If your car could travel at the speed of light, would your headlights work?Stephen Wright
Suddenly, or at least it seems that it is sudden, automobile manufacturers here are embracing electric vehicles. Now, those of us who travelled extensively prior to the onslaught of COVID were already well aware that the European Union, the Nordics, and many parts of Asia had started embracing the electrification of vehicles far ahead of the slow start here in Canada and the United States.
Even when Toyota hit one million hybrids or full EVs, North America barely reacted to the milestone. So, what triggered it all of a sudden?
Was it Tesla with its rapid sales growth and globalization of everything on earth? Maybe. Elon Musk is a game-changer and has disrupted many industries already so when Tesla started to make headway and penetrate the market share of the global car players then they woke up and started to pay attention.
Was it the Volkswagen diesel lies, getting caught, and astronomical fines and penalties? This may have been one of the catalysts that instigated the instant disappearance of diesel fired cars that sparked this transformation?
Was it the growing concerns for a green earth and the need to protect the environment that made makers cultivate new, greener fields to meet the fear that we are indeed harming our environment and must amend our ways if we wish to survive? This could be a reason. In some parts of the world where electric vehicles are already thriving the green agenda is powerfully impacting everyday life.
Was it our continued pursuit for innovation, disruption, and change that helped us all see the light and pivot towards a better, safer, smarter technological future? Maybe. The innovations in electric cars are moving hand in hand with smart cities, autonomous self-driving cars and satellite internet, federated networks, Edge computing, artificial intelligence, and many other stunning technologies that promise a better life.
Or, was it money. Often, things change simply because of the desire for company’s to enhance profitability and for the reduction of costs. Building electric vehicles means a complete retooling of an assembly line, which brings in sophisticated automation and multi-functional robotic assembly. This means a dramatic reduction in labour, which is often one of the biggest costs in car manufacturing. Are EVs just about dollars and cents?
There maybe other reasons. In fact it is more likely that it is a result of all of these ideas combined and harmonized to bring forth the next generation of automobiles.
General Motors recently unveiled the Cadillac LYRIQ show car and the GMC HUMMER EV. They join the Chevrolet Bolt EV, which is currently on the market. The Cruise Origin was unveiled in January 2020, the first production vehicle from the General Motors, Cruise and Honda partnership.
GM is on its way to an all-electric future, with a commitment to 30 new global electric vehicles by 2025. They are aggressively going after every aspect of what it takes to put everyone in an EV because they say that we need millions of EVs on the road to make a meaningful impact toward building a zero-emissions future. GM is positioned to design, engineer, and produce EVs for every style and price point, and they are rapidly building a competitive advantage in batteries, software, vehicle integration, manufacturing and customer experience.
Ford Motor CEO Jim Farley on recently touted the automaker’s electric-vehicle strategy, telling CNBC the company intends to strongly compete in the growing market segment.
Farley’s comments on “Squawk on the Street” came one day after Ford reported better-than-expected fourth-quarter earnings. As part of that announcement, Ford said it’s increasing its electric-vehicle investment to $22 billion through 2025, almost double what it had previously pledged to spend.
“We’re not going to cede the future to anyone,” Farley told CNBC’s Phil LeBeau. “Our electric strategy is very specific. We’re going to invest in segments where we’re the dominant player and we have scale, like the F-150, the Transit van, our Mustang.”
While Ford is committing new capital for the years ahead, Farley said the company’s EV transition is yielding results now and pointed to the fact its all-electric Mustang Mach-E crossover has hit the showrooms. He said he considers the Mach-E a “credible competitor” to Tesla’s compact SUV known as the Model Y.
Ford’s all-electric Transit van is expected to arrive late this year, Farley noted, and the company’s work on a Michigan plant to build the electric version of its best-selling F-150 is ongoing. “This is the year. We’re not talking about aspirations,” said Farley.
Fiat Chrysler plans a major ramp-up of production for its two best-selling brands, Jeep and Ram, by adding a new assembly plant in Detroit as part of a $4.5 billion investment program announced last week.
The automaker also announced its most significant commitment yet to adding electric vehicles to its lineup, starting with at least four new Jeep plug-in hybrids. That’s a significant move for the automaker. Former CEO Sergio Marchionne was so skeptical of battery powertrain technology that he once asked potential customers not to buy its first all-electric model, the Fiat 500e, because the company expected to lose more than $10,000 on every vehicle it sold.
The likelihood is that it will be difficult to make money, even with the new electric models Fiat Chrysler is planning. Between regulators and the competition, the company has no choice, industry analysts say. The challenge will be to come up with battery-based models that can turn on consumers even when gas is cheap.
