-cargo) bikes. Austria has offered an e-bike incentive program for numerous years. The ECF estimates roughly 25% of early e-bike purchases in the country’s crucial market uptake phase, around 2010-2011, were supported by financial incentives. Austria has one of the highest sales rates of e-bikes per capita in Europe, third behind the Netherlands and Belgium.

The increasing number of e-bike incentives in Europe demonstrates the growing recognition by European policymakers that e-bikes can be a more cost-effective technology to incentivize over EVs within an electric mobility strategy. On average, e-bikes cost less than 8% of the price of an electric car, according to the ECF. This, coupled with the lack of licensing requirements, make adoption much easier for consumers.

Studies Show

As noted in a previous blog, a consumer survey conducted by the Oregon Transportation Research and Education Consortium (OTREC) showed that the primary reason respondents bought e-bikes was to replace car trips—not bicycle trips. E-bikes offer enormous potential to replace cars. One study by the German Federal Environmental Agency shows that e-bikes are faster than cars for distances of up to 10 km (6.2 miles) in an urban environment. The trends in Europe in conjunction with conclusions from these studies suggest that more countries should incentivize and promote e-bikes if the goal is to reduce GHG emissions and traffic congestion in a cost-effective way.

 

Smart Parking Market: Higher Quantity of Projects, but Smaller Project Sizes

— March 15, 2017

The smart parking industry continues to grow as an increasing number of cities struggle with traffic congestion and inadequate parking availability. However, there has been a notable shift in the market over the past few years. The early stages of smart parking projects were marked by several citywide, high profile deployments—such as those in Moscow (over 11,000 sensors deployed), San Francisco (over 11,000 sensors deployed), and Los Angeles (over 8,000 sensors deployed). Although these projects have demonstrated success in reducing congestion and parking search times, obtaining the necessary funding for similarly sized projects has proved challenging in some jurisdictions without government subsidies. The result has been a move toward a higher quantity of projects being developed (particularly in smaller cities), while the average project size has decreased.

A Prime Example

Cardiff, the capital and largest city in Wales (about 350,000 inhabitants), is one of the latest examples of a smaller city deploying a modest-sized smart parking project. Working with Australia-based Smart Parking Ltd., Cardiff is deploying around 3,000 sensors (in on-street and off-street locations) for its smart parking solution, which is building off a successful pilot program in 2015 that covered 275 parking bays across the city. The solution includes variable message signage directing drivers to open parking spots throughout Cardiff and a smartphone app that provides real-time parking availability and guidance. Additionally, Smart Parking’s software program, SmartRep, collects data from the sensors to analyze how parking spaces are being used. This provides the Cardiff City Council with tools to develop improved day-to-day parking management and future parking policy and planning.

New Developments Spurring Growth

While a higher number of smaller projects has characterized the smart parking market over the last few years, new product and technology developments offer the potential to accelerate adoption in the industry. The trend toward more hybrid and integrated business models is increasing, with a focus on reducing expensive hardware and instead utilizing more software and data applications. Increasingly, smart parking systems are also expected to be integrated with broader smart city deployments such as smart street lighting and automated vehicle infrastructure. Additionally, improving sensor technology is resulting in sensors with extended battery life and increased accuracy. These trends point toward a growing market in the coming years, with the potential for an eventual resurgence in larger smart parking projects. Time will tell if the resurgence in larger citywide deployments will develop incrementally (through separate projects in multiple city neighborhoods) or through a return to large single deployments. Currently, Navigant Research assesses the former scenario (incremental approach) to be more likely in the near term as cities target specific areas with particularly bad congestion.

For more information on the smart parking industry, check out Navigant Research’s report, Smart Parking Systems.

 

The Unsettled Future of the Electric Powertrain

— March 13, 2017

I recently attended the conference on automotive 48V systems in Berlin organized by BIS Group. My key conclusion is that the electric powertrain is far from a settled science. Many that presented are enthusiastic about 48V technology and its potential for the future. German startup company Volabo even presented the case for a 48V all-electric vehicle. Others see 48V as an interim measure primarily to help OEMs pass the 2020 European Union emissions targets in the short term, with a future going more toward all-electric and full hybrid. Even though production plans have only been made in the last couple of years, powertrain development company AVL told me that testing of 48V systems has been going on for at least 10 years.

Unsurprisingly, Denso has a less enthusiastic opinion of 48V technology than some of the other delegates. The Japanese market has firmly embraced full hybrid drive thanks to Toyota and Honda; the majority of the vehicles on Japanese roads are small cars and trucks with efficient gasoline engines.

