The growth of the electric car industry today is much like how WiFi emerged a few decades ago. In the beginning, only a handful of leaders had the courage to offer the technology. But soon, other telecom companies had to keep up and provide WiFi too.
More and more players joined the market until suddenly (or so it seemed) everyone was offering WiFi to act on the competition and accommodate the demand.
The eMobility industry is on a similar path and can learn from the moral of this story. Companies should have the guts to become leaders in electric mobility from the start, and take advantage of that wealthy, early adopter market. Sooner or later, everyone will have to make the transition to electric transportation anyway.
Just in time for the annual eMobility conference rEVolution 2018, we sat down with Zachary Shahan (founder of CleanTechnica), Monica Araya (EV advocate and TED Speaker), and our CEO Kristof Vereenooghe to talk about the role of policy makers, carmakers, charging service providers, and electric vehicle drivers in the revolution of transportation. Not only do we depend on these people to make that sought-after zero-emission world a reality, but more directly, they’ll define the success of electric cars.
Cities or countries: who’s accountable for the adoption of electric cars?
Kristof: In 2017, major cities across Europe and Asia pledged to ban diesel and petrol automobiles. Let’s say you want to buy a new car in 2024. These bans will force you to think twice before you order that vehicle. If you’re going for a petrol car, how are you going to resell it in less than a decade? These new regulations are going to help change people’s behaviors big time.
Zachary: Though it’s a direction we’d like to see every city taking, city bans did pose a new challenge. The cities exercising these bans are going to get much cleaner, but the cities that don’t participate will need to cope with the unwanted diesel and petrol cars. The drama afterwards is only going to pile up from there.
Kristof: We can’t just put pressure on cities; we’ll need to treat this as a country-wide problem. Take the Netherlands, for example. A question we often get is why electric mobility has picked up so much more here than in other European countries. This is because the Netherlands understood from the very start that we need easy accessibility to speed up the adoption process. They built an ecosystem that allowed electric vehicle drivers to charge on all public charging points across the country, regardless of who the charging point operator is or what charge card they’re using. For us, this is a no-brainer. For other countries, however, this open standard is still far away.
How do you envision the so-called Smart City?
Zachary: Ride-hailing, car-sharing, and bike-sharing services will help us avoid long traffic jams and clear up some parking spots.
Kristof: Parking locations may still be needed in cities, but they will serve for the greater good. They will become huge battery parks that generate and store their own energy for their charging facilities. Residential areas are also becoming independent from the grid. A solar panel on your roof combined with battery storage and a charging station is no longer part of some futuristic ad. These solutions are readily available now, and they will only become more standardized and common. You can tell Amazon’s Alexa to start charging your car after eleven — that’s when the night discount kicks in for some countries — and to stop charging when you leave home the next day. All of this can be fully and seamlessly automated, while taking the charge rate and needed capacity into account.
Can you also ask Alexa to stop charging your car and bring you ice cream?
Kristof: We’re going to need a lot more AI for that one, although I wouldn’t be surprised if we’ll be able to in the near future :)
Will it fall on carmakers to convince consumers?
Zachary: One thing I’ve come back to for years is that we need to raise awareness on electric cars and their benefits. The public needs to experience EVs first before they can understand why going electric is so much better.
Kristof: I fully agree. It’s really about transferring EV knowledge to a much broader audience than we all have been doing today. Not only does this need to come from carmakers, but also from charging service providers like ourselves. People tend to think Tesla’s the only one producing quality electric cars, whereas in fact BMW produced more EVs last year. That’s not to mention the number of electric vehicles produced by BYD and BAIC in China too.
Monica: In Costa Rica, the BMW i3 is the only fully electric option we have readily available. The BMW office in Germany was hesitant to bring in the i3 at first because the market here is so small, but there’s so much enthusiasm for it now! The local dealerships are shocked by the demand. What we’re often forgetting though, is that it doesn’t stop with personal vehicles. A lot of people are prepared to switch to electric cars, but are concerned about their endurance during traffic jams. This is why some cities and countries will need to heavily invest in electric buses first.
Zachary: Shenzhen, known as the “Chinese Silicon Valley," has a 100% electric bus fleet. That’s 70,000 electric buses we’re talking about. It’s crazy. They’re moving to 100% electric taxis this year, and 100% electric trucks next year.
Monica: Exactly, these are the bold steps we need cities and carmakers to be taking. I just saw a video the other day where a Colombian BYD representative from was speaking Spanish in a Chinese Mandarin accent. The guy’s selling electric buses in Colombia. This gives you quite a good sense of how much things are already changing.
Where does EVBox stand in this rEVolution?
Zachary: What I like about EVBox is that you guys always act with the long term in mind. You don’t just serve the market today — you’re already figuring out how to invite the next market in.
Kristof: That’s definitely true, although we’re also planting a lot of seeds to build up our business in the short term. I think that every business in this industry needs to understand how to approach their markets locally. We have the unfair advantage of having started EVBox here in the Netherlands, right in the epicenter of electric mobility. Despite that, we need to keep on walking the talk. I always encourage our team here to talk about our industry, whether they’re at the butcher shop or at a party. Everyone’s interested in electric cars in some way, but we can’t change the ecosystem ourselves as individuals. For real change, we’ll need to create local partnerships with people that dare to think big.
Zachary: This doesn’t mean, however, that we can’t act as fans and ambassadors. Even if you couldn’t care less about the economic and ecological implications of electric cars, think about it this way: whether it’s the fast acceleration of every electric car, or the Easter eggs hidden in Tesla cars, electric driving is fun. Fun is the only thing that gets people excited about everything.
Looking to learn more from Zach, Monica, and Kristof?
Join us at rEVolution 2019, where we’ll dive deeper into the challenges we mentioned here along with other thought leaders from the industries of energy, fleet management, real estate, public transportation, and more. We're running out of tickets, snap them up before they're gone! GET A LOOK AT 2018 EDITION
The European Union has been co-founding various infrastructure initiatives to accelerate the adoption of electric mobility across the continent. We discuss these initiatives here in brief, as well as what environmentally-concerned European citizens can do to help.