The biggest electric vehicle news of 2016:
#1 Chevrolet Bolt
#2 Tesla Model 3 Reservations
Tesla hasn't started shipping the Model 3 yet and it has already rocked the auto world. They are only taking reservations at this point. Taking reservations is not generally newsworthy, but in the case of the Model 3, things were different.
More than 375,000 people put down $1000 to reserve a Tesla Model 3. This was a wake-up call to the auto industry. There's a big demand for EVs! The few holdouts that were clinging to hydrogen fuel cells were shook from their H2 induced delusion and announced electric vehicle programs. Daimler, Porche, Mazda, Mercedes-Benz, McLaren, Maserati, and many others announced that they are increasing their investments into electric vehicles.
#3 President-elect Donald Trump
Donald Trump has not been an electric vehicle supporter. Love him or hate him, his election could have a dramatic impact on the adoption rate of plug-in vehicles. Elon Musk was invited and did attend Trump's high-tech leaders meeting, so there is a chance that there will be some support from his administrations. We'll see in 2017.
In the wake of the diesel emissions cheating scandal, Volkswagen has said that they will offer a 370-mile EV in 2020 at the price of a diesel Golf. VW has had timid support for EVs, the silver lining to this incident might be that it caused them to accelerate their EV development.
#5 Tesla Supercharging
Tesla's Supercharging network grew dramatically in 2016. At one point near the end of the year, they unveiled 7 new Supercharger locations in 7 days, in 7 cities and they announced that they will have a V3 Supercharger that will make the current fast chargers look like "children's toys." The new V3 stations will have solar panels and on-site storage. Charging from on-site storage frees the system up from grid limitation rates and allows for much faster rates of charging than standard 3-phase would allow. A vast fast-charging infrastructure is vital to the expansion of electric transportation.
#6 Autonomous Driving
Autonomous Driving made big strides in 2016. In 2015 most predictions were that full autonomous driving was 20 or 30 years away. Just a year later and most predictions see this as just 5 years away.
Google launched their self-driving car efforts as a new company (under the Alphabet umbrella) called Wamyo. Tesla greatly improved their Autopilot feature with the released SW 8.0 that enabled the forward look looking radar. Additionally, Tesla released Autopilot hardware 2.0. It has more cameras and better sonar. Tesla claims that, once the SW is ready, cars with this HW will be capable of full autonomy. Delphi, Bosch, Intel, Uber, Comma, Apple, and others all have autonomous vehicle programs in active development.
#7 EV Startup Frenzy
2016 birthed many new electric car startups. Atieva, Lucid Motors, Faraday Future, NextEV, Fisker (again) and other EV startups have been coming out of the woodwork. It's estimated that $1.9B was invested in EV-related startup companies in 2016. This is more than twice the 2015 investment and six times the 2014 level of investment.
#8 Toyota's About-Face On EVs
In 2016, Toyota announced plans to support EVs. As a bellwether of the industry and a company that has been a fervent supporter of fuel cell vehicles. As mentioned in item 2 above, many carmakers have announced plans for EVs but Toyota has been adamant in their PR that EVs are a very limited niche market, this change in direction is a big deal for the company and the entire industry.
#9 Growing EV Sales Hit 1%
In 2016, for the first time, US plug-in vehicle sales surpassed 1%. This is a small milestone, but an important one on the path of disruptive technologies. With over 140,000 new plug-in vehicles placed on US roadways in 2016, EV sales grew 33% year over year. This pushed the total number of vehicles on US roads over the half million mark and it is on track to have 1 million by 2018 (as we predicted 1 year ago).
#10 Electric Haulers (Garbage, People, or Hay Bales)
Passenger vehicles are a large and important market, but there are many other types of vehicles on the road. In 2016 vehicle electrification branched out. Electric garbage trucks, buses, and farm tractors saw their first steps to becoming a market reality in 2016. Proterra, Complete Coach Works, BYD, John Deere, Wrightspeed and others have products under development to move these loud diesel belchers to quiet electric drive systems. Tesla's Master Plan Part Deux promises that the automaker will have trucks, semis, and people movers (buses reimagined) at some future date. They might find that they have some competition waiting for them when they get there. And that's good for all of us.
This concludes our to ten of 2016. What stories would you add to the list?