'Carmageddon': Our next horse and cart moment has arrived
THE driving revolution is silently knocking. Akin to moving from horse and cart to cars, experts predict the electric and alternative fuel vehicle movement will arrive within three years.
With 60 electric vehicle models forecast to reach showrooms by 2021, prices are expected to decrease and industry insiders say drivers will embrace the trend wholeheartedly - and faster than many predicted.
"The time is now. The uptake will happen," Motor Trades Association Queensland CEO Dr Brett Dale said.
"We know the majority of manufacturers have declared end of production dates for combustion engines.
"The three deterrents that existed before were price, model range and distance range capacity. All those three things are being addressed."
He warns the automotive industry faces disruption in virtually every aspect "by 2022 at the latest".
Less than one per cent of all new vehicles sold last year in Australia were electric powered.
But new players are entering the market, Hyundai was the latest last week with its $59,990 Kona EV that has a 400km range, while sister company Kia plans to offer its e-Niro later this year with a price closer to $50,000.
Nissan's second-generation Leaf is due to go on sale locally in August with prices starting at $49,990 plus on-roads with a claimed range of 270km.
A charging infrastructure expert says the uptake will accelerate almost as fast as the cars themselves when the electric vehicle line-up expands twenty-fold over the next three years.
"We know price is a really big barrier...we're starting to see the battery cost parity with a performance engine (about $6000)," Dr Paul Sernia said, chief product officer with charging company Tritium.
"When you have price parity with an electric vehicle and a combustion vehicle you see lots of people switch."
Consumers are forecast to be among the biggest winners from the rapidly changing technology. Experts say electric vehicles will be cheaper to run with less servicing costs, they'll be more convenient to keep up-to-date with software upgrades undertaken via the cloud rather than in dealerships, and refuelling will be more convenient with most people charging at home.
The cars to also become interior centrepieces as they are zero emission and can be parked inside.
Vehicles are also forecast to become part of home powering networks with bidirectional batteries.
Renault has just started a large-scale vehicle-to-grid pilot scheme. The vehicles are capable of injecting electricity into the grid during peaks in consumption.
"Charging or refuelling will expand. It won't just be a familiar petrol station experience, it will expand to different areas driven by the uses of the vehicle and behaviour of the driver," Dr Sernia said.
"Through charging and being smart about how you charge you can start to use your electric vehicle as an energy asset.
"If you look at a conventional distribution model for electricity the power lines run to the house and you plug in and charge at night because you're not there during the day. What's really exciting is the next step, is about how we leverage that battery.
"All of a sudden your roads become power distribution. You have lots of lots of batteries moving around the cities."
Dr Sernia said there had been a concept developed for warehouse store Costco. He said consumers could fill up on "cheap" electricity, and then use their car to help power the home during peak usage periods.
"Stores that already offer value and convenience, they have got the real estate, they want people to come to their location and they want to attract customers," he said.
Employers are also forecast to join the revolution, helping attract employees by offering charging at work.
Among the charging impediments remains the time it takes to refuel. While fast facilities have the capacity to completely recharge a battery in five-eight minutes, the car technology is yet to handle the speed.
Some of the latest research shows the expert analysis is more than optimistic thinking. Roy Morgan's quarterly automotive currency report revealed of those looking to buy a new vehicle buyers over the next four years, there is an increasing level of interest in alternative fuels to petrol - but it's well short of hysteric predictions.
Diesel was 3.6 per cent points higher among intenders (27.6 per cent) compared to share of sales (24.0 per cent), hybrid (petrol and electric) was higher by 7.1 per cent (to 8 per cent), while fully electric was 2.0 per cent points higher (to 2.1%).
- There will be 13.4 million electric vehicles on roads worldwide by 2022
- 90 per cent of cars sold in 2020 will feature connectivity
- There will be 26.2 million car sharing members sharing just 500,000 cars
- 48 million 'connected' cars will be on the road by 2020