Autos blog | Petrol and diesel | Electric cars | Hybrids

Published: 21 May 2010

Stumbled across some intriguing forecasts from auto components supplier giant Bosch yesterday, which seem to guarantee that sales of electric vehicles (EVs), hybrids and other alternative fuel cars will remain minuscule for years to come. 

Bosch predicts that by the year 2020 the world’s car factories will be cranking out some 100 million cars annually. Of those, 6 million will be hybrid vehicles and 3 million pure EVs. Which means that 90 million will remain fossil fuelled.

It puts in context the new dawn at which we find ourselves. Nissan and Renault are pioneering the mass-market, viable battery car and CEO Carlos Ghosn has seemingly bet the ranch on the electrification of the motor car. One of his board members told me recently that this was Ghosn's personal legacy mission and he’d stick around to see it to fruition – despite the inherent risk of failure.

Ghosn has championed electric cars like no other and boldly forecasts 20% of Renault sales will be EVs as soon as 2012. I’m sure he’s right, as Renault-Nissan has a slew of cars in the pipeline priced from a very democratic £13,000 (Renault Zoe supermini) to a still-affordable £23,000 (Nissan Leaf family car). Makes the Mitsubishi i-MiEV city car on sale now at £39,000 look rather expensive all of a sudden.

Cost is obviously the biggest stumbling block, among many, deterring potential customers of electric cars. Making a Range Rover go hybrid will add some £10,000 to the price, Land Rover told me last week. Battery packs are so expensive that Renault plans to lease theirs rather than expect the customer to stomach the huge purchase cost upfront.

So the good old-fashioned internal combustion engine has plenty of life left in it. New families of downsized two- and three-cylinder turbocharged engines are coming soon to power the next generation of smaller family cars and will gently chisel away at the great big evil CO2 figure. The majority of cars will feature stop-start and more will gain intelligent fuel-saving tech we’ve seen introduced in recent years, such as decoupling alternators, smooth aero shields and eco tyres.

Do you find it hard to believe that in a decade’s time 90% of all new cars will still be resolutely petrol and diesel with not a motive battery pack in sight? Shows what a good job the PR machine is making drumming up interest in the nascent electric and hybrid cars. They will triumph – of that I am certain – it just might take a while longer than we expected.

By Tim Pollard

Editorial director of CAR's digital publishing arm. Motoring news magnet