Nissan Leaf (Image: Nissan Electric Vehicle on Facebook)Enlarge Photo
With wider choice and better cars, electric car ownership seems to get more appealing by the month.
But as yet, predicting the future of the electric car industry has still been largely guesswork--nobody quite knows how much batteries will come down in price, how many electric cars automakers will sell, how low the price needs to be for adoption to snowball.
Swiss power and automation technologies company ABB has made its own predictions though--and suggests we've already reached the "tipping point" for electric cars becoming a viable method of transportation, and a point past which the industry will inexorably gain momentum.
ABB bases that on the ever-declining cost of batteries, which it states is dropping by 20-30 percent per year.
The increasing affordability of batteries is one of the main drivers of cost-effective electric vehicles, and once EVs become cost effective--and price eventually reaches parity with internal combustion vehicles--that's when sales should really take off.
ABB quotes a comment by Volkswagen that predicts electric vehicles would be cheaper to make than internal combustion ones in just three years. This, presumably, is based on the premise that batteries and batteries alone are the component preventing electric cars from costing very little to make.
We're also starting to see set standards for charging infrastructure arriving--such as the combined charging system and CHAdeMO standard--which is less off-putting for consumers.
And as electric car sales grow, so too do places to charge them.
For companies like Tesla Motors, whose own Model S is doing much to change perceptions of electric vehicles, a long electric range and Tesla's network of Supercharger quick charging stations is also illustrative of the sort of change the industry has seen in a very short space of time.
Finally, decisions by countries like China to cut pollution in megacities after years of choking smog could provide a further push for electric vehicles of all types--from bicycles to commercial trucks. This increased demand also pushes down the cost of batteries, which benefits the industry as a whole.
Ultimately, ABB's predictions are just that--predictions.
But when you see where we were with electric vehicles just three or four years ago, and see where we've got today, it isn't hard to imagine the pace of change being equally impressive over the coming years--maybe we really have hit the tipping point for electric cars.