The trend for fleet managers to pursue vehicles that save on fuel costs while maintaining a low impact on the environment should continue for the next several years. For that reason, global hybrid fleet sales will surpass 830,000 vehicles in 2015, up from 280,000 in 2008. That is according to a new study from Pike Research. 

Hybrid electric vehicles and plug-in hybrids will best serve fleets in their pursuit of fuel-saving, environmentally friendly vehicles. Next-generation plug-in hybrid electric vehicles will represent 21 percent of total hybrid fleet sales in 2015, according to the study, titled "Hybrid Electric Vehicles for Fleet Markets."

Limited access to hybrid electric vehicles has been a barrier so far in fleets' ability to cut fuel costs and lower emissions, said Pike Research managing director Clint Wheelock. Manufacturers have focused mainly on small consumer vehicles due to the high cost of larger batteries. Also, as fleet operators' rely on leasing rather than purchasing, government incentives and tax breaks do not stimulate adoption of commercial hybrids, he added. 

The government, university, and utility sectors will be among the top early adopters of commercial hybrids. Fleets with a mix of cars and trucks, such as municipal governments, will take a particularly strong interest. Key companies to watch in this sector include A123 Systems, Eaton Corp., Ford Motor Co., General Motors, ISE Corp. Johnson Controls-Saft, LG Chem, Panasonic, and Toyota, according to the study.

The Pike Research study examines the opportunities and challenges for hybrid electrics and plug-in hybrids in fleet markets around the world, including light cars and trucks and the medium/heavy duty truck segments. The study reviews hybrid and battery technology issues, with forecasts included for the global vehicle market, hybrid electric and plug-in hybrid sales (total and fleet), total commercial vehicle registrations, and fleet sales by segment. Key market players are also profiled, including automotive OEMs, heavy-duty truck and bus manufacturers, and key suppliers including battery manufacturers.

The report covers technology issues such as plug-in hybrid electric vehicle drivetrains, parallel hybrid design of mild hybrids and full hybrids, series hybrid design/extended range electric vehicle, and medium/heavy-duty truck hybrid design.

It also covers battery technology such as lead acid batteries, nickel-sodium chloride batteries, nickel metal hydride batteries, lithium ion batteries, and lithium titanate batteries.