U.S. Secretary of Energy Steven Chu announced on December 16 that the U.S. Department of Energy will start accepting applications up to $184 million to accelerate the development and deployment of new efficient vehicle technologies. Projects will span the broad spectrum of technology approaches, including advanced materials, combustion research, hybrid electric systems, fleet efficiency, and fuels technology. Ultimately, the projects will reduce U.S. dependence on foreign oil, save drivers money, and limit carbon air pollution.
The U.S. remains the largest vehicle market in the world, according to market analyses by energy research firm SBI Energy. Of the 204 million personal vehicles, the average U.S. household owns 1.9 vehicles, which is slightly more than the average number of drivers per household. Most personal vehicles rely on the internal combustion engine and burn gasoline fuel at an average rate of one gallon every 20 miles. Compare that to hybrid electric vehicles (HEV) fuel consumption and it's a completely different picture. SBI Energy estimates that HEVs consume an estimated 6.3 million gallons (in gasoline equivalents) compared to 198 million gallons of compressed natural gas and 138 million gallons of liquefied petroleum gasoline. By 2014, SBI Energy expects electric fuel consumption in the U.S. to grow to nearly 9 million gallons.
According to the SBI Energy report, Electric Vehicle (EV) and Plug-In Hybrid Electric Vehicle (PHEV) Markets Worldwide, in the six years between 2004 and 2009, the number of HEV available models around the world has tripled to 29 and the number of brands producing hybrids has jumped from six to fourteen. In fact, almost a third of the hybrids being offered in the U.S. have 2010 as their first model year.
Global sales of hybrid electric vehicles rose 33 percent in 2009 with 700,000 vehicles sold in an unfavorable climate that saw the overall auto market plunge worldwide. SBI Energy calculates that sales of hybrids accounted for 99% of all electric vehicle sales in 2009 worldwide.
"[The DOE] awards will help ensure America leads the world in the development of advanced vehicle technologies that support cost-competitive, convenient, and comfortable fuel-efficient vehicles," said Secretary Chu in the DOE press release. "Investments in the next generation of vehicle technologies are laying the groundwork for a sustainable transportation sector in America that strengthens our economy and improves our economic competitiveness."
According to SBI Energy, future growth of the electric vehicle market on a global scale will depend on three key motivators: government incentives to consumers to purchase fuel efficient vehicles; any increase in the price of crude oil and gas prices at the pumps; and a reduction in the price differential between hybrids and non-hybrids.
"SBI Energy's first EV market study entitled, Electric Vehicle (EV) Infrastructure Manufacturing projects North America will hold 20% of the electric vehicle infrastructure manufacturing market by 2014, driven by government incentive programs and the movement toward eco-friendly consumer lifestyles," says Shelley Carr, publisher for SBI Energy. "While government capital is vital, growth also depends heavily on the investment interests of the private sector and the adoption of electric vehicles and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles by consumers."