August 7, 2009

Volt battery costs, part 4

A recent study from the University of Michigan suggested that it will take a very long time for PHEVs to gain a significant share of the car market.

"Annual sales of plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs) in the US could reach 2% – 3% with fleet penetration of around 1% by 2015, according to a new study by researchers at the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute (UMTRI). By 2020, sales could reach around 4% – 5% with fleet penetration a little more than 2%. And in 30 years, they could be around 20% of sales with a fleet penetration of about 16%. " And...these are the high-end estimates!

So, is this correct?

Fortunately, no. The study makes several very, very odd assumptions. First, it assumes that current gasoline prices are $2 per gallon, and that they will never rise above $4 in the next 30 years.

Second, they assume that a PHEV-40 (a plug-in hybrid with a 40 mile electric range) would cost $50,000 both now, and 30 years from now.

Given these assumptions, a PHEV could never pay for itself with gasoline savings. Fortunately, PHEV-40s are likely to be priced below $30,000 in 5 years (and certainly in less than 10), and will pay for themselves quite nicely.

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