TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. -- As automakers ramp up efforts to remove the human from driving decisions, they will aggressively pursue greater vehicle electrification, forecaster Jeff Schuster predicts.
In a presentation Tuesday here at the CAR Management Briefing Seminars, Schuster, senior vice president of global forecasting at LMC Automotive, said 63 percent of SUVs will offer an electrification option by 2021. That is driven in part by the development of self-driving vehicles, he said.
“The electrification of the industry plays a role here, not only in meeting regulations around the world, but also in powering the autonomous vehicles of the future,” Schuster said.
Though the EPA is re-examining the 2025 model year emissions targets, which call for automakers in the U.S. to raise fleetwide fuel economy to 54.5 mpg, manufacturers likely will continue to develop electrified powertrains regardless of the decision, Schuster said, because of their relationship to self-driving cars.
Autonomous and electrified vehicles are commonly grouped together as automotive trends. Companies targeting self-driving taxi services see electrified vehicles as easier to maintain when the cars are in constant operation. Self-driving technology manufacturers such as Waymo are also targeting larger but fuel-efficient vehicles to ferry groups of people in a ride-hailing service.
Electrified vehicles also lend themselves to autonomous vehicle engineering, providing a battery power source for the supercomputer driving the car.
Schuster said manufacturers will likely begin mass trials of self-driving vehicles between 2020 and 2025, with the first commercial deployments coming between 2025 and 2030.
Automaker timelines for electrification mirror this prediction. Volvo has pledged to electrify all new vehicles introduced in 2019 and beyond. Ford Motor Co. plans to build seven electrified vehicles by 2022. General Motors introduced its all-electric Chevrolet Bolt this year, and CEO Mary Barra said a range of vehicles could be built on its platform.
For the development of electrified SUVs, which appeal to consumer preferences and autonomous ride-hailing services, Schuster said luxury automakers are likely to offer the first options, but more players will join the field as production costs decrease within a few years.
“There’s going to be massive penetration,” he said. “We see it launching obviously first in the premium market because of the costs associated with that, and then we see that leveling off as the traditional SUV market does improve.”