A couple of editorials ago I described my concerns about the expansion of the electric cars market as these vehicles are currently too expensive to grant a wide adoption among consumers and for this reason I was suggesting that new business models should be introduced to make their use (e.g. pay per use, long term rent, etc.) more viable without having to bear the huge expense for owning the vehicle.
One week ago I read quite surprising news: electric cars cost too much, generate CO2 (due to the batteries manufacturing process) – instead of diminishing it – and could generate the risk for some towns of energy black-outs (when many e-cars are being recharged at night, for example). What’s more, the transition from vehicles equipped with endothermic engines to those equipped with fully electric engines could cost hundreds of billions of Euros and countries cannot afford it.
This pessimistic scenario was described by Akio Toyoda, Toyota CEO and president of JAMA, the Japan Automobile Manufacturers Association.
Mr Toyoda has certainly more information than me, however I guess his doubts about the expansion of the electric cars market may be shared by many individuals and organisations. As a matter of fact, one eco-system is represented by the e-vehicles while another one is the range of infrastructures that an e-vehicle depends on such as road network, communication network, energy network and, particularly, the recharge stations network. Unfortunately, each of these categories of infrastructure follows a development strategy that is designed and managed by several different actors, laws & regulations, business plans, funding sources, which rarely syncs with those of the automobile industry.
Let’s think about the 5G communication technology, for instance. This is part of the development led by communication providers who spent billions of Euros/Pounds to buy a portion of bandwidth from their local governments, thus the network upgrade should follow logical market principles to sell their services and make cash fast. That’s why first the implementation will happen in major cities, then in crucial city areas, finally in small cities. We all have read the miracles that 5G should bring in our lives in different sectors: medicine, transport (Connected and Automated Vehicles in particular), Internet of Things, etc. but cars will be just one of its applications detailed in their agenda.
Recharge stations are currently mainly installed by energy providers (apart from Tesla) and the number and kind of stations (i.e. slow/regular or fast recharge) obviously follow their business plans. In the urban environment, recharge points could be installed at lamp posts and this would follow an agreed plan between local councils and energy providers. In these two cases business models are different and timescales too.
Road networks and civil infrastructures for transport in general are designed by distincts levels of local authorities in accordance with the areas where the building works should be done. For these activities timescales are measured in decades.
Ideally, there should be larger plans, discussed and agreed by all the stakeholders mentioned above (including public bodies) that would be invited to join a decision-making table. In practice, this is utopia as every group of stakeholders have their own agenda and timescale in mind.
Probably, Mr Toyoda’s opinion could be proven right.
EPN Consulting Founder & CEO