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Revving Up: Electric Vehicles In 2012 And Beyond

Electric vehicle manufacturers had a rough December. Aptera closed its doors, Fisker recalled hundreds of plug-in hybrids, and Chevy sought to address battery-related safety concerns.

But don’t expect a few potholes to halt progress toward vehicle electrification.

According to new reports from Next10 and Pike Research, the electric vehicle industry is alive, particularly in California, and growing. In 2012, carmakers will introduce a variety of models – from Toyota’s Prius Plug-in Hybrid to Tesla’s Model S and Ford’s Focus EV – that will make electric vehicles more accessible and affordable, increasing sales.

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“With the evolution of any new industry, there are going to be fits and starts and winners and losers. It is not going to be a straight hockey stick up to success,” said Noel Perry, founder of the advocacy organization Next10. “Our report… points to continued research and investment into electric vehicles.”

In “Powering Innovation,” Next10 reports that California leads the United States in vehicle electrification. California ranks first in venture capital investment in electric vehicle-related technologies, first in electric vehicle-related patents and first in electric vehicle charging stations per capita. In the first half of 2011, California attracted nearly 70% of global venture investment in electric vehicle-related companies.

California owes its leadership position in part to supportive public policies.

“From a policy perspective, California is doing an incredible job,” said Jit Bhattacharya, CEO of Mission Motors, a California-based developer of advanced electric powertrains that in August raised $9 million from Warburg Pincus and Infield Capital. “California is creating a certain policy landscape around which electric vehicle companies can grow and thrive and around which consumers can be early adopters for electric vehicles.”

According to Next10, California also benefits from entrepreneurial talent and strong research and development capabilities, which serve as a magnet for investment.

“An electric vehicle is a lot more like an iPad than it is like a fossil-fuel driven car. It is a lot about electronics, hardware and software, [where] Silicon Valley has been a leader,” said Next10’s Perry, a venture investor turned public policy advocate.

“The ecosystem for a startup is awesome [in Silicon Valley] because of the concentration of tech companies,” said Pat Romano, CEO of Coulomb Technologies, a California-based charging network company that sells electric vehicle charging stations and subscription-based charging service plans. “Your entire supply chain and talent pool is optimized in Silicon Valley.”
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