2012 electric vehicle preview: EVs are accelerating

The highlights to look forward to in the New Year

By Gavin Conway on December 31, 2011 10:00 AM

There’s a lot to look forward to in the coming year, not the least of which will be the arrival of a brace of new pure-electric cars in the UK. But the electrification of our motoring world isn’t just about pure-electrics – watch out for the arrival of advanced plug-in hybrids, as well as diesel/electric hybrids from the likes of Volvo and Peugeot.

And as more and more people opt for electric power, it’ll be fascinating to see how our nascent charging infrastructure develops. Will private-sector operators finally get serious traction, or will electric vehicle users discover that an overnight charge is pretty much all they need, as early trials have found?

Anyway, here are a few milestones to keep watch for.

JANUARY

The big noise this month is the Detroit Motor Show, where EVs will figure more prominently than ever before at the (usually freezing) Michigan show from January 9. On hand will be mainstream new hybrids such as BMW’s 5-Series ActiveHybrid, which can travel for two and a half miles in pure electric mode at speeds up to 37mph. But much more inspiring will be concepts like the Honda EV-STER and Toyota’s mysterious NS4 plug-in hybrid concept. Find our full show preview within the news section.

MARCH

The current £5,000 Plug-in Car Grant has been agreed until the end of March 2012. The subsidy scheme will be reviewed in January, but given that only a tiny fraction of the money earmarked for helping to support the grant has been used, we’d guess that the status quo will be maintained through 2012. But in politics – and this is a highly political issue – there are no guarantees.

The other major event this month is the Geneva Motor Show, which kicks off with the first press day on March 6th. Expect lots more groovy EVs, both production and concept. Nissan’s luxury brand Infiniti, for example, is likely to unveil a sexy new sports car with a range-extending electric powertrain.

APRIL

This month sees the 2012 opening volley from Renault in its full-on assault on the EV market. The first in what will be a three-model rollout of the company’s pure-electric ‘Z.E.’ range is the Twizy (the first one out of the blocks was the Kangoo Z.E. van, on sale now). The Twizy’s effectively an urban-only two seater with fairly limited weather protection, so it’ll be a pretty niche entrant to the market. Still, it looks like great fun.

MAY

This will be one of the most important months of the year for new model EV launches, with the eagerly anticipated range-extended Vauxhall Ampera and Chevrolet Volt twins going on sale. There were fears that American investigations into the Chevrolet Volt’s battery pack amid concerns over fire would delay the launch, but we’re assured that this won’t be the case.

Another crucially important launch this month will be the Renault Fluence Z.E., the next pure-electric to land on our shores. Along with the Ampera and Volt, the Fluence Z.E. offers a genuine alternative to the Nissan LEAF full-sized family car. So, a big month for pure electric EVs.

JULY/ AUGUST

Honda’s little Jazz/Fit EV will go on sale in California and Oregon in the US in small numbers at some point next summer, and we think it’s a dead cert for Europe at some point either later in the year or 2013, so keep an eye out for news.

SEPTEMBER

The Frankfurt Motor Show is regarded by the industry as the most important one of the year. This is, after all, the home game for giants like the Volkswagen Group, Mercedes Benz and BMW, and there’s no question that they’ll have concept and near production-ready EVs on hand. It kicks off from September 13, so make sure you check out TheChargingPoint.com in the week running up for our previews about what’s showing.

UK residents can expect the return of EcoVelocity, too – we’re told the low carbon motorshow will be bigger, better and with even more electric cars to test drive in its second year. We’ll be there in force once again, with star-studded electric car debates and daily news updates and videos on the site.

And look out for the exciting Ford Focus Electric, arriving in the UK “sometime in the Autumn”. It promises to be one of the most efficient electric vehicles with a 100mpg equivalent rating, but with a chassis based on an existing combustion engine car, will the be compromises in ride and handling? We’ll give you the lowdown once we get behind the wheel.

OCTOBER

This month, we’ll see another hugely exciting pure EV coming to market – the Renault Zoe Z.E.. Striking another blow for the cause of good-looking electric cars, the deliciously styled Zoe is a Clio-sized hatchback that will join the swelling ranks of practical, ‘normal’ pure electrics that are desirable in their own right.

It might not be October exactly, but we’re anticipating the Toyota Prius Plug-in hybrid on sale in the UK late in 2012. With 14 miles electric driving before the petrol engines joins the party, it will blitz the existing Prius in the efficiency stakes – officially rated at 134mpg on a US combined cycle, it’s going to need many fewer trips to the petrol station. Although, expect more like 80mpg in real world driving.

NOVEMBER

This month will see the return of the massively popular RAC Future Car Challenge (FCC), which kicks off early in November. The FCC is a challenge to see which pure-electric, hybrid and low emission ICE vehicle can use the least energy on a 60 mile route from Madeira Drive, Brighton to Pall Mall & Regent Street in London. It draws hundreds of thousands of spectators and every major manufacturer will have an entry. TheChargingPoint.com will be there in force, covering the event live.

Another don’t-miss event is the LA Auto Show, which starts on November 16. For the last couple of years, the LA show has begun to overshadow the Detroit Motor show, that more traditional American event and the one that has been absolutely dominant for decades now. That means you can expect to see more new-model EV launches there. And journalists prefer it, too – surely nothing to do with sunny Los Angeles being slightly more tolerable than Detroit in January…

Another major league event happens on November 30th, when the Tokyo Motor Show kicks off. The thing we love about this show is the playful, no-limits creativity of Japanese manufacturers’ concepts. You’re guaranteed to see at least one concept that’ll make elicit a “what in the name of God were they thinking!” But in a good way.

DECEMBER

The order book for the hotly anticipated Volvo V60 Plug-in Hybrid diesel opens in early 2012, but production starts in November and we'll see the first cars in the UK very late in the year or, if not, January 2013. So if you get in there early and are very lucky, you could be driving one home for Christmas 2012.

Oh, and if you've already ordered your Tesla Model S, you might see it by Christmas, too. Deliveries are scheduled to begin mid to late 2012. You lucky thing.

Think we should add an important date to this list? Let us know in the comments.