The future of plug-in hybrid passenger cars in Europe
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This research study establishes the most likely scenarios for which plug-in hybrid passenger vehicles will be used as company cars within the European Union by 2035. Due to increasing oil costs and environmental unpopularity of the normal diesel or petrol engine car, it is expected that the electric car will eventually take over. However, electric cars still have major challenges to overcome with limited mileage range between charging intervals and sparsely located charge points from which to recharge the car battery. For this reason, the plug-in hybrids, which have both electric and petrol/diesel power options, have the potential to begin replacing the normal combustion engine car while providing some of the cost and environmental benefits of the electric car not yet sufficiently developed. Using the Delphi method and the expert knowledge of stakeholders in the automotive and company car fleet sectors; this study has obtained their privileged viewpoints on various future scenarios for plug-in hybrids. These viewpoints, following some statistical analysis, were shared anonymously among an expert panel to facilitate further discussion. The results were then reviewed and used to create an interview guide in order to carry out semi-structured interviews with fifteen ‘subject matter experts’. Interview transcripts were subject to thematic analysis from which themes were derived and final scenarios concluded the future of plug-in hybrid cars in the European company car fleet. Results indicated a mixed model of passenger cars power chains by 2035, with plug-in hybrids in a declining market. Fully electric cars dominate, with a minority, but growing share of the market, going to hydrogen vehicles. Cars powered by hydrogen fuel cells will eventually disrupt the entire European car market in the 2040s, as hydrogen gas becomes more efficiently produced. Understanding the potential for plug-in hybrid technology as the next market innovation disrupter in the car industry and developing a methodology from which to research this, makes an important theoretical contribution to research on emerging car technologies. It also fulfils the current knowledge gap that exists regarding diffusion of this technology platform in the automotive and financial leasing markets. It provides valuable direction to passenger car fleet providers and car manufacturers alike, as they struggle with new technology innovations in the automotive sector and with investment strategies required to make the proposed transition to electric vehicles.