How to succeed in green vehicle marketing: Forget about gas prices and focus on clean energy

Gasoline and oil prices have seen sizable drops recently. Gasoline in the US lately has been averaging $2.41 per gallon versus $3.23 a year ago. As of Dec. 15, WTI crude oil was $55.96 per barrel versus $97.18 a year ago. The consensus opinion among analysts is that petroleum prices should stay down for the next year or so, and will eventually go up to record high prices. That could be somewhere around 2020 through increased government taxes and reduced oil supply driving the pump price of gasoline up to around $10 per gallon.

In the meantime, there has got to be a better marketing tactic for reaching fleets and consumers and their decision-making process. It looks like reducing greenhouse gas emissions, gaining more freedom from oil dependency, and supporting advanced vehicle technology innovation would be the best ways to go. A new study by the Union of ConcerneGas pricesd Scientists (UCS) offers some convincing resources, as does development of solar energy storage systems.

UCS has calculated that electric vehicles (EVs) have less “wells-to-wheels” emissions than they did a year ago. Top-selling Nissan Leaf increasing its electric range from 73 miles to 84 miles has helped, and the arrival in the past year of more energy efficient EVs like the BMW i3 has played a part in the improvements. Another UCS study, the “State of Charge,” finds that electricity production is getting cleaned up through reduction in coal generation and increasing renewable energy – helping EV makers and drivers meet their goals of reducing emissions and fossil fuel consumption.

Solar energy has huge potential for leading the renewable energy front, but it’s still behind wind energy in the US as a source currently being tapped into by utilities. For both solar and wind, one of the biggest challenges for market growth has been the capacity to store that power when the sun goes down (or is limited by storm clouds) and when the wind fades away. These are fluctuating, intermittent energy sources that need storage systems if they stand a chance of meeting load demand and gaining the financial backing they need.

A new study by GTM Research forecasts the market for solar energy paired with energy storage will surpass $1 billion per year in revenue by 2018 in the US. Installation of 318 cumulative megawatts of storage capacity through 2018 will come from state incentives, falling battery costs, net metering changes, and solid growth in the solar photovoltaics market. Two developments play a part: California’s mandate to procure 1.3 gigawatts of energy storage and Tesla’s Gigafactory will mean that capacity for energy storage will soon reach a tipping point. A federal 30% Investment Tax Credit (ITC), available in certain situations, is also expected to help meet that $1 billion forecast – up from its current $42 million annual revenue.

California and Hawaii have been the major growth markets for solar power in the US, and more incentives are expected to show up. California, New Jersey, and New York have been offering incentive programs. California’s Small Generation Incentive Program has supported several megawatts’ worth of solar-plus-storage to date.

It’s typical to see incentives for adding solar power to homes and commercial properties, and occasionally these programs are tied into EV ownership. Solar-powered canopies with charging stations have taken off in California and other states; and solar companies  have made marketing arrangements with automakers to entice EV owners to install solar on their homes – such as SolarCity has done with Honda through its discount solar financing program.