The total number of neighborhood electric vehicles (NEVs) on the world’s roadways will grow from 479,000 in 2011 to 695,000 by 2017, a 45% increase, according to a recent report from Pike Research (Boulder, Co., U.S.A.). Annual NEV sales will rise from 37,000 vehicles to nearly 55,000 units by 2017, the cleantech market intelligence firm forecasts, and North America will account for 45% of worldwide sales.
While the overall market for NEVs is small compared to other types of electric transport, the number of NEVs sold globally reached 58,822 in 2009, the highest figure in a decade. Over the next several years, trends in both housing (including the growth of planned communities and densely populated “New Urban” communities) and demographics (the aging of the population in many countries) will spur renewed interest in these low-cost vehicles, says Pike Research. Many developers are planning more densely populated communities with town centers and green space that can easily accommodate NEVs.
“The rise in gas prices, the aging population, and the increase in master planning and community density all point to trends that will encourage NEV adoption,” says senior analyst Dave Hurst. “Those market forces are strengthened by the fact that NEVs utilize lead acid batteries, the most inexpensive batteries available, allowing them to compete at less than half the cost of light duty electric vehicles.”
In addition to being an increasingly viable option for personal transportation, NEVs are finding a market as fleet vehicles, where an NEV can replace a full-speed light-duty vehicle for many tasks that do not require trips outside the campus or the city. Colleges and universities, military bases, airports, corporate campuses, and manufacturing facilities are all places where NEVs have strong appeal, says Pike Research. The fleet segment makes up about 70% of the global NEV marketplace.
The market is hampered, however, by widely varying laws and definitions. Often NEVs are classified and regulated differently not only from country to country but also, in some cases, from state to state. Some countries, including many in Asia Pacific, do not have a definition at all. In China – potentially a huge market for NEVs – they remain illegal for use in cities.