Prophesy is a good line of business, but it is full of risks, so the saying goes.
When autoindustry visionaries gaze into their crystal balls to see what the automotive world holds in store in say ten, twenty, or even thirty years time, some, inevitably see different trends than others.
However, the one view now widely shared is that much of Western Europe looks suspiciously like a saturated and mature market
No real wrangle on this issue.
But the same doesn’t apply to the vexed issue of future take-up rates for conventionally fuelled cars on the one hand, and hybrids, plug-in hybrids (PHEV) and pure electric cars on the other.
That said, some are more forthright in their views than others.
Nissan’s Carlos Ghosn nailed his colours to the mast when famously predicting that 10 per cent of the cars sold by 2020 will be of the electric type.
Others remained notably more cautious with their predictions for 2020 and beyond.
And who can blame them.
The way things are looking at present, few forecasters would realistically expect that Ghosn’s prediction will be met.
So what then is the view of others?
Now there is a turn up for the books.
Respected forecasters for Shell, renowned for their scientific assessment of future automotive trends in Germany, now take the view that by 2020 pure electric cars will capture just 1 per cent of Germany’s 3 million or so new car sales.
At the same time, Shell forecasters predict that diesel-fuelled cars will still account for nearenough every other car sold in Germany that year.
Fast forward another decade?
Thanks to technological progress in the fast-developing field of alternative propulsion, and even stricter EU fleet average CO2 emission requirements –
say 65g/km from 2025 onwards – Shell’s prognosis is that diesels will still account for around one-in-three of the cars sold in Germany by 2040.
That’s roughly the same level seen in Germany during the millennium change.
Hybrids, Shell experts argue, will make notable inroads from 2020 onwards.
So much so, that by 2030 some 1 million of the 2.9 million new cars sold in Germany that year will be hybrids, and some 70 per cent of these will be of the petrol type.
That includes substantial inroads form PHEVs, which by 2040, are predicted to account for 11 per cent of German sales – 320,000 units, Shell forecasters suggest.
So where does that leave pure electric cars?
Their progressively increasing market share, after reaching just 1 per cent by 2020, will gradually increase to some 6 per cent by 2040.
For the previously optimistic electric car industry that is a snail's pace rate of advance.
Bit of a shock, you might say, if indeed, it really turns out that way.
This latest Shell projection, like all others, are of course little more than a stab in the dark.
Difficult enough as it is to forecast future technological progress or even the vexed issue of future legislation, the recent past is testament that one crucial issue, vital in these future projections, is the forever shifting and often totally unpredictable change in consumer taste and sentiment.
And that, it seems, makes any sure-fire prediction a dangerous task for any forecaster, however learned and