In recent history, electric vehicle (EV) sales have been somewhat of a niche market, predominantly for the environmentally conscious individuals, as well as for those who don’t mind paying a premium. However, this is rapidly changing as there is a political approach to alternative fuels, due to a better understanding of the environmental impacts of internal combustion engines. This has allowed for increased investment into research and development of charging infrastructure, batteries and battery management.
First of all, it is important for us to understand the history of electric vehicles and how they have developed. When individuals are asked where the EV was born, the cars that come to mind are Nissan Leaf, Tesla Roadster, General Motors EV1 or even a few of the somewhat comical cars which came out in 1970s as a result of the oil crisis, such as the Citicar whose design is often compared to a block of cheese or more familiar in the UK, the Sinclair C5 which has been compared to a hybrid between a push bike and an electric milk float. However, these answers would be incorrect. The first practical electric vehicle, a passenger car, was in fact designed nearly 200 years before any of the previously listed vehicles by English inventor Thomas Parker in 1884. By 1900, one third of cars found in New York city, Chicago and Boston were electric. However, the next decade saw the decline of the electric car and the rise of the combustion engine vehicle as a result of combustion engine vehicles becoming cheaper to purchase as well as the road infrastructure improving meaning people travelled further. This resulted in electric vehicle not being practical due to the low range.
After almost a century of silence, electric vehicles crept out of hibernation in the 1970s as a result of high oil prices. However, the movement has been slow. It’s only been in this decade; where the EV movement has really cranked up. This was as a result of growing concerns over combustion vehicle emission both with regards to health as well as environment impacts. This has led to government legislation making a mandatory ban of petrol and diesel vehicles by 2040, now brought forward to 2035. This has come with continued financial support for purchasing EV’s.
The UK Government has also continued to support new investment into charging infrastructure, with the Transport Secretary announcing on 21st January 2020 that funding for electric charge points on residential streets will be doubled to £10 million, allowing for an estimated 3,600 charging points to be installed. With the Transport Secretary Grant Shapps stating, “We want to make electric cars the new normal, and ensuring drivers have convenient places to charge is key to that.” The Government has also stated that all new electric vehicle rapid chargers should offer card payment by spring 2020. This will allow for pay-as-you-go as part of the UK Government’s Road to Zero strategy, with the aim to allow all EV owner access to these charging station, replacing the need for clunky memberships or an app to allow access of the charging station.
Innovation: 2020’s top EV companies
EVs are back and this time it looks like they are here to stay. Over the last few years we have seen EV revolution go from a niche market to one that is taking over the industry. This has sent traditional combustion auto manufacturer players into panic, as they do everything they can to put together a compelling electric vehicle, which is great news for the consumer. According to the data firm IHS Markit, the number of available EV models in Europe will increase from fewer than 100 at start of 2020 to 175 by end of 2020, and by 2025 there will be more than 330 leading to more choice for the consumer. This will allow for sales to continue to rapidly increase, with EV’s representing 3.4% of total UK new car sale in 2019, expected to rise to 5.5% in 2020. As a result of vast innovation, we see an increase in range as well as reductions in both EV costs as well as charging times. With all these innovations taking place in 2020, it’s often hard to keep up with on the developments, so we’re here to help. Here are a few of the companies we believe you should be keeping an eye on.
Tesla is an American car manufacturer focused on electric vehicles and clean energy, grown from a start up to now leading the EV market in just two decades. The company has not stopped there with it becoming a major player in the car manufacturing industry. It has been ranked as the second biggest car manufacturer worldwide behind just Toyota based on market cap, with a market cap valued at $112 billon. Tesla has led the change regarding EV, through continuous innovations and has left the traditional auto companies scrabbling.
Prior developments: Since Tesla was first created, they set out with a bold master plan, making their vision clear. They were to create a high-end sport car which would eventually allow the company to fund the creation of the mass affordable electric car known today as the Model 3. The model 3 has proven hugely successful, with the right-hand drive model finally making its way into the UK. The model has proven very successful with it coming in as the third bestselling car in Europe in December, with 22,118 registrations only just behind Volkswagen Golf (30,652) and Renault Clio (27,516). Tesla has continued to improve the vehicle through software updates making the cars efficient and allowing for increases in range. Tesla has also established itself as a leader in charging networks, with 1,870 super charging locations, totalling 16,585 superchargers worldwide. This means that Tesla owners can travel stress free, as the chargers have proved to be reliable as well as affordable. The charging speeds have also continually improved with the latest V3 version of Tesla charging station allowing a max rate of 250kW (DC), with a max up 75mph of range per 5 minutes at, allowing the Model 3 to charge from 20 to 80 percent in just 20 minutes. This is as a result of Tesla’s design in manufacturing as well as software utilisation. This was demonstrated in 2019 where Tesla put out an update which allowed for higher charging speed as a result of car preheated batteries when the cars navigation system going to a supercharger.
Upcoming innovation: Tesla is still in their growth phase, with at present three vehicles in their pre-production phase, these being the Cybertruck (pick-up truck) with a late 2021 production starting date into 2022, Roadster (luxury sportscar) with a 2021 production starting date and the semi, targeted for major retailers to undercut combustion trucks on fuel while transporting goods, with a production start date in the latter half of 2020. If you’re looking for a vehicle which you can almost get your hands on today, then maybe the Model Y (Tesla’s first SUV) is for you. It is currently in production phases/ early deliveries. However, it may still be some time before we see a right-hand driver here in the UK.
