Why 2013 will be the year of the electric car

Electric cars aren’t new technology – electric cars actually preceded petrol-powered ones. Electrifying a conventional two or three-box family car does present a sizeable engineering task to make it practical, but not an insurmountable one.

Battery-electric drive systems might still be in their relative infancy but, with more manufacturers adopting the technology and looking to cut their overall average CO2 emissions, 2013 looks set to be the year of the electric car.

Nissan’s all-electric LEAF hatchback was the significant breakthrough vehicle for electric vehicles – or EVs – winning European Car of the Year in 2011, becoming first zero emissions (ZE) car to do so.

Two years on and the firm has not only cut the car’s price in the American market by around £4,000 but improved the LEAF’s range and charging capacity too, enhancing the vehicle’s range, relevance and practicality.

As the electric car market grows, so does infrastructure. So, with electric car sales doubling in 2012 compared to 2011, and many new additions to the ZE fleet of vehicles on sale in the UK expected this year, the future of the electric car in 2013 looks promising.

More premium manufacturers will be dipping their toe into the EV pool this year, too. With brands such as BMW releasing its i3 all-electric hatchback in 2013 – and the i8 sports car next year – the investment in research and development from one of the world’s leading luxury manufacturers has to bode well for sales.

Ford, Chevrolet, Vauxhall, General Motors, BMW, Toyota, Honda, Renault, Nissan – just about every major automotive manufacturer in the world sells an electric car or has shown a ZE concept recently.

It’s a perpetual cycle as well. The more electric cars that are made, the more manufacturers take notice. The more manufacturers take notice, the more government takes notice.

This chain of uptake will eventually deliver a thriving electric car infrastructure in the UK and 2013 could well be the year to kick-start this process.

Economies of scale dictate that the greater number of ZE vehicles carmakers sell, the cheaper these cars will become, offsetting the expensive development costs.

Add in the £5,000 government plug-in and electric car subsidy, the dramatically reduced cost of fuel, free road tax and London Congestion Charge and the prospect of a quiet, refined premium electric vehicle looks extremely appealing.

Besides, the other great fuel hope of the future, hydrogen fuel cell vehicles – which produce electricity on board to drive a motor, with only water as a waste product – are not yet readily available.

With mainstream manufacturers testing working prototypes in 2012 and ready to roll out working road-going vehicles this year, that’s another feather in the cap of the electric car for 2013.