If you read the worldwide press you might be forgiven for believing that the electric car market has stalled yet again and, in the view of some people, is actually now in reverse. This comes despite the fact that governments and companies around the world have invested billions upon billions of dollars into the industry and indeed consumers are now warming to the idea of electric vehicles. So, what is actually going on with the industry?
Electric car sales
Even though electric vehicles have been around for some time now, it is only over the last decade that we have seen any real interest from consumers. Sales during 2012 were encouraging if not startling but when you take into account the fact that the worldwide economy is under pressure, the US economy is teetering on the edge of a double dip recession and Europe is sinking in a sea of debt, this is not exactly the perfect environment to bring out a new product?
UK electric car sales are expected to double during 2013 (compared to 2012) although this is from a relatively low base. The situation in the US is slightly better with the government and local authorities taking a much more proactive approach to the industry. Indeed this week we saw the likes of Nissan step out from the shadows to suggest it would triple the number of charging point in the US to around 500 in the short to medium term.
The electric car technology that we see today is very different to that of a decade ago when the industry was very much in its infancy. However, in many ways it is the stigma of older electric vehicles which continues to hang over the industry and this has had an impact upon sales.
Last year was a very interesting if not volatile year for the industry with encouraging sales in the first half although a number of high-profile recalls from the likes of Mitsubishi, etc did the sector no favours in the later part of 2012. In many ways 2012 was one step forwards and two steps backwards with regards to the reputation and the stigma attached to the industry, but if you take a step back and look at the situation from a distance, progress was made.
One of the major problems in the eyes of consumers, and indeed in the eyes of car manufacturers, is the lack of charging points around the world. This is not a very expensive problem to solve but it will require the assistance and help of a range of different authorities, businesses and governments across the globe.
As we touched on above, Nissan has already stepped into the breach to confirm it will dramatically increase the number of charging points in the US and it is hoped that the likes of Ford, General Motors and the rest of the worldwide motoring fraternity will follow suit. In many ways charging points are the lifeblood of the industry going forward because you can have the best electric vehicle in the world but if it is not able to accommodate long journeys then its usefulness, its attractions to the wider public and its value for money will be diminished.
Advances in technology
Initially the vast majority of funds poured into the electric vehicle market went directly to car manufacturers so that they could improve the technology associated with the vehicles. This made perfect sense from a business point of view although in some ways the charging industry was left to fend for itself, starved of investment capital and ultimately has failed to grow as quickly as many had hoped.
Recently we have seen great advances in electric car technology and charging point technology both of which have come on leaps and bounds. There is now significant investment funding available for both areas of the industry and ultimately they will both help to improve the reputation of electric vehicles and also their attractiveness to the wider public. The electric cars which you see today bear little or no resemblance to those of 10 years ago, they are streamlined, they are highly efficient and many of them incorporate the latest technology. The situation with regards to battery charging points is very similar because charging times have fallen dramatically from anything up to 24 hours just a few years ago to around a couple of hours for the fast charging stations.
As long as the electric vehicle manufacturers and the charging station providers continue to adapt and improve the latest technology it should not be too long before we have a convenient network of charging points around the world. Once the issue of charging points falls into the background it is almost inevitable that motorists will then look more favourably towards electric vehicles where there are significant savings to be achieved.
Saving money with your electric vehicle
There is no hiding the fact that electric vehicles are more expensive than their traditional fuel counterparts at this moment in time, even when taking into account an array of financial incentives from governments around the world. However, many experts believe that there are significant savings to be made from year three onwards due to a large reduction in fuel bills, improved efficiency as well as the fact that maintenance costs associated with electric vehicles are on the whole substantially lower than those associated with traditional fuel vehicles.
The second-hand car market in electric vehicles is also in its infancy and at this moment in time perhaps does not offer enough value for those looking to sell second-hand electric cars. However, this will improve with time as supply and demand begin to level out and new technologies come into play.
Time and time again people have called the end of the electric car boom, they have criticised governments and car manufacturers for wasting billions upon billions of dollars and sometimes the general press tends to focus on negative aspect as opposed to positive progress. The reality is that many car manufacturers have gone past the point of no return with regards to their investment, governments around the world have committed themselves to more environmentally friendly travel and ultimately consumers are now starting to warm to the idea of electric vehicles.
We are nowhere near mass-market for electric vehicles at this moment in time but the next decade could prove very lucrative for car manufacturers, very good for the environment and offer some interesting options for motorists around the world. The electric car market is far from dead!
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