A good portion of the engineer audience thinks that an all-electric vehicle future is coming sooner rather than later. However, others are more in line with Navigant Research’s global vehicle forecast that the internal combustion engine still has a long future.

Low Voltage EVs

Volabo is a startup company spun out of a Munich university. Its proposal is a new type of electric motor that uses no copper winding and uses power electronics to control the magnetic fields. High power is made possible by locating the battery close to the motor, connected by thick bars rather than wires to handle the high currents of up to 5,000 amps. Prototype manufacturing for this motor is at the early stage, and there is a lot of interest from other delegates.

Indian OEM Tata’s European Tech Center has examined the market for 48V systems in India and concludes that the market will only be in the C-segment and luxury due to the cost increment. The bulk of the Indian market is very low cost small cars. Typical Indian drivers do not like stop-start systems (and deactivate them if fitted) because fractions of a second delays matter in navigating typical traffic jams. Plug-in EVs are also not likely to be popular in India in the short term because of the unreliability of the local electric grid.

Higher Power Demand

Magna International agrees with one of the key conclusions from my presentation: automated driving systems will support the move toward 48V systems, with demand of up to an additional 10 kW for computing and electric controls that is simply impractical from 12V networks. McLaren Applied Technologies presented some of its development work for racing that is finding its way into volume production. Silicon carbide semiconductors, for example, are prompting performance improvements, and now development work is moving into gallium nitride.

48V Projections

48V automotive systems appear to be an immediate solution to meet upcoming stricter emissions legislation and to provide additional power for automated driving systems. In the short term, these systems will be important in large markets such as Europe, North America, and China, and less so in Japan and India. The longer-term future is somewhat dependent on the growth of high voltage hybrid and all-electric drive, which in turn rely on continued reduction in battery cost. More analysis of the market for 48V systems is available in the Navigant Research report, Low Voltage Vehicle Electrification.

 

V2V Communications Finally Arrives in America with Updated Cadillac CTS

— March 10, 2017

More than 2.5 years after General Motors (GM) CEO Mary Barra announced plans to launch vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) communications in the US market, the first of a new generation of connected cars is now on its way to dealers. GM has begun production of the updated 2017 Cadillac CTS sedan, the first of what is likely to be several models equipped with the technology within the next year.

At the time of Barra’s 2014 announcement, it was expected by most people in the industry that a mandate for V2V on new vehicles would be in place by now. That process was held up by efforts by the wireless industry to grab some of the 5.9 GHz spectrum that the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) had allocated for dedicated short-range communications. The final notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) was not published by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) until December 2016. Under the new administration in Washington, it’s not clear if the NPRM will get final approval.

Pressing Ahead

Nonetheless, GM has been a strong proponent of V2V and vehicle-to-external (V2X) communications for more than a decade, having conducted its first public demonstrations in 2007. Despite the fact that the CTS accounted for only 0.5% of GM’s more than 3 million US sales in 2016, the company is pressing ahead with the introduction, clearly hoping to start demonstrating the efficacy of the technology in real-world conditions.

There is also a strong likelihood that this is only the first of a number of GM vehicles that will add V2V in the near future. The launch of the Delphi-supplied V2V system coincides with the introduction of an all-new next-generation CUE infotainment system. The new version of CUE includes support for over-the-air software updates that can add new functionality. Initially, the CTS will provide drivers alerts when cars down the road have hazard lights on, activate stability control, or have a hard brake application.

“At launch, we are offering these three features. That doesn’t rule out additional alerts in the future, as we are always looking for ways to add additional safety features to our cars,” said GM spokesperson Chris Bonelli. “Coupled with the next-generation Cadillac user experience also launching on the 2017 interim model year CTS, we are able to provide over the air updates as needed for new features and safety.”

Cadillac has already announced that the ATS and XTS will get the new version of CUE when they begin 2018 model production later this year. These vehicles will likely get V2V as part of that package, with other models to follow in 2018 as they get the electronics updates.

Another factor that may be driving GM to push the technology forward even in the absence of a regulatory mandate is automated driving. It is moving forward aggressively with the development of an automated version of the Chevrolet Bolt EV for use with the Lyft ride-hailing service. GM is projected to begin pilot deployments of automated Bolts with Lyft as soon as 2018. V2V is expected to be an important component of automated driving, significantly expanding the situational awareness of the vehicle beyond the line of sight that is possible with sensors alone.

Growing Market

Navigant Research’s Connected Vehicles report projects that more than 70 million vehicles will be sold globally with V2V technology by 2025. Toyota launched V2V on several Japanese models in late 2015 while Honda has also been very active in the development and testing of V2X communications. Neither company has made product announcements for North America, but these two OEMs are likely to follow GM in the next year.

 

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