The strategy indicated that Chrysler will have two plug-in hybrid electric vehicles by 2022. The most significant news related to Chrysler is the further co-operation with Waymo on autonomous driving and the order of 62,000 Chrysler Pacifica minivans by 2021 by the Google-owned company.
According to the About Tesla page, Tesla’s mission is to accelerate the world’s transition to sustainable energy. Throwing back to 2008, Tesla introduced its very first cutting-edge and high-performance electric sports car — Tesla Roadster. Elon Musk, the CEO of Tesla Motors and Co-Founder, stated that “Tesla Motors is to help expedite the move from a mine-and-burn hydrocarbon economy towards a solar electric economy, which I believe to be the primary, but not exclusive, sustainable solution” (Musk, 2006).
The Roadster is based on the Lotus Elise chassis. It can travel 244 mi on a single charge with its lithium-ion battery pack, priced at $109,000. Tesla was first introduced into the automobile market by targeting high-tech car segments as a Niche Differentiator, with its sustainable competitive advantage to distinguish itself from the traditional automobile makers with sustainable, eco-friendly electric cars.
In addition, Tesla provides a variety of products and services all over the world, including premium electric sedan Model S, Model 3, Model Y, an SUV version of Model Y. They have a range of 250 miles to 370 miles, plus come with different battery performance and customizable seats and storage. They also sell solar roof solutions, solar Panels powerpack, megapack batteries, and some other related products. Aligned with the broad differentiation strategy, SolarCity merged with Tesla, Inc. to better build up a clean-energy ecosystem.
Musk said, “we believe quite that Solar city’s technology on the Silevo Front added to Panasonic’s cell technology will make it the most efficient and ultimately the cheapest solar cell in the world” (Pressman 2016). To capitalize on their competitive advantages, Tesla will reduce its material cost on batteries via Research and Development and Automation to drive down the market with a lower price as a niche turned broad differentiator.
The obvious conclusions that can be made today are:
- diesel is already a dead technology
- hybrid vehicles offer the best distance so they alleviate the range anxiety that most buyers have with pure electric vehicles
- Electric vehicles are perfect for local drivers today
- Battery innovations are accelerating and more rapid charge times and longer distances per charge are soon to be a reality
- All of the new technology like autonomous vehicles, cars that communicate with other cars, with smart cities, with pedestrians, and urban infrastructure is all be developed for smart cars
- the political will is shifting towards smart cars and consumers are warming up to them faster than ever before
- Safety is a core focus with electric vehicles, so you will be safer in one
- The costs models for electric vehicles will soon mean that there will be a suitable car for everyone
- The way that we acquire and pay for vehicles is changing with ride-share and temporary access upon demand is the new way to access a vehicle
By 2025, the momentum will be strong, maybe at the tipping point. By 2030, electrified smart vehicles will rule the road.
About the Author:
Michael Martin is the Vice President of Technology with Metercor Inc., a Smart Meter, IoT, and Smart City systems integrator based in Canada. He has more than 35 years of experience in systems design for applications that use broadband networks, optical fibre, wireless, and digital communications technologies. He is a business and technology consultant. He was senior executive consultant for 15 years with IBM, where he has worked in the GBS Global Center of Competency for Energy and Utilities and the GTS Global Center of Excellence for Energy and Utilities. He is a founding partner and President of MICAN Communications and before that was President of Comlink Systems Limited and Ensat Broadcast Services, Inc., both divisions of Cygnal Technologies Corporation (CYN: TSX). Martin currently serves on the Board of Directors for TeraGo Inc (TGO: TSX) and previously served on the Board of Directors for Avante Logixx Inc. (XX: TSX.V). He has served as a Member, SCC ISO-IEC JTC 1/SC-41 – Internet of Things and related technologies, ISO – International Organization for Standardization, and as a member of the NIST SP 500-325 Fog Computing Conceptual Model, National Institute of Standards and Technology. He served on the Board of Governors of the University of Ontario Institute of Technology (UOIT) [now OntarioTech University] and on the Board of Advisers of five different Colleges in Ontario. For 16 years he served on the Board of the Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers (SMPTE), Toronto Section. He holds three master’s degrees, in business (MBA), communication (MA), and education (MEd). As well, he has three undergraduate diplomas and five certifications in business, computer programming, internetworking, project management, media, photography, and communication technology. He has earned 20 badges in next generation MOOC continuous education in IoT, Cloud, AI and Cognitive systems, Blockchain, Agile, Big Data, Design Thinking, Security, and more.