It felt like 2021 was the year of the EV crossover. Tesla’s Model Y quietly dethroned its Model 3 sedan as the best-selling electric car in the U.S. Three new entrants jumped into the top 5 EV sellers: the VW ID.4, Ford Mustang Mach-E and the Chevy Bolt EUV. Perhaps it should not surprise us because Americans love their crossover SUVs.
But Americans love their pickup trucks more. I predict that 2022 will be the year of the EV truck.
Why? The top-selling vehicle model across 30 states in 2021 was the Ford F-Series, and the numbers we’re talking about are 5X what the Model Y has done. That makes the F-150 Lightning the most important EV introduction in history. This is a mainstream vehicle that will do more to establish (for better or worse) the reputation of EVs in the minds of most Americans. That includes my wife, who placed her pre-order for the F-150 Lightning months ago, after turning her nose up at every offering from Tesla to date.
The Rivian R1T pickup truck and Tesla Cybertruck are interesting to watch as well, but they aren’t growing the EV buyer demographics and geographic reach in the same way as the F-150.
This got me thinking about 2022 and what we should expect to see this year. To help us look to the future, I asked some of the smartest, savviest EV insiders I know to share their top predictions for 2022.
- Simona Onori is a Stanford University assistant professor of energy resources engineering and electrical engineering.
- Stacy Noblet is senior director of transportation electrification and a senior fellow with the Climate Center at ICF, a global consulting firm.
- Sahas Katta is founder and CEO of Smartcar, a company that enables the integration of apps and services with connected electric cars.
- Esther Perman is Head of Product at Recurrent. Prior to this role, Esther co-founded a startup that focused on driving EV adoption and was on the founding team for Zillow Offers.
Prediction: Used EVs Make Electric Mobility More Accessible (Stacy Noblet)
One of the reasons EVs have not yet reached mainstream adoption at scale is because of the upfront costs associated with them. While EVs mean operational cost savings compared to fully gas-powered vehicles, the initial price tag is what gets most of a purchaser’s focus. Because of this, continued increase in EV adoption will rely on the second and third ownership market.
In 2022, we’ll see more consumers seeking out used EVs, and EVs finding their way to more middle and low-income households. As supply chain issues persist, the availability of used EVs
will help soften the impact of vehicle shortages and provide all of the benefits of new ones, but at a lower price point, making electrification more accessible for more consumers.
Prediction: Software and Connectivity Will Personalize the EV Experience (Sahas Katta)
EV owners are generally early adopters and ahead of the curve compared to other traditional vehicle owners. If you drive an EV, there’s a higher likelihood that you see the OEM app on your phone as an extension of the driving experience and you look for third-party apps to enhance it.
Nearly all EVs shipped today offer connected services and, with 5G emerging, we’ll see faster connections and less latency. This makes it easier to enable more complex APIs to become available, opening the doors for developers to build even richer and more creative apps for cars and their drivers.
Prediction: New EV Shoppers Will Keep Demand for Leased and Used EVs High (Esther Perman)
The next wave of new EV models adds more variety and options for early adopters, as well as the early majority (see Scott’s comments about the Ford F-150 Lightning). But for many of the “EV curious” shoppers, the perfect EV to match their lifestyle is still a year or two away. That won’t stop them from looking now, however; add in federal and state pricing incentives and increasing awareness of the environmental impact, and I predict that shoppers (especially two-car households) will be willing to dip their toes into electric driving with leases and cheaper used models.
Prediction: LFP Bounces Back in a Big Way (Simona Onori)
Major automotive players (e.g., Tesla, VW, Ford- both in US and China) will increasingly lean towards lithium-iron-phosphate (LFP) for EV batteries, to replace the higher energy density Nickel-Cobalt-based counterparts (NCA and NMC). This will bring down prices for the consumers and accelerate mass EV production worldwide.
2022 will be the comeback year of LFP battery technology (LFP is a dated technology invented in the 1990s with lower energy density than the NMC or NCA) as a push to reduce the amount of cobalt used in batteries – to increase global reliance on supply from the Democratic Republic of the Congo and human right issues related to child labor in mines.
Reducing cobalt content could be done at the expense of higher nickel content, but that would be a recipe for thermal stability reduction and increased risk of explosion. LFP is cheaper, safer – higher thermal stability – cobalt-free, has less environmental impact, is fast-charge friendly and has a much longer useful lifetime. Drawback? Because of their lower energy density, they offer a slighter shorter range. In my opinion, a small price to pay to accelerate the race for sustainability!
Prediction: New EV Shoppers Demand Different Shopping Experiences (Esther Perman)
Tesla didn’t just disrupt electric car design, they changed expectations of the car purchase experience. In many states, Tesla’s online ordering and delivery eliminated steps that consumers like least; several OEMs have followed suit with online purchase reservations for upcoming models. Add in the popularity of auto e-commerce sites with shoppers who hate haggling over price, and I predict that we’ll see more and more consumers demand a shopping experience that reduces or eliminates time spent waiting at dealerships.
Dealerships who do embrace electric vehicles will win by helping consumers experience what makes electric so special, providing at-home charging solutions, and being the experts at answering questions about range and battery life.
Prediction: 2021 Commitments Become 2022 Realities (Stacy Noblet)
It felt like 2021 was the year of EV commitments, with a lot of attention (and money) going toward EVs, including the Infrastructure Bill, which allocated $7.5 billion toward EV charging infrastructure at a federal and local level. 2022 will be about following through on these commitments. To do this, we need to prioritize the buildout of charging infrastructure along corridors and across communities, which will be dependent on collaboration with utility companies.
We’re already seeing this in action at the local level with efforts like NYC’s Electrifying New York plan, which brings together the NYC Mayor’s Office of Sustainability, Con Edison, and National Grid to ensure the city is properly prepared for EV investments.
We’ve also witnessed the emergence of regional and nationwide collaborations like the National Electric Highway Coalition, which represents more than 50 power companies aiming to increase EV accessibility. In 2022, utilities will have a constant seat at the table and will provide governments and key stakeholders with valuable grid insights to ensure that efficient and equitable EV adoption is possible as federal funding makes its way into communities across the country.
Prediction: Startups Make EVs Even Cleaner (Sahas Katta)
Let’s face it: an EV is only as clean as the grid that powers it. New companies and technology will help us optimize when and how we draw the energy that powers our vehicles. Software can’t eliminate the environmental footprint of transportation by itself, but it can make it easier to charge EVs with clean energy. Keep an eye on businesses like Rolling Energy Resources, which is already breaking ground on making this possible.
Prediction: Electric Fleets Visibly Shift to be the Rule Rather Than the Exception (Stacy Noblet)
In 2022, we’ll see more interest from businesses in adopting electric fleets. Fleet electrification makes economic sense – it can save them up to 40% on maintenance costs and up to 50% on fuel costs. Even with a higher upfront cost for vehicles and infrastructure, businesses will quickly realize the long-term benefits of turning their fleets electric.
Beyond cost savings, business leaders are also adopting more sustainable practices to support climate resilience efforts, which will be reinforced through fleet electrification. Fleet electrification is important for reducing emissions in the sector due to the scale of impact and the greater number of miles traveled by fleet vehicles, which can significantly improve air quality in disadvantaged communities. Now that more vehicle makes and models are available, fleets of all sizes and types will embrace electrification and start to convert their vehicles to EVs.
Predicting the Future Is Not Easy
While these are very smart people and some of their predictions seem like sure things, nothing is guaranteed, and this is not an exhaustive list. Add your own 2022 predictions in the comments so we can all benefit from each other’s collective wisdom.