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The electric car's future starts this year, research report says

After about a decade of slow progress, 2021 is the year EVs start to turn the page and enter the mainstream, according to ABI Research analysis.

2018 Chevrolet Bolt EV charging port
More Americans are expected to plug-in starting this year.

It's a new year and predictions for the auto industry are rolling in. At least one prominent research firm says this year will mark the end of the beginning for electric cars. ABI Research issued its 2021 Trend Report this past Wednesday and its conclusion is EVs will start trickling into the mainstream this year.

Sure, Tesla is well-known, but its cars certainly aren't widespread. The company delivered just under 500,000 EVs last year by its count. By comparison, Americans bought over three million pickup trucks alone in 2019. Despite the automaker's success, it's got a long way to go before a Tesla in someone's garage isn't a conversation piece. Ditto for any other car manufacturer looking to sell EVs in the coming years -- and that's basically, well, all of them.

Starting in 2021, ABI Research said EVs will start to gain traction in the market, largely driven by more affordable models scheduled to start rolling into dealerships throughout this year. By the end of this decade, EVs may make up a quarter of all new vehicles shipped. If the trajectory pans out, it would be a remarkable shift for the industry. 

But, automakers can fumble things, according to James Hodgson, smart mobility and automotive principal analyst at ABI Research. EV buyers are traditionally the "first adopter" crowd, eager to get the latest technology first, or they're environmentally conscious. As electric cars move into the mainstream and automakers start providing more options, Hodgson said it will be on those companies to "develop more innovative approaches" to not only put buyers in an EV, but show them it's just as good as their gasoline-powered car of the past (or it might even be better).

"Smart charging technologies, support for occasional Direct Current fast charging, and battery management will be critical in supporting mainstream consumers in their transition from ICEs to EV ownership," he added in the paper.

In a broader sense, however, ABI Research doesn't see the booming auto buying years of last decade returning until the middle of the 2020s. We could see stagnant sales through 2024 due to the pandemic's effects, economic conditions and even a shift to more remote work environments. That's not to say things are guaranteed to play out this way  -- few people expected a global pandemic this time last year, after all. But, even as sales perhaps remain tepid, we can expect to see way more EVs buzzing around city streets.

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