US sees large potential for green vehiclesUpdated: 2013-02-26 15:44
In the United States, hybrids, plug-in's and battery vehicles are the fastest growing segment in the auto market. With costs at the pump running high, these energy efficient vehicles are a compelling sell. And that's reflected in the growing numbers of new technologies which offer innovative ways to cut carbon emissions.
In 2012 the number of hybrid vehicles grew by almost 2 million in the United States.
Hybrids have a standard combustion engine which interplays with electric battery technology.
"We now have 42 hybrids in the marketplace and there will be 73 hybrids in the marketplace by the end of the next model cycle. So there's just a vast expansion of the number of electric drive vehicles into the marketplace," said Brian Wynne, president of Electric Drive Transportation Assoc.
There are now more options for US consumers. Plug-in hybrids allow users to recharge batteries in hybrids. Plug-in only vehicles are extremely energy-efficient but can't currently drive long distances.
Extended range plug-ins offer those needing to drive further the option to switch off the battery and switch on a conventional engine, if necessary. But the industry will also improve battery technology over time.
Charlie Garlow, president of Electric Vehicle Assoc, Washington DC, said, "The price of gasoline has been going up lately, but it's on a long-term trend going up, so I think the people are feeling the pinch in their pocket books. And they will appreciate the fact that electricity for your electricity cars costs the equivalent of one quarter of the cost of gasoline."
Consumer perceptions of sluggish road performance are also changing. Tesla's Model "S" electric sports car was recently awarded the most coveted US industry prize of all, the "Motor Trend 2013 Car of the Year".
Wynne said, "It's very important that we be moving in a direction in the future that is going to be less carbon-intensive."
Commercial vehicle sales add another major piece of the puzzle, with firms like Coca-Cola and Fed-Ex introducing hydrogen fuel cells to their mega-fleets of delivery trucks.
The biggest challenge to the expanded roll-out of this electric vehicles is not now the technology itself, but the perceptions of the broader consumer public.