As of yet, perfectly omniscient crystal balls foretelling the future for light-duty plug-in hybrid and electric vehicles are unavailable, but $2,800 will buy you a single licensed copy of a report explaining why their worldwide cumulative sales will reach 5.2 million units annually by 2017.

The sales will represent a leap from just under 114,000 of these types of vehicles sold in 2011, says the report's author, Pike Research. Also by 2017, cumulative sales of hybrid electric vehicles (HEVs) are projected to represent an additional 8.7 million vehicles. Combined, this will mean 13.9 million units in all electrified vehicle categories.

In the worldwide race toward electrification, Pike says the Asia Pacific region will lead, followed by Europe, then North America.


An American solution: The Volt and many more vehicles using electrification of various sorts are due to come along in far greater numbers.

The U.S. and Europe will miss many of the government-set targets for plug-in vehicle sales, Pike predicts, because of slower than expected roll outs.

“In the United States, President Obama’s goal for one million [plug-in electric vehicles] (PEVs) on the roads by 2015 appears to be well beyond what the actual vehicle market is likely to be,” Pike said. “Germany has set a goal of one million PEVs by 2020 – almost twice the 512,701 PEVs forecast to be on the roads in that country by 2017.”

Now before you roll your eyes and say what do they know?, our opening “crystal ball” remark was made because we know some readers do not trust reports making predictions like this. We do however think it significant that Pike commands enough money from industry stakeholders for its research to pay for 280 one-year subscriptions to Car & Driver.

Further, Pike said it left no stone unturned in interviewing all relevant industry players necessary for a proper and thorough report. For this and other reasons, we believe the forecast is worth at least taking a gander at.

To be fully forthcoming, we weren’t about to pony up $2,800 either, but we can give you the gleanings from the study’s executive report.

As a result of its research, Pike says growth for hybrid electric vehicles (HEVs), plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs), and battery electric vehicles (BEVs) will far surpass that for traditional light-duty vehicles over the next half decade.



“Overall, the market for electrified vehicles will grow at a CAGR of 19.5 percent between 2011 and 2017,” Pike Research said of the Cumulative Annual Growth Average. “This compares to a CAGR of 3.7 percent for the vehicle market overall during the same period.”

Pike says the global PEV market – comprised of BEVs and PHEVs – will see exceptional growth of 48.4 percent CAGR because it is currently still in its infancy.

But how will the new kid on the block specifically be able to carve out more room for itself?

A number of variables are projected to brew up this new market soup, Pike says, including fuel prices, government influences (like subsidies), consumer attitudes and recharging infrastructure.

As for fuel prices, by 2017 Pike estimates Western Europe will be weighed down with the highest at $12.02 per gallon for gasoline and $10.04 per gallon for diesel. Pike is pegging the U.S. gasoline price at a bargain basement $6.10 per gallon in 2017, and in Asia Pacific, it is projected to be $7.98 per gallon.

Without even addressing whether these numbers are possibly right, we will say it is a rather sad commentary that many consumers will only do what’s best when pushed by the most blunt prodding possible. While increasing fuel prices are definitely a factor influencing decisions to buy plug-in cars, jacked-up fuel costs also threaten a host of unwanted economic consequences.

Often EV enthusiasts froth up the rhetoric over price of fuels as a promising motivator for greater acceptance of the types of vehicles they hold dear. We can empathize, but will say, be careful what you wish for. While enthusiasts may be right, it’s also true the world is still dominated by internal combustion power, and high fuel prices can lead to inflation for almost everything else.

A better solution would be (to the degree possible) better educating more would-be buyers so they can see the advantages without having to be beaten by the virtual ugly stick of pain at the fuel pump.

And speaking of consumer attitudes, Pike predicts regional fluctuations will occur for the acceptance of electrified vehicles.

“Specific geographic areas have different features and typical drive lengths (e.g., 5-mile vs. 25-mile commutes) that will make specific types of electric drives more attractive,” Pike said. “The growth of publicly available electric vehicle charging equipment (EVCE) will also help build confidence that BEVs and PHEVs will fit within consumers’ lifestyles.”

While North America is expected to trail in BEV proliferation, it is projected to lead with roll out of hybrids (HEVs) boasting 40 models available by end of 2012, versus 14 models in Asia Pacific.

One Chinese auto writer’s opinion was recently cited (by me) in HybridCars.com saying China is heavily subsidizing BEVs to expediently make it appear as though China’s auto market is progressing faster than it otherwise could. It was said China is effectively discouraging hybrids by not incentivizing them very much, while energetically encouraging BEVS with massive subsidies because they are far easier and less costly to manufacturer than sophisticated hybrids.

Not wading into the analysis as much in its summary report, Pike does verify China is leading the incentivizing of BEVs with more than $18,820 (RMB 120,000) available to underwrite purchases in selected regions.


A Chinese solution: Incentivizing its government-owned electric vehicle industry and buyers is expected to see EVs popping up in the People's Republic faster than mushrooms after a spring rain.

If the U.S. government did that, a Nissan LEAF could be had for under $14,000 and a Mitsubishi i could be bought for under $10,000. Clearly China is pushing hard for BEVs whatever the fine points may be.

Pike is offering the study primarily to Automotive OEMs, component suppliers, motor, battery and EV charging equipment manufacturers, utilities, government agencies, industry associations, and investors.

Assuming the study does find its way into decision maker’s hands (who may value what will cost up to $4,200 for access to unlimited copies), whether perfectly prescient or not, the Pike report will likely influence their thinking. This is another reason we are publishing this as we believe just as “sentiment” in the stock market affects what happens, so does credibly presented research stand to alter the interplay between analysis and reality.

Pike Research