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Full Electric Vehicles Facing Uphill Battle? Tesla’s Musk Won’t Have Any of It!

Sept. 27, 2013, 10:44 a.m.
Dominique Bonte, Vice President, Verticals/End Markets

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The buzz about full electric vehicles in the automotive industry is growing. But doubts remain strong as the industry continues struggling addressing concerns about limited range, long battery recharging times and lack of charging infrastructure in the first place. That is, until Tesla comes along…

Tesla has been redefining the full electric vehicle in many different ways. Doing it with a luxury sports car. Achieving a range of 265 miles, leaving the competition far behind. Offering a free, fast expanding Supercharger network, allowing recharging in 20 minutes, for free, indefinitely. Equipping superchargers with solar panels. Having a battery swapped in 90 seconds. Expanding into Europe, and already looking at the Chinese market. And meanwhile offering a dazzling 17 inch infotainment screen. Not to mention autonomous driving which seems to also have caught the attention of Tesla’s CEO Musk.

Tesla seems to be very determined to remove every barrier standing in the way of full electric vehicles becoming successful. And the market likes it. Both the end user, already preferring Tesla over Porsche (in California), and Wall Street, putting a value of $180 on Tesla’s stock resulting in a total market value of more than $20 Billion exceeding that of Chrysler. A cheaper Model E costing around $30000 is being developed to further expand the market reach. It is making GM nervous, pushing them to make public statements about going after Tesla with the Cadillac brand. In this context it is important to remember that both Daimler and Toyota are investors in and partners of Tesla both using Tesla electric power train technology in their own EVs.

But will this be enough for Tesla to take the power and dominate the (electric) automotive industry in the longer term? To achieve this, it will need to think far beyond the electric vehicle itself. What else can Tesla do? Create a thriving crowd charging community of Tesla owners sharing their home charger equipment…. Promote cloud charging, making a case for governments to invest in wireless charging infrastructure embedded in roads putting both range and charging anxieties to bed for good….Musk has already shown not to be afraid of thinking out of the box with his San Francisco-LA Hyperloop project. What about investing in electric utilities and smart grids? Google is already doing it via its Google Energy subsidiary. And Volkswagen will offer zero emissions BluePower energy sourced exclusively from hydro-electric generating plants in Germany, Austria and Switzerland to the owners of the soon to be launched e-Golf and e-Up! EVs.

The point is that automotive electrification cannot be seen in isolation but as part of a wider infrastructure paradigm of renewable energy generation, distribution, and consumption. EVs can only succeed if their role in this wider framework is acknowledged. This is the real collective challenge Tesla, the automotive industry, and governments are facing.

Watch out for ABI Research’s soon to be published report on full electric vehicles.