With the exception of Brexit, hanging over the market like a malevolent storm-cloud, the biggest issue facing the UK car industry in 2019 has been electrification.
The issue of climate change has shot up the political agenda, and the question of electric vehicles has shifted from “if?” to “when?”.
Looking at the market data, it would seem that the flood of EVs is still some way off, but we are now seeing the first cracks in the dam. Market share of battery electric vehicles (BEVs) increased by 125% YTD (see table, right), although a cynic might say that 125% of nothing is still not very much. Hybrid sales are also increasing steadily, but plug-in hybrid sales have temporarily faltered since the Government decided too many of them were being bought as a tax-dodge, and were not actually being plugged in.
The first issue to address with hybrids is to establish what sort of hybrids we are talking about. There are broadly five types: micro, mild, full, plug-in and range-extender. Over the next 10 years, all petrol and diesel engines will move to some form of electrification – micro at the very least, but most will have mild hybridisation at a minimum. From 2021, virtually all new petrol and diesel premium models will be mild hybrids, and the technology will steadily move down to the rest of the market.
Most independent forecasters (e.g. Ricardo Consulting) expect that, by 2025, of the three main types of electric drive, battery electric vehicles (e.g. Nissan Leaf) will account for about 60% of the total, plug-in hybrids about 30% and full hybrids only about 10%. That would seem logical – as the cost of batteries falls, one would expect cars to use larger batteries. It seems unlikely manufacturers will go to all the cost of engineering a hybrid drive system in 2025 and then use a small, non-plug-in battery to power it, when larger batteries cost very little more.
Read more: AM Online