Electric vehicles are polarising. Advocates will point out they are the way of the future, a viable way to wean ourselves off oil, and with millions of miles driven in the hands of consumers already, a proven technology. Those against them will assert they are an unworthy tax-payer subsidized experiment, or maybe they’ll cite the lack of charging.
But, the “early adopters”, be they home converters of electric cars, or the fortunate few who can afford a factory-built electric car are slowly but surely preparing to have the last laugh. This was accentuated at an electric car symposium in Silicon Valley last month which helped to demonstrate the positive health of the electric car industry.
This symposium brought together leaders from the EV industry and the broader EV industry ecosystem. So what predictions and words of wisdom were shared there? Well, over the course of the two-day conference, the truth seems to be that EVs have been fighting hard against a biased (corporate) media and have neither won the day just yet, nor lost the fight.
Some things are working, some things are not, and some things need to be viewed in the context of changing consumer preferences and technological progress. Importantly, the symposium agreed that the long-term success or failure of the EV industry can neither be evaluated by looking at today’s monthly sales figures, nor by looking at quarterly profitability.
We see a fixation at the moment on sales volumes of the Chevy Volt and Nissan LEAF – which though interesting, and perhaps the best market indicators we have to go on, are not particularly useful for evaluating future EV viability.
Rather, EVs should be acknowledged as a disruptive technology, where today’s EV drivers constitute the “early, early-adopters” according to Mike Calise of Schneider Electric. He believes “the game will be won or lost in the next 9 years”, starting last year. The industry is only now moving from the experimental stage to the innovation stage, so the time horizon for evaluating success or otherwise needs to be pushed out.
Regardless of the rise or fall of the factory-built electric car market, the home-conversion market is still going strong, seen by the increase of brands and sites selling off-the-shelf electric car components. However, for whatever reason, this is seen as nothing more than a hobby – despite the literally thousands of converted cars in the USA alone.
One thing is certain, it’s never been a better time to be interested in the automotive industry.