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Just because it's difficult to predict the future doesn't mean people won't try. See, for example, the CEO of Shell, who said last week that he expects plug-in vehicles to make up 40 percent of the new car market in 2050. The U.S. Energy Information Administration isn't looking that far ahead with its latest prediction – and it isn't trying to convince stockholders of one thing or another – but it sees "alternative vehicles" (which includes flex fuel, hybrids and diesel) making up 49 percent of new vehicle sales by 2035. In 2008, this category only made up 13 percent. Why should we expect the increase? Higher CAFE standards and climbing fuel prices will force the issue.

The breakdown of this "alternative vehicles" category is interesting, too. In 2008, flex fuel vehicles made up around 80 percent of the total, with hybrid electrics making up most of the rest. By the time we get to 2035, the EIA says flex fuel vehicles will make up less than half of the category, with hybrids and diesels all growing to fill the gap. Plug-ins? Well, the EIA thinks they'll reach around five percent of the total market in 25 years. Thanks to Roy B. for the tip!

[Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration]


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  • 21 Comments
      • 5 Years Ago
      All the more reason to set a price floor on fossil fuels, say $5/gal in the form of federal taxes. I bet we'd see a much larger percentage of alternative vehicles then.
      • 5 Years Ago
      When China reaches parity with the US in per capita car ownership they will consume 100% of all oil produced in the world. Alternative fuels will not longer be alternative, but necessary.
        • 5 Years Ago
        It is really if China adopts US consumtion patterns, rather than if they reach parity in car ownership. The US cunsumes 26% of global oil production, China has 4.5 times as many people, so China would end up consuming 117% of total global oil production if it shared our per-capita patterns.

        However, China is investing more in clean energy technologies than the US and probably won't be filled with V8 crew cab trucks as single occupant commuter vehicles- so it won't be that bad. But India and a number of other countries are growing rapidly and will also soon be competing with us for global resources. Oil is clearly going to go up in price due to global competition and the US will be hurting if we don't change out consumption patterns.
        • 5 Years Ago
        No country can meet the per capita car ownership of America, nobody else is that stupid.

        The only thing I claim is: I like cheese.
        • 5 Years Ago
        Their urban densities are an order of magnitude greater than ours. Personal automobiles are infeasible. Regardless, they don't need to reach cars/capita; with 1.5B people they just need to have 1/4th our rate to have the effect you're claiming. Don't forget India and their 1.5B people.
      • 5 Years Ago
      Dubious at best:

      The flex fuel category is seriously rather misleading - they should replace it with "Percentage of Flex fuel vehicle running something OTHER than gasoline", which is practically zero.

      1. Seriously, what percentage of Flex Fuelers out there even know they can run E85;
      2. What it is and;
      3. Know where they can buy it?

      The graph starts to look pretty sad at that point.
      • 5 Years Ago
      To be fair the article states this graph is based on the EIA's predictions, Shell's predictions are even gloomier.

      Also, is anyone else surprised that Diesel doesn't even look represented on this graph? I know Diesel car sales are poor in the U.S. but what about all the heavy duty or commercial vehicles?
      • 5 Years Ago
      Oops! I didn't read closely enough - In fact fuel cell/electric/gaseous is a category on this chart and it does read 0%. I guess everyone should cancel all their electric car plans!
      • 5 Years Ago
      I'm just very disappointed with GM & Chrysler div. They join together to make a hybrid transmission and they only put it in SUV's and full size trucks. They do not make it where it is needed most. Vehicles mostly used in cities. Mini vans are used for taxis, moms, and business. Both companies should have the 2 mode hybrid by now for the minivans. Dodge Avenger & chrysler sebring should have had their 2 mode hybrid with a 1.8L base model.
      Chrysler should have made a deal with VW for clean diesels in the USA. Dodge caliber, journey, avenger, Chrysler sebring, Jeep compass, & Patriot all use the VW 2.0L crd overseas. As for the E85 vehicles. Nice to have in city fleet vehicles for clean burn cleaner city air. Work sight vehicles that are in an enclosed area nice to have propane or E85. Other than that, E85 just doesn't provide good fuel mileage and takes alot of energy to produce. Mild hybrid = engine turns off at a stop. This is not a hybrid! This is a waste of time by auto makers unless it can start moving under electric power from a stop. Stop and go traffic needs electric motors to at least power a vehicle up to 15-20 mph for a distance of 1-2 miles. That's what I call mild hybrid. While a full hybrid should be able to have a bigger battery pack for more distance on battery power and higher speeds under electric power before the gas motor kicks in.
      • 5 Years Ago
      Rubbish prediction, and I see it more as them trying to steer the outcome. VHS vs Betamax anyone?


      Ethanol is NOT the solution (at least until they figure out a way to produce it from a non-food source).
      • 5 Years Ago
      As China and India grow and continue to put more pressure on oil prices, they will eventually sky rocket. Alternative vehicles will be the hot ticket and the only thing you will be able to drive. Electric vehicles have a big future. Build more nuclear power plants and alternative energy sources like windmills, and say goodbye to terrorist oil pushers from the mid-east.
      • 5 Years Ago
      I am planning on a new car in 2010. My "short list" WAS composed just of compact cars, "B segment," tro save fuel costs, etc. But now I have added Prius to my list. Despite the increase in purchase price (c. $3,500 average for Prius II), I can't get that 50 mpg figure out of my head...it's double anything else out there in real world driving. I can't ignore that any longer.
      • 5 Years Ago
      And if you get rid of all of the cars that are still petroleum-sourced (hybrids and flex-fuel, as ethanol takes a nearly equal amount of petroleum to produce), we're left with...the same place we are now.
        • 5 Years Ago
        your not taking into account total market growth

        we will still be using more energy to move around, we are still worse off
      • 5 Years Ago
      According to the chart, there will be 0 fuel cell and electric vehicles on the roads by 2035.
        • 5 Years Ago
        I think you've got it - there is no mention of full electic vehicles. It doesn't attempt to say how the other 50% is split between gas and electric.
        • 5 Years Ago
        This is 100% pure BS.

        Anyone wonder why Shell OIL is putting such a huge PR campaign against this? Hmm, I wonder why...?
        • 5 Years Ago
        It shows "plug-in hybrid electric" right there on the chart. It appears to show that 3% of vehicles will be plug-in electric by 2035.

        As for fuel cells, the chart probably anticipates less than 1% of vehicles to use fuel cells.
      • 5 Years Ago
      Should give Shell enough time in in those 40 years to spend those huge oil profits on buying up alternative fuel related industry.
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