Europe and China will become the biggest markets for battery-powered, all-electric cars in the next 10 years, while the United States will remain the leading market for gas-electric hybrids, according to a new forecast.
The divergence reflects the difference in national and regional emission policies, fuel taxes and prices, and driving patterns. “Electric vehicles make more sense in crowded cities, which is why we expect to see more electric vehicles in China and Europe,” said Mike Omotoso, senior manager of global powertrain forecasting at J.D. Power and Associates.
J.D. Power predicts annual sales of hybrid and electric cars will grow to 5.2 million vehicles worldwide by 2020 –3.9 million hybrids, and 1.3 million pure electric cars — from just under 1 million this year. The United States will be the leading market for hybrids, with annual sales of 1.7 million, followed by Europe and Japan, with slightly fewer than 1 million each.
Sales of plug-in hybrids and extended range electric cars like the Chevrolet Volt now entering the market are expected to total 438,000 vehicles by 2020, including 162,000 in the United States.
In China, now the world’s biggest auto market, hybrid sales are expected to reach just 100,000 vehicles by 2020. By contrast, electric car sales in China are forecast to rise to 332,000 vehicles. “They want to leapfrog hybrids and go directly to battery-electric vehicles if they can,” said Tim Dunne, director of Asia Pacific market intelligence for J.D. Power.
In Europe, electric car sales are expected to rise to 742,000 vehicles by 2020, with France, followed by Britain, forecast to be the region’s largest electric-car markets. But in the United States and Japan, sales of electric cars like the new Nissan Leaf will amount to just 100,000 vehicles a year.
Why the American preference for hybrids? Gas is cheaper in the United States than it is in other regions, says Omotoso, and hybrids are well established in the United States.
The big loser in the passenger car markets appears to be fuel-efficient diesel technology, expected to wane even in Europe where it has been very popular because of ever more stringent emissions regulations.