50 Ideas Shaping the Emerging EV Market

The emerging electric vehicle (EV) industry offers some great opportunities for entrepreneurs, not necessarily through building a new kind of EV (although that is one option), but rather by solving any of a number of problems, pain points, or inefficiencies of electric car ownership.

Other opportunities can be found in improving or supplying EV components, materials, software or hardware add-ons, either to the builder or as an aftermarket item for EV owners. With more people driving EVs, a market is emerging for installing EV charging stations, installing home solar systems with EV chargers, and designing and building public EV charging stations, and creating design and operation tools that are helpful to those processes could also prove to be successful ventures.

Although EVs differ quite a bit from conventional vehicles in some aspects of their design, they also share a great deal, such as the need for tires and windows and door hardware and brakes and all of the other mechanical components, and designing a better version of any of those components, just for EVs, is another possible avenue for entrepreneurs.

For more potential opportunities in the coming age of EVs, Zach’s piece at EV Obsession covers a new casebook with the 50 big ideas predicted to influence and shape the EV market:

50 Big Aspects Of The Evolving Electric Vehicle Market

Some good people at Urban Foresight, the International Energy Agency, the Electric Vehicles Initiative, and Clean Energy Ministerial have put together an “EV City Casebook” that I highly recommend checking out (it’s free). The focus of the casebook is a summary of “50 big ideas shaping the future of electric mobility.” We’ll be focusing on some (or many) of the 50 specific topics in the coming weeks, but I first wanted to share the casebook with you as well as some electric vehicle (EV) history and context.

The casebook, of course, starts with some context of its own. It tries to match up the evolution of electric vehicles with Gartner’s Hype Cycle for new and disruptive technologies. Here’s a simplistic graph of that from the report:

Gartner's Hype Cycle

As you can see, the EV City Casebook crew identified electric vehicles as quickly headed toward the “Trough of Disillusionment,” from whence they will emerge onto the slope of enlightenment (as far as hype and such go).

I think we’re a little further along and will be coming out of the trough in 2015, but I may just be an eternal optimist or might have my glasses tinted a bit incorrectly. In any case, I’m not so sure Gartner’s Hype Cycle is a perfect model for the evolution of EVs (what model could be?), with Tesla on an almost perpetual hype rise, but I think it gives a good general overview of the how the non-Tesla EV industry has progressed… and maybe Tesla just has a later peak.

Here’s what the casebook says about “riding the hype cycle:”

As recently as 2007, EVs were a minority item on the agenda of most governments and vehicle manufacturers. This changed in 2008 when, in the midst of a global economic downturn, a number of vehicle manufacturers announced bold commitments to accelerate their electrification programmes as a strategy for recovery and reinvention. However, these vehicle manufacturers realised that they could not achieve this ambition alone.

Over the course of 2009, partnerships were forged with cities, regions, governments, and key industry actors to create the infrastructure and marketplace for this new technology. This led to the development of multiple collaborative projects, and by 2010 most major cities around the world were hosting infrastructure pilots and vehicle trials in support of government policies to reduce harmful pollution and petroleum dependence.

The early success of these projects contributed to 2011 becoming the year of peak expectation. Cities and fleets competed for the limited numbers of EVs available and demand appeared to greatly exceed supply. However, by 2012 these inflated expectations began to recede. This was the first year in which anyone could choose to buy an electric vehicle, which led people to focus on the limitations and barriers of switching to this new technology.

2013 was a year of contrasting outlooks. There was a swell of enthusiasm buoyed by the increasing choice of EVs and impressive early market sales in places such as Norway and California. However, this was tempered by the perception of slow sales of EVs in many important automotive markets.

2014 is characterised by questions of how to make the transition from the early niche market to mainstream consumers. The author Geoffrey Moore refers to this as ‘crossing the chasm,’ identifying that many new technologies can be pulled into the market by enthusiasts, but later fail to achieve wider adoption. This is because mainstream consumers have different needs and motivations to early adopters. Hence the challenge in the years to come is to identify the EV products, technologies, and business models that will connect with mainstream needs and motivations. These ‘Big Ideas’ will play a pivotal role in