Observations on the current happenings in the world of vehicles and the fuels that power them from Fuels Institute Executive Director, John Eichberger.
Money (That’s What I Want)
While the primary focus of discussion these days is how to decarbonize transportation and the pace of market expansion for electric vehicles, we must not forget that access to reliable and affordable transportation is a key factor for economic opportunity. To that end, one of the hurdles new transportation technologies must overcome is cost – not just of the vehicles, but in comparison to other modes of transportation.
The first hybrid vehicle introduced to the United States debuted 22 years ago - the Honda Insight. The following year, the Toyota Prius entered the market and the hybrid market began to accelerate quickly. By 2007, sales eclipsed 350,000 units from just 13 models, and some were predicting that more than 100 hybrid models would soon be available for sale in the U.S. Those forecasts were never realized and year after year sales hovered at or below 3%, setting a record of 3.2% of sales in 2013 before slipping to less than 2% just three years later. But recent data indicates that automobile manufacturers may not have given up on this technology, and in the first quarter of 2021 hybrids clawed up to 4.5% of sales. What has changed and what can we learn from the experience of hybrid vehicles?
On the Road Again
If the global priority with regards to the transportation sector is to reduce carbon emissions, then putting all our eggs in one basket and waiting for electrification to transform the world is already a failed strategy. With nearly 1.5 billion vehicles in the world, and with more than 90 million new vehicles sold annually (*non-pandemic years, of course), it is impossible to envision a transition to relying on only battery electric vehicles (BEV) any time soon, no matter what governments may try to do with regards to sales requirements. So, what should be done with regards to the existing and continuing combustion engine-liquid fuels market?