What do penguins have in common with electric cars? According to Dr Peter Harrop, Chairman, IDTechEx, neither are accurate indicators of the overall success of their kin.
In a new blog post, the market research firm’s boss says that just as you don’t look just at penguins to judge how the world’s birds are prospering, neither should you look at on-road electric cars to assess how electric vehicles are progressing.
With the current crop of electric cars available on the road, neither small enough to be affordable to the mass market, nor large enough to be bought by government and company fleets, they are in an awkward middle ground.
But looking at the wider picture, we can see that electric vehicles are progressing well, with many small small commercial aircraft, indoor forklifts, mobility vehicles for the disabled, e-bikes and scooters, surface boats and Autonomous Underwater Vehicles UAVs now available powered by lithium-ion batteries.
For hybrid electric vehicles, things are progressing well across a number of sectors including agriculture and outdoor material handling -from forklifts to earthmoving - and even ocean sailing now newly commercialised. Buses and trucks are now also realising the benefits of hybrid technology including reduced running costs, noise and maintenance.
Innovation is rapid beyond cars, with the MAN urban buses and trash collecting trucks using supercapacitor banks instead of lithium-ion batteries and sometimes all-electric mode when silence is needed.
The Guinness Book of Records has two new entries relating to EVs - the recent flight of the world's first pure electric helicopter and the first pure electric multicopter-both showing what all-electric power can do.
But what of cars? IDTechEx says that electric cars are still struggling to capture a market, with sales little more than one quarter of those of pure electric golf cars and less than one tenth of those for pure electric forklifts. However new, premium cars such as the Tesla Model S are more likely to succeed than versions competing with affordable family cars, the firm suggests.
However improvements are coming that should improve market available electric vehicles, including improvements to wiring and battery technology.
As an example, the Ford Fusion (sold as the Mondeo in the UK), now available as a conventional, hybrid and pure electric vehicle, uses for the first time printed and laminar electronic technology to save up to 40 per cent in cost, volume and weight. This technology could help electric cars garner significant gains in range and cost.