As we wend our way into 2014 the outlook for electric vehicles (EVs) is improving in the United States. Georgia, a relatively conservative Southern state, has become the fastest growing EV market in America. It’s easy to see why when the state offers compelling incentives in addition to federal tax credits. Perhaps even more interesting is that the second fastest growth market currently (Washington, DC) offers almost no incentives for EV purchase. The District offers a tax exemption and reduced registration fees, but no rebates or tax credits as other government agencies do elsewhere. Then again, it is easy to tout fast growth when you start with a very small number to begin with. (This reminds us of those ads trumpeting fastest growing businesses – only because the business is brand new and is growing from a zero base). That said, the Georgia EV market is gaining traction with over 3,000 EVs picked up in the fourth quarter of 2013. With the larger existing population of electric cars the West Coast states did not grow as quickly, but all three West Coast states showed impressive growth with five markets (Portland, greater Los Angeles, San Francisco Bay Area, San Diego, and Seattle, in that order) still making it into the top ten growth markets for EVs. Which, we believe, is a much stronger indication of the recognition of value that an EV brings. As the market continues to grow, more and more drivers will be faced with the decision as to whether an electric car is right for them or not. Still the biggest question in many minds is “How far will it go?” BASF, the world’s leading chemical company, is looking into making the answer “Farther than you can today”.
BASF just announced the inauguration of its multi-million dollar research and development facility in Amagasaki Japan. With this new materials lab, BASF now has facilities in Europe, the United States, and Asia to further develop advanced lithium battery technologies. BASF is looking to alternative materials as well to improve battery performance with an eye toward a long-term commitment rather than short-term profit. 2020 seems to be the magic number for many working in this segment. Perhaps they like the idea of 20-20 being perfect vision. We have written previously of other industrial giants moving in the direction of EV battery improvement. IBM has been studying, evaluating, and developing lithium-air technology for several years already (found here). Bosch, one of the world’s largest auto parts suppliers, has also taken on the task of improving EV battery tech, partnering with others that may help them achieve their goal (found here).
We hold out no hope that a breakthrough will come in the next year or two. But with companies of this size taking on a problem of this scope, we do expect to see improvements that will ultimately provide significant improvement in the EV market. Taking us, perhaps not where no man has gone before, but certainly a greater distance than can be traveled today.