It is not just the vehicles that we believe you should keep an eye on, new updates for the car as well as their self-driving software. In our opinion the most exciting event to look out for will be Tesla’s battery day. This is where shareholders and the media will be able to see what Tesla has been/ will be working on regarding future battery development. Currently the battery makes up on average 29% of the overall cost of the vehicle, therefore it may prove to be one of the most important events of the year in the EV space. It should give us key clues about where the future of Tesla vehicles is going as well as the EV market. These new innovations may help continue the transition from combustion to electric, through potential breakthroughs such as cost, charging speed, battery materials, these being just some of the topics which may be covered. The event is said to take place sometime after the first quarter of 2020, possibly in April. CEO Elon Musk said “We have a lot more to talk about this in detail on Battery Day, probably April. We have a very compelling strategy. I mean, we are super deep in cell. Super deep. Cell through battery”. Elon has previously described battery day saying “Battery Day people. Wait until Battery Day. It’s going to blow your mind. It blows my mind, and I know it!”. It’ll certainly be an event that you won’t want to miss…
Prior developments: Ford came on to the EV scenes with their Ford Focus EV in 2011, but their sales where limited as a result of Ford’s high price and low range offering of 100 miles. The company continued to produce some hybrids throughout the year. Although innovation has been slow, Ford stated that they learned valuable lessons from those early attempts.
Future innovation: Ford has put out a bold statement in 2020, aiming to electrify some of Ford’s most well-known nameplates. This has been shown with Ford’s first electric vehicle releasing late 2020 being the Mustang Mach E. The vehicle is priced at around £35,000 with a very respectable range of 370 miles, especially with the vehicle being aimed at the SUV market. The Mustang is one of Ford’s most well-established models and therefore shows Ford’s commitment to electric vehicles by their willingness to use this model for their first EV. Ford also aims to bring an electric version of their most popular production vehicle, the F-150, with the company aiming to hit sales of 1 million plug in vehicles in Europe by the end of 2022. Ford expects that plug in vehicles will account for more than 50% of its car sales in Europe by 2022, surpassing combined sales of conventional petrol and diesel models. This sounds like a promising start for Ford, although challenges will lie ahead to get these cars ready for mass production.
Volkswagen may not be the first company you think of when thinking of electric vehicles after the company failed emissions tests during the Diesel gate scandal. However, the company had a major strategy shift after the scandal, aiming to bring out a new family of Volkswagen cars called the ID, aiming to be an affordable mass market car. With the company targeting sales of 1.5 million by 2025. It is clear Volkswagen is taking the transition very seriously, with the company setting a deadline for ending mass production of combustion engines, by 2026.
Prior developments: Currently we’ve seen the company focus on the lower end of the EV market, aiming to produce an affordable, mass market car. At the time of writing this the company has released two electric vehicle models on the market. The first one being the e-up, with it coming onto the market in 2013, the vehicle is priced at £20,000, with a real-world range of 125 miles aimed at city drivers. In 2014, Volkswagen released the e-Golf, an electric version of one of Volkswagen’s most renowned models with the latest version of the car capable of 125 miles real world range, at a price point £27,500.
Future innovation: Thomas Ulbrich, Volkswagen brand board member responsible for electric cars, said: “2020 will be a key year for the transformation of Volkswagen”. In the year 2020, Volkswagen is releasing the first of their new family of electric cars known as the ID family. The first delivered model of the family will be in mid-2020 and is the ID.3. The vehicle sells for £26,000 with UK incentive, and has a claimed range of 230 and 342 miles on a single charge depending on the driving model. There is more to come from the ID family with the ID 4 (SUV) coming out in 2021, and the I.D Buzz (campervan) coming in 2022. Volkswagen has strong aims in the EV space with a goal to produce 330,000 of the vehicles a year by 2021, 1m battery-only cars by the end of 2023, which has recently been moved forward from 2025. However, it is not just vehicles that Volkswagen is focusing on. They also aim to offer 36,000 charges across Europe dealership and plants by 2025.These aims sounds promising, and as Volkswagen continues to build out their I.D family as well as invest in charging station it will become apparent whether this is a path they are committed to.
Prior developments: Honda has no current available models. They have however released hybrids including Honda CR-V (SUV) as well as a hybrid Jazz. Honda claims the hybrid technology allows the vehicles to improve its fuel economy by 50 percent over the gas-only version.
Future innovation: Honda has set out to reach 100% of their European sales to be either hybrid or battery electric cars by 2022. Honda will be releasing their first fully electric vehicle the Honda e, in summer of 2020. The Honda e is a funky, all electric car with a 125 miles range. The vehicle comes in at £26,160 in the UK, including the UK grant.
Prior developments: Skoda has recently released Skoda Citigo-e iV, one of the most affordable EV’s in the UK, coming in at £16,955 after the UK government grants. The car is predominantly focused on city driving, with it offering 164 miles of range. Currently Skoda only offers the Citigo as its only pure electric car, however it offers plenty of hybrids options if the Citigo is not for you.
Skoda is coming into the EV market, and it is coming in fast. The company has stated 25 percent of all its cars sold by 2025 will be electrified. The brand plans to launch more than 10 electrified cars by the end of 2022, with 5 pure electric models by 2025. Skoda has recently unveiled its upcoming EV SUV will be called the Enyaqm. The vehicle comes with 310-mile range and will go on sale in 2021.
Throughout 2020, we’ll continue to see rapid improvements to EV market, as well as a dramatic increase in the number of EV models available for the consumer. As a result of more car manufacturers entering the EV market, we will see more competition and options within the market. This will also come with new challenges as companies prepare models for mass production as well as challenges over guaranteeing battery production.
Author: Dom Evans, Intern from Keele University, studying BSc Environment and Sustainability (2018-2021)