The electric vehicle business: new developments

Dr Peter Harrop
The electric vehicle business: new developments
Electric vehicles (EVs) are a large, growing market with new sectors being added all the time such as the pure electric, multi-rotor volocopter that spawned a new regulatory category in German aviation this year. IDTechEx find that pure electric car sales in 2013 will be 70,000 vehicles rising to 2 million in 2023, versus 2 million hybrid vehicles this year rising to 7.6 million in 2023. Of course, the big unit numbers come at the small end - most of the unit volume in 2013 will be for two wheeled vehicles - 32 million vehicles in 2013 rising to 94 million in 2023. The new report from IDTechEx "Hybrid & Pure Electric Vehicles for Land, Water & Air 2013-2023: Forecasts, Technologies, Players" ( finds that the total market for hybrid and pure electric vehicles will grow from 38.8 million vehicles (of all types) in 2013 to 116 million vehicles in 2023 - a $294 billion market.

Cars are not as important as they seem

Although cars are the largest value sector, much more will be spent on other types of electric vehicle, taken together, over the coming decade. Indeed, cars will represent well under 10% of the profit made in EV manufacture in the next ten years and only 8% of the number of EVs made in 2023.

One business

Electric vehicles are one business whether on- or off-road, on- or underwater, or in the air from airships to robot insects. Include manned and unmanned versions. This can be proved with the usual economic tests. For example, component and materials suppliers serve all these sectors and the market-leading vehicle makers all serve more than one applicational sector and many are expanding into yet more sectors.

Reasons for purchase of EVs

There are a huge number of reasons why EVs are bought but up-front price always has an influence with medium to small versions in particular. For larger versions, cost-over-life usually has more impact. Indeed, large or heavy duty electric vehicles are even bought when up-front price is up to double than of a conventional vehicle, because they offer previously impossible missions, less pollution and/or they have lower cost over life fed by greater reliability and sometimes longer life.

Now EVs outperform

A relatively new development is outperformance by EVs following Tesla and others matching or exceeding the acceleration of some designer cars with internal combustion engines ICE. The world land speed record, for any vehicle, will be tackled by an electric vehicle soon. At the other extreme, Micro EVs/quadricycles, are already lower in up-front cost than internal combustion alternatives. These car-like on-road vehicles are not homologated as cars and are therefore much lower in cost being simpler. They are now very attractive as a transition product from an e-bike to a full blown car in China, The Philippines (where 100,000 have been ordered as taxi e-trikes this year), India and elsewhere. Similar and smaller EVs are also lower in up-front cost than ICE versions, electric golf cars and e-bikes being prominent examples. This virtually wipes out the ICE version, something IDTechEx expects to commence with the smallest cars, homologated as such, near the end of the decade.

Consumer vs other

It is important to distinguish between consumer products such as e-bikes, cars, and many off-road land vehicles, aircraft and boats as opposed to commercial/industrial/military and other non-consumer products. Consumer EV markets can be instantly energized by Apple-like innovation, something only seen in niches so far, such as the FlyNano flying jet ski. Expect such inspiration to be applied to today's lackluster pure electric cars within the decade. Tesla is beginning to show the way.

Where the new EV technologies begin

All electric vehicle technologies are subject to rapid, disruptive change. There is nothing incremental about the following changes, for example. The new options are rarely drop-in replacements. Tracking these seismic changes can only be achieved by monitoring the whole EV industry land, water and air but even then, the cost points and attractiveness achieved is uncertain, not just the government support. Electric car sales are particularly unpredictable for these reasons.

Innovation at the heavy, price-insensitive end

Most of the new electric vehicle technologies have been used first in large and/or heavy duty vehicles because they have first been viable at the heavy end. Additionally, the benefits they provide are often more appreciated by those buying operating large and/or heavy duty vehicles. Accordingly, to benchmark what may be adopted in smaller vehicles from cars down to hand-launched surveillance aircraft, it is prudent first to look at what is happening at the heavy end.

The big unit numbers

Of course, the big unit numbers come at the small end. Over 30 million e-bikes are sold yearly, nearly all in China, and with that territory showing reduced growth as many cities restrict or ban them because they cause congestion and accidents. Another big number beyond the toys is mobile robots. Cumulative world sales for robot vacuum cleaners by market leader Roomba to 2012 start were 6 million.
Although analysts like to do smooth extrapolations, the world is rarely that simple. For example, it is entirely possible that, if pure electric cars achieve range and price acceptable to most prospective purchasers by the end of the decade due to the host of improvements being pursued now, there could be a dent in the sales of hybrid cars by 2023, as shown below.
Figure 1. Possible scenario of global sales for some volume sectors, where robust growth of pure electric cars and car-like vehicles cause a drop in the sales of hybrid cars near the end of the coming decade
Source IDTechEx report "Hybrid and Electric Vehicles for Land, Water and Air 2013-2023: Forecasts, Technologies, Players"
The latest IDTechEx forecasts show a more even split of sales of EVs into the different applicational sectors than is seen today.

New research report from IDTechEx

The new IDTechEx report "Hybrid & Pure Electric Vehicles for Land, Water & Air 2013-2023: Forecasts, Technologies, Players" ( provides detailed analysis of all these aspects, including ten year forecasts for twelve different vehicle types by number, unit price and value.
If you are looking to understand the big picture, the opportunity, the problems you can address, this report is a must. Researched by multilingual IDTechEx consultants based in four countries and three continents, this report builds on ten years of knowledge of the industry. For more information see

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