The Automotive Cleantech Conference , run by Cleantech Investor, focused on investment opportunities in the low carbon vehicle sector; some of the presentations are summarised below.
The event, which took place on 27 June 2013, was combined with a preview day for the Cenex Low Carbon Vehicle Event – LCV2013, 4-5 September: read more about this in our separate article .
The growth of low carbon vehicle opportunities
Robert Evans, CEO, Cenex
As a background to the Automotive Cleantech Conference, Cenex CEO Robert Evans explained, for anyone still in any doubt, that the market for low carbon vehicles will grow, due to powerful political drivers including climate change, energy security and energy efficiency issues. The UK is well placed to benefit from this growth, as it has some excellent technology and a good skills base. By 2030 there will be a mix of different vehicle powertrain technologies – and the UK’s energy and energy storage infrastructure will also have moved towards a low carbon model.
Forecasts for future low carbon vehicle growth
There may currently be a low penetration of ‘alternative propulsion’ powertrains, but rapid growth is expected. It was predicted that by 2017 battery costs would come down and the oil price would go up. The main ‘alternative propulsion’ powertrain by 2020 would be full hybrid, which would be especially popular in Japan, ahead of pure electric vehicles, which will be most common in Europe. Hot on the heels of the failure of the Better Place battery swapping model, and the announcement by Tesla that it will pursue battery switching, the concept of battery swap was not predicted to take off in a big way.
There will also be continued development of petrol and diesel engines to make them more efficient. Global hydrogen fuel cell vehicle forecasts were much more conservative due to vehicle cost, hydrogen production issues and limited refuelling infrastructure.
Asia will lead the way with electric charging infrastructure, and most charging stations will be at people’s homes. However there will be a range of charging infrastructure, which, along with alternative powertrain components, will offer a business opportunity.
Over 80% of car manufacturers worldwide are fitting a plug to their car in the next 2 years
The reason that so many car manufacturers are launching plugged-in cars in the next two years is due to a huge regulatory push. Even cars such as BMW’s relatively efficient 328i is heading for a 5,000 Euro fine for its manufacturer due to its emissions levels.
Although cars need to get greener, people buy cars based on emotion, economics and practicality – so green cars still need to be cool. This change in green cars is reflected by the progression from the original Toyota Prius to the Tesla Roadster and the BMW i3. Although starting slowly, EV sales are now accelerating, as happened with the Toyota Prius – which is now the world’s best selling car.
EVs need recharging, and this is the base for Chargemaster’s business model. There were no petrol stations 120 years ago, and today the EV charging infrastructure also has to grow from its current small base. The market is growing by 44% per year and there is a 1 billion Euro forecast for charging equipment sales by 2020 (comprised of home charging, workplace charging and public charging – and wireless charging is also coming).
How one new electric vehicle brand succeeded when others failed
Martin Eberhard, co-founder and former CEO of Tesla Motors, wanted to buy an electric vehicle but described the ones available at the time as “punishment cars”; they were slow, ugly, with very a small range; he said that “you’d have to be desperate to save the planet to buy one”.
Martin understood that people buy a certain car because they want to buy that car. So a new EV had to be desirable. But how could Tesla succeed against high volume car makers? The new company had to minimise the risks by starting with small volumes, and by building an expensive sports car, as buyers of such vehicles were used to paying high prices. By partnering with Lotus to build the Roadster on an Elise platform, Tesla didn’t have to invest huge sums in a new factory and production line.
The strategy seems to have worked. As Model S production starts, Tesla’s share price has risen to $100. Why did Tesla succeed when Fisker didn’t? It was suggested that a key factor was marketing – Tesla got its marketing right, whereas Fisker didn’t.