Frankfurt Auto Show: Manufacturers Hail Electric Revolution, But Suppliers Are Skeptical – Forbes

Japan’s Nissan Motor displays the company’s new Nissan LEAF electric car. Nissan is not displaying its new cars and SUVs at the Frankfurt Auto Show (Photo credit KAZUHIRO NOGI/AFP/Getty Images)

”Watch what we do, not what we say.”

That was Attorney General John Mitchell talking to reporters at the start of the Nixon administration in 1969. The quotation comes to mind as auto manufacturers say electric car buying will reach 25% of the global market by 2025, egged on by governments with climate change agendas. But talk to the practical supplier side of the industry, preparing for the future based on concrete orders and reality, and you get a different story.

Manufacturers like Volkswagen and BMW say that by 2025, up to 25% of their vehicles will be powered by batteries alone; Mercedes-Benz estimates 15 to 25%. But as the Frankfurt Auto Show clears the decks for action next week, big global suppliers paint a radically different picture, calculating 2% to 5% will be electric-only between 2023 and 2025.

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EV Timeline

That is a stunning divergence, but some experts say that this is really just a matter of timing and that, by the middle of the next decade, the electric revolution will have swung into serious action.

According to supplier giant BorgWarner, last year, 0.6% of the global auto market consisted of battery-only electric vehicles (EVs), and that’s not surprising given the woeful state of the product on offer in the mass market. The bigger-selling electric cars like the Renault Zoe in Europe are great around the city but fail alarmingly when they accelerate on to the highway. Renault claims a headline range of 250 miles for the Zoe, but this is in “ideal” conditions. The normal capacity is 180 miles, and that is only attainable in perfect climatic conditions, with no hills or air conditioning; one friendless, thin passenger; and an empty trunk. Renault concedes winter range is only 124 miles.

Renault’s alliance partner Nissan unveiled the new Leaf EV on Wednesday and shockingly, after much brouhaha, announced it will have only 150 miles of range. (You can almost hear would-be buyers saying, “How far in the real world?”) Nissan does say that a new version next year will go 300 miles. (Ditto.)

The price of even humdrum little Zoes and Leafs is way too expensive to gain buyers on their merits, so government subsidies currently help to prop them up. The recharging experience also leaves much to be desired here in the U.K., with websites like Zap-Map providing a list of available charging stations often way out of date.

So why should we expect an imminent surge in EV sales?

The short answer is that governments have mandated this, so it will happen, like it or not. Recently, the British and French governments said that by 2040, new internal-combustion-engine-powered autos won’t be allowed, only electric ones. Chancellor Angela Merkel has hinted Germany might follow.

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