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December 30th, 2015

Three Potentially Lucrative Future Business Models for Electric Cars

While electric cars have been available as a mass market item since 2011, they still represent less then 1 percent of the vehicles sold nationally. As the market share for electric cars grows and they become more fully mainstreamed we are likely to see new industries which will accommodate, enhance and improve the electric vehicle experience.  We will explore three ideas that will likely become viable and profitable by the next decade as electric vehicles become a more common part of everyday life.

Inductive Charging

While at present the majority of electric car charging is done by plug, over the past few years various manufacturers have experimented with inductive charging which would simply require an electric car to be parked over a parking pad installed on floor where the _MG_5312car is parked and an additional pad installed between either the front or rear wheels of the car. A company called Evatran is currently leading the field with this new technology and using the branded name Plugless Power in partnership with Bosch have offered a 3.3kw charging system since 2014. Evatran may soon face competition from both Nissan and BMW who have both promised to offer 7kw systems that would allow for faster charging than the Plugless system. Another issue all the manufacturers expect to improve upon is extending the allowable gap between the charging pads from the 4 inches of the existing systems to 6 inches. All of these systems all expect to achieve between 80 to 90 percent efficiency although neither Nissan or BMW have a confirmed date for the release of their planned 7kw systems but we speculate they won’t make their debut until 2017. A recent study released last month by Acute Market Reports states that the wireless EV market will be a 4.6 billion dollar industry by the end of the decade leaving much room for new players to enter the field in this exponentially expanding market.

Home EV Solar Charging 

Solar arrays on the rooftops of individual garages for the primary purpose of powering electric vehicles has already been actualized by numerous players in the field most notably Tesla’s sister company Solar City, Revision Energy, Solar Home and Straight Up Solar _MG_5315along with numerous other firms offer various packages that include rooftop solar arrays,inverters and battery storage when needed and, with recent price drops in solar panels this has become even more accessible in recent years. A company called envision has taken things a step further by offering a portable solar charging kiosk called the EV ARC. The fact that this approach to charging is not dependent on the grid the burning of fossil fuel gives people the additional satisfaction knowing that even there electricity has been produced emission free. We expect continued growth in this market segment as Ev’s cross into mainstream adoption over the next few years.

Battery Replacement and Upgrade

This area of battery retrofits, upgrades and replacement represents the mostembryonic of the three mentioned business models and for all practical purposes does not yet exist. The very fact that Nissan, GM and BMW have all offered second generation battery packs with their respective Leaf, Volt and i3 vehicles which all provided 25 percent more range _MG_5276than the previous first generation Lithium Ion battery packs illustrates how far we’ve come in terms of improved energy density in the past 5 years, at present only BMW has indicated a willingness to retrofit new generation battery packs with older model EVs. Also no battery manufacturers independently offer upgrades of higher density longer range battery packs for installation in existing EVs. This will very likely change in coming years for several reasons. We can expect steady improvements in Lithium Ion energy density over the next decade combined with a continued reduction in cost as a result of economies of scale, improved production techniques and increased adoption. GM in October of this year_MG_5277 announced that it’s battery cost had fallen to 145.00 per kwh. A few years ago this was not expected to happen until the end of the decade and as recently as 2014 400 to 300 dollars per kwh were commonly quoted as cost by the major automakers. It now seems likely that often stated goal of 100 dollars per kwh will be reached by 2020 meaning that EVs will by that time no longer cost a premium and will have cost parity with internal combustion engine vehicles. It’s hard to see how in this environment battery makers wouldn’t spring up offering higher density batteries as retrofits by decades end.  2017 promises to be a pivotal year with Tesla introducing the Model 3, GM the Chevy Bolt and Nissan the 60 kwh Leaf. All three of these vehicles promise an over 200 mile range with a price point of 35,000 dollars.  A great potential for aftermarket batteries remains untapped as of 2015. Seeing that less than 350,000 EVs have been sold in the states as of December 2015 we can see that the market is still in it’s early stages and in a few short years all three of these areas will be in an aggressive growth cycle as we transition toward mass adoption.


Article written by Dave Mazovick for Design Engine, December 30th, 2015

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Design Engine Industrial Design Training Pro Engineer


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