It is, as we've pointed out on many occasions, exceedingly difficult to predict exactly where the market for electric cars will go.

Most are confident it will continue to grow, though the pace at which it does so is likely to be slow--a stark reality confirmed by virtually every electric car-selling carmaker missing their targets in 2012.

Pike Research (via Charged EVs) has had a stab at what we can expect from the Industry in 2013, with ten predictions on everything from electric bicycles to how people will be charging throughout the year.

The ten trends Pike suggests we'll see in 2013 are as follows:

  1. Heavier investment in battery components
  2. 10 percent growth in the e-bike market
  3. 48-volt batteries start appearing in some cars
  4. More than 3,400 fuel-cell vehicles will hit the streets
  5. Battery swapping declines, battery financing grows
  6. Germany will lead Europe's plug-in growth
  7. Regular internal combustion vehicles will catch up hybrids with stop/start and coasting
  8. Most drivers will still use slower charging - not fast charging
  9. Europe will lead the way in public charging
  10. Natural gas will stall plug-in truck growth

Few of Pike's predictions are too contentious and few are particularly unlikely, but it's interesting to see what trends may emerge as the year progresses.

ICEs improve

A few trends stand out. It doesn't, for instance, look too unlikely that some regular internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles may approach hybrid levels of economy, at least with regard to some markets.

While no regular ICE vehicle currently gets close to models like the Toyota Prius in the U.S, it's a different story in Europe. On claimed economy at least, some of the latest breed of smaller-capacity, often turbocharged combustion engines can achieve headline-grabbing figures in official tests. We're still wary of such claims though, and think that downsizing alone may not be the answer.

With coasting and stop-start tech however--both standard on most hybrids right now--economy could still improve in real-world driving. Pike's prediction of 48-volt car batteries is the means to this end--with ever-increasing use of electrical power in virtually all cars, regular car batteries will have to beef up to meet demand.

Battery swapping declines...

It's bad news for Better Place, too. If battery-swapping declines (the signs are already there) then its whole business model falls apart. There's one potential savior--the taxi market--but the infrastructure alone could prove prohibitively costly.

Instead, battery rental schemes may catch on. Renault (also a partner of Better Place) currently runs such a program in Europe, charging a fee to rent its electric vehicle batteries, providing a full back-up package and alleviating buyer concerns over battery life.

That depends on whether the buyers want it, though. When we've previously talked battery rental on GreenCarReports, reader opinion has been mixed. Some appreciate the backup, others choke at the cost. Time will tell...

Tesla Supercharger fast-charging system for electric cars

Tesla Supercharger fast-charging system for electric cars

Fast charging

Tesla's Supercharger fast-charging network is already going down well with owners, and fast-charging is undoubtedly a good way to cover large distances little differently than you would in a regular vehicle.

However, Pike predicts that most owners will still use slow, basic, "Level 1" charging. In other words, plugging their cars into a regular outlet and letting it charge overnight. It isn't fast, but it's convenient and provided you sleep for long enough, should still result in a full battery by the morning.

Will it be most popular though? We'd be hard-pressed to say so, expecting many owners to budget a little extra to charge a little faster, at 240V. This is where our readers come in, though--how will you be charging in 2013?

E-bikes, gas trucks

The biggest and smallest vehicles may see change in 2013. The e-bike market is expected to grow by 10 percent worldwide in 2013, to more than 33.6 million units. That isn't much of a surprise, but whether the U.S. market will match that growth is a different matter. If they're all as expensive as Smart's talented eBike, it's unlikely--but if the price comes down, then it may catch on.

And will compressed natural gas (CNG) be the next big thing in the truck market? Well GM has already started selling bi-fuel CNG versions of its full-size trucks, each of which costs around $10,000 more than the regular model. But plug-in vehicles, like the Bob Lutz-backed Via Motors range, are even more expensive.

The benefits are there with each, proportional to the cost. Both markets could grow, but cheaper CNG trucks may prove more popular in the short term.

What do you think of Pike's predictions for 2013? Leave us your thoughts in the comments section below.


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