Forecast: Hybrid Sales to Reach 1 Million Annually in US By 2022

Considering hybrid sales in the USA reached a third of a million in 2012 and likely will be over half a million in 2013, Navigant's numbers seem overly conservative.

Published: 03-Jan-2014

Market research firm Navigant is forecasting that the growth of electric-drive vehicles, which include conventional hybrids, electric hybrids and battery models, will continue to see steady growth globally, but especially in the United States and Japan. They see sales of hybrids or HEVs hitting 1 million in Japan and 1.1 million in the USA by 2022.

In terms of sales of pure electric cars and plug-in electric hybrids that includes cars like the Chevrolet Volt and Ford Fusion Energi, the United States will remain the largest market with some 467,000 sales in 2022. This growth "will stem from increasing vehicle availability, decreasing HEV and PHEV prices, rising fuel prices, and an improving global LD vehicle market," Navigant argues.

Considering sales of both classes of plug-in vehicles (PEV) increased some 300% between 2012 and 2013, Navigant's numbers seem overly conservative. In fact, they seem to be more retrogressive than progressive. Global hybrid sales in 2012 totaled 1.35 million. In the United States, consumers and fleets bought more than 400,000 hybrids that year. We should know soon what 2013 sales are, but it's likely they will be more half a million, with double digit growth rates. Assuming technology costs continue to drop, narrowing the "hybrid premium" and energy prices continue to rise, those two trends, along with tightening government fuel economy and emissions standards, should continue to propel hybrid sales, certainly well beyond a million a year in the USA before 2020.

Electric car sales - both pure electric and electric hybrid - saw explosive growth in 2013 but projecting where sales will go here is more difficult. Navigant is forecasting total PEV sales at just under 500,000 units by 2022. Government incentives are important drivers, but fiscal austerity politics cloud their future. Further, the number of models available and markets are limited. Only the Tesla Model S, Nissan LEAF and Ford Focus EV are available nationally, the latter not a particularly strong seller. The introduction the BMW's i3 in North America later this Spring will offer an additional choice for EV buyers, but its $40K+ price tag will still limit its appeal to upper middle income buyers.

The real growth area for e-drive technology will be in what Navigant calls the Stop-Start Vehicle (SSV) market for micro-hybrids. These are conventional ICE-age cars and trucks with technology that automatically shuts down the engine when its not needed, and instantly restarts it with the press of the accelerator pedal, a feature found on all modern hybrids, but which entails minimal added expense. Two SSV models (Lincoln MKZ and Buick LaCrosse) are priced the same as their non-micro hybrid siblings. Navigant is forecasting that market will exceed 55 million units by 2022. While SSV's are fossil-fuel burners and dependent on petroleum, they are from 10-15% more efficient.

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