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King Buyer holds key to electric car future 
Peter Schmidt | Editor

Published: Fri, 05th August 2016 12:36:22 GMT

BMW i3 Shipping transport

Open quote signEuropeís electric car story is not a happy one. To date these cars have made scarcely a ripple. Whatís more, against the backdrop of blooming West European new car sales, electric car sales have now fallen for two successive months in a row. In Norway, the only country in Europe where E-cars appeared to be doing well thanks to their tax-free status and sweetheart user benefits, of late sales have slipped back into reverse. 

Potentially, for the electric car industry, thereís another development thatís even more worrying. 

Contrary to high optimistic expectations, the introduction of a Ä4,000 purchase incentive for electric cars in Germany has received a lukewarm response at best.

Figures published only yesterday reveal that in the first month of the subsidy just 1,194 German electric car buyers applied for the subsidy. 

For comparison, pre-subsidy registrations this June reached 863 units; and July last year the registrations were 1,023. 

Taking stock, many forecasters were wrong-footed about consumerís true underlying interest in todayís electric cars. 

Given the distressingly low take-up rates, and the underlying sales trend in Europeís outstanding electric car bastion Norway, bares out the contention that the electric car industry is confronted by a big problem. 

Broad brush, admittedly, but in a year when some forecasters were earlier expecting a notable toehold from electric cars in Western Europe, brutal reality is that the regionís half year electric car sales share remains stuck at 0.61 per cent, and if anything, it appears to be slipping. 

A great deal more worrying still, judged from Juneís turnout, of late sales have slipped from already very low levels.

So where do we go from here? 

The way things are progressing, chances are that Europeís electric car share by 2020 Ė little more than three years from now - will be nowhere near the levels expected from some overly optimistic double-digit sales share dreamers. 

Likewise, tax payers simply cannot be expected to subsidise these cars for say another 10 or so years. 

However, the autoindustry is now confronted with the far-reaching decision whether to throw in the towel or put some serious financial effort behind these electric cars in order to keep the ball rolling. 


Peering into the future seldom produces a clear picture. 

But this is not the case with electric car propulsion because todayís consensus view is that for electric cars the future looks bright. 

The only problem is how to get there and to back the right horse. 

Battery powered cars, despite the progress in driving range, and a great deal more progress ahead, still remain handicapped by both the cost, the sheer mass and weight of the battery stack, and above all, the time consumed by essential recharging and the essential E-Car infrastructure. 

Superior alternatives? 


Today, as is the case for battery powered cars, there is no clear cut and obvious business case for fuel-cell powered cars

But, the fuel-cell powered electric car, a technology now heavily pursued by Asian carmakers Toyota and Hyundai, to name but two carmakers, looks on balance a great deal more promising. 


Foremost, much lighter hydrogen powered fuel-cell cars, rather than todayís battery powered cars hold a great deal more promise of meeting the expectations of King Buyer - who is the key determinant of long-term success. 

Yes, a costly and evidently subsidised hydrogen fuel infrastructure holds the key, and to that end itís high-time to get this particular ball rolling. In both Japan and Germany efforts are already underway
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