The EV Revolution – Threat or opportunity?

A lot is said about electric vehicles (EV). Both, negative and positive. For some, EVs are nothing more than a fad. They provide poor experience; range fear is disastrous for mobility needs and charging is a hassle. For others, they are marvels of innovation truly changing the world into a better place and saving our planet from extinction. And who is right? No-one and everyone! It all depends on our perspective, how we perceive the world and how we embrace the new and the unknown. It is an eternal question of whether the glass is half-empty or half-full.

Considering technology adoption cycle, the EV industry has not really crossed the chasm yet. EVs are still only embraced by Early Adopters.

Crossing the chasm

Last year (2018), globally, all plug-in cars accounted for just a little more than 2% of the total passenger car sales with two-third of this number accounting for the battery electric vehicles (BEV) sales. The total penetration of EVs within all existing cars is miniscule, about 0.4% (GreenFlux estimate).

Pie graph EV sales
Source: Insideevs, GreenFlux

There are of course regional differences. China accounts roughly for half of the worldwide sales and penetration. Norway’s EV sales exceed even 50% of total. Most countries, however, lag far behind. These, still relative low sales numbers, reflect the early stage that the industry is still in. And the chasm has not be crossed yet since the Early Majority group has not seen enough benefits to accelerate adoption. Namely, range, availability and convenience of charging infrastructure, availability and choice of models of the vehicles themselves being the main culprits.

Crossing the chasm

However, this small drop in the ocean is just a teaser of what is coming. The tornado that is supposed to help cross the chasm is just starting. It is expected that the cost of the electric car will drop below the cost of the traditional car. With the cost per mile/km driven EVs certainly beating traditional. Moreover, by definition, the maintenance and servicing cost is on the EV’s side since the beginning. One does not need to change oil or other combustion engine-related spare parts.

Charging infrastructure is also improving. Netherlands, being one of the EV charging infrastructure leaders (GreenFlux being proud to be based in NL), offers about 37,000 public charging stations, with more than a 1000 fast charging stations. The ratio of plug-in electric cars per (public) charging station is 1 to 4 (0.25 car per charging station). Naturally, the outstanding question is whether the charging infrastructure should be leading or lagging.

It is only a matter of time where the economics and the overall experience of owning and using an electric vehicle overturns “traditional” cars. Although nothing is certain, there is quite some evidence the EV revolution is not really threatening anything or anybody. And the evidence suggests the EV’s slowly but steadily become not just a toy for a few rich, environmentally-friendly or just technology enthusiasts. They will become just normally accepted mobility products. One might hypothesize if traditional cars will become un-cool but this might be a far reaching thesis. Is there a perfect tornado in making?

A new perspective on mobility

So what is this argument about? Is it much ado about nothing? Well, the entire point of this post is that we, as a society and the industry, are facing an enormous opportunity. The EV revolution is the biggest change since the invention of the internal combustion engine. It changes our perception of mobility, it impacts our way of life. Like every change, it brings some uncertainties, possibly fears. At GreenFlux, we (and I personally) prefer to see this change as an ocean of opportunities. And we also argue, everyone, though wary of issues and obstacles, should have at least a little rosy picture of what is coming.

GIF ev sales growth and charge points
Source: RVO, GreenFlux

Sheer numbers of required mobility products and required infrastructure are astonishing. Automotive OEMs need to ramp up their development and production of EVs 12 times by 2030 (globally).

GreenFlux is obviously interested in the needs and opportunities of the developing charging infrastructure. In the Netherlands, the numbers are even more jaw dropping. Analyzing the requirements of the Dutch infrastructure, we expect 3 million EVs on Dutch roads in 2030. Assuming the necessity of 1:1 public charge point availability (required to provide a decent, smooth and seamless charging experience), the number of required public charge points is 3.3M! This is 91 times more than the current number. To achieve these ambitions, much needs to be done and implemented. Hence, undeniably, huge number of opportunities arise.

Key to success

Honestly though, just numbers do not make it all happen. Significant innovation efforts are required to avoid the “wishful thinking” trap. Several key issues need to be addressed:

  • Overall EV driver experience – a little different than traditional cars
  • Interoperability of charging infrastructure – charging anytime, anywhere
  • Range fear
  • Availability and choice of EV models (depth of product lines)
  • Availability and suitability of grid infrastructure (for EV charging)
  • Education

… and many others

At GreenFlux, we focus on the charging infrastructure elements like availability and efficiency of the charging infra. We are working very hard to turn the EV charging infrastructure in a leading rather than a lagging factor. Also, we actively address grid-related issues with our smart charging solutions. And we closely work with the entire ecosystem (e.g. automotive OEM’s, utilities, grid operators etc.) to address as many other issues as possible. We see the future is bright. Yet we are fully aware that a collective effort of the entire ecosystem; established companies as well as startups, consortia and partnerships, is needed to help the EV world thrive. At GreenFlux, we truly believe in the power if Internet-of-Energy. With this post, we hope to have highlighted the opportunities and encourage everyone to look very positively at the upcoming change as a common good.

Article by Piotr Chmielewski