20.12.2018Next Green Car's 2018 Review
It's safe to say that 2018 has been a busy and pivotal year for the green car industry, a year that has seen some key advances within the electric vehicle and charging sectors.
Manufacturers have launched new models that move the EV industry a significant step forward, there have been announcements to improve the supporting EV infrastructure, plug-in plans by big players in the industry have been confirmed, and government regulations revealed or passed. Read on for NGC's round-up of what's gone on over the past year.
Next year looks to see a bumper crop of new electric models arrive, but 2018 has certainly brought about the vanguard of the long-range EV. Looking back, the shift in momentum for the electric car market is staggering over the course of the past 12 months. We tested the new Nissan Leaf 40 kWh on its UK launch in March remember, and yet by the end of the year, had been behind the wheel of the Jaguar I-Pace, Hyundai Kona Electric, and Kia e-Niro.
Each offers a real world range around twice that of the Leaf, yet the Hyundai and Kia only cost around £7,000 more. These two are the first models to offer long-distance EV driving to the mass-market - though granted the e-Niro will only be available from 1st April 2019, so the key plaudits this year go to Hyundai. It's a fact we recognised in this year's NGC Awards.
The I-Pace takes the manufacturer's fight to Tesla, and will bring with it the Audi e-tron and Mercedes Benz EQC next year, both of which were launched this autumn. The I-Pace is a superb model for the first EV out of the box, and Jaguar - plus sister firm Land Rover - will do well to focus as much of its resources as possible in electric models.
Other key models that arrived this year include the Renault Zoe, improved this time around with a new, more powerful motor, but one that didn't compromise on efficiency. Combined with the previous update of the 40 kWh battery, it makes the Zoe a very competent compact car, even at higher speeds.
It has been joined towards the end of this year by another super-star EV - the BMW i3 120Ah. Another battery upgrade for the premium electric supermini sees range improve well beyond the 200 mile mark; plus BMW is also confident enough in the model's range to remove the range-extended REX model from sale.
Smart launched the EQ electric brand ahead of parent firm Mercedes on its range of models, as well as 22 kW on-board chargers, effectively making them rapid charge capable. LEVC's TX taxi also arrived on the scene, which could be one of the most important models of the decade, as cities in particular implement ultra-low emission zones that prioritise electric models, and taxi's in particular.
Finally, alongside the e-tron and EQC in being launched this year, but models we're looking forward to in 2019, is the DS 3 Crossback, which will be pitched against the Kona Electric and e-Niro. Kia will add to its electric fleet with the new Soul EV next year, offering a similar range to the e-Niro, while Volvo's Polestar 1 range-extended model will arrive in 2019 - though sadly not in right-hand drive.
The most important model making an appearance this year - though admittedly in camouflage - is likely to be the VW ID. pure-electric hatch. Due to arrive towards the end of the year, Volkswagen has promised a family hatch at Golf money, and with options to vary performance and range available from the battery. The company is pitching it as a model comparable in importance to the Beetle and Golf, and there's nothing to suggest that the firm is overestimating the ID.'s significance.
Surrounding the car market is the required EV infrastructure - including charging, manufacturing, and development - and various elements of this industry received boosts in 2018. The UK announced its Road to Zero strategy, which will bring a number of EV-tailored elements in to law in due course. A minimum of 50% of new cars sold by 2030 are to be made up of ultra-low emission vehicles - and 70% is being aimed for. Newly built homes and workplaces will need to have provision for EV charging points, and on-street EV charging also received an needed boost.
This year saw a real jump in the roll-out of on-street chargers - a key aspect of EV ownership for those without access to off-street parking. Wireless home and public charge points have also been developed, ready to power-up the next generation of EVs.
Perhaps the biggest charging news of the year was the acquisition of Chargemaster - the UK's largest EV charging network operator - by BP. The oil giant has invested in the British firm, with significant plans to further increase the number of charge points, particularly at BP forecourts - opening up a relatively untapped avenue of expansion for charger locations.
VW, Pod Point, and Tesco have also announced a partnership, that will see supermarkets across the UK get a number of EV charge points, signalling significant expansion in locations again.
British firms will be supported in terms of manufacturing with the creation of Hyperbat, a collaboration between component company Unipart, and Williams Advanced Engineering, which has quickly become a leader in electric vehicle technology. While the likes of Jaguar Land Rover will likely benefit from this new development, Aston Martin certainly will, with Hyperbat confirmed as supplier for components for the forthcoming Rapide E. Aston Martin also announced this year that its new St Athans manufacturing site in south Wales will be the company's electric hub.
If British brands benefit from Hyperbat access, Porsche - and probably other VW Group brands - are likely to see similar benefits from the Stuttgart firm's investment in Rimac. The Croatian EV experts have made waves in recent years with its Concept One electric super car, and by launching a new model at Geneva earlier this year.
Volkswagen will support the ID. with its Electric for All campaign, announced earlier this year, which includes the Volks-Wallbox home charge point, and the design of the MEB electrified platform. This last element is of great significance, since the VW Group has built much of its success on parts-sharing between brands. This means that existing Skoda, Seat, and Audi models share platforms and powertrains with VW cars, so there is no reason to believe the manufacturing giant won't do the same with the ID. hatch and other models.
There are signs that 2018 saw the real establishment of the plug-in car market in the UK. In October, the UK Government reduced funding levels for its Plug-in Car Grant, effectively seeing pure-EV support reduced by £1,000 to £3,500, and PHEV support removed altogether. However, monthly sales figures since indicate that the market is buoyant enough to hold its own with these new levels of funding, though time will tell if that remains the case. It certainly now seems that supply can't keep up with demand for EVs, rather than government subsidies needing to add incentives for those looking to go electric.
Electric models are permeating all areas of the automotive world, and 2018 saw big steps forward in motorsport - for so long a crucible of development for technologies that trickle down to road models. Formula E has just started a new season, with a stunning looking new car and further opened up development of electric components.
Volkswagen's ID. R Pikes Peak has won over a number of fans, taking the outright record at its namesake hill-climb, plus also triumphing at Goodwood later in the summer. Jaguar set a new electric record at the historic Shelsley Walsh hill-climb, plus Toyota's TS050 Hybrid won the World Endurance Championship - including the famous Le Mans 24 Hour race. On top of that, Toyota has already confirmed that the TS050 hybrid powertrain will be used in its forthcoming GR Super Sport model.
2018 saw the emergence of key commercial partnerships, which look to accelerate the development of green models. One of the main ones announced this year was that between Audi and Hyundai, which have committed to work together on fuel cell powertrains. Hyundai already has its second generation FCEV due soon, with the Nexo, and Audi has been working on fuel cell technology for some time. Riversimple has ramped up development of its ultra-efficient Rasa, with trials already in place, and continuing into 2019. Expect further FCEV models to come through next year, at least in concept form, to join the Nexo and Toyota Mirai already on UK roads.
It has been a year of announcements from manufacturers confirming their shift away from internal combustion engines - diesel in particular. Volvo will launch no new diesel models from the V60 - which arrived in the middle of this year - onwards. Toyota and Nissan have made similar announcements for the future, and VW revealed that its last generation of petrol and diesel engines will arrive in 2026. This signifies that no new VW models will arrive with an internal combustion engine from the mid 2030's.
Instead, electric efforts are being redoubled across the board, and manufacturers are turning to these models to replace those units hit by declining diesel sales. Toyota will start offering multiple hybrid options in its next range of cars, and Volvo has confirmed that two different PHEV variants will arrive for the S60 and V60 ranges.
So a jam-packed year for the industry then, and the good news is that it's only set to get busier. With climate change and emissions increasingly in the headlines, more and more manufacturers are having to shift their current and future models into the green sector.
We hope that you have enjoyed our work on Next Green Car, with the news, reviews and features making for interesting reading. We continue to update our microsites, guides, analysis, and tools throughout the year too, so hope that you will continue to visit in 2019 and beyond. But for now, let us sign off by wishing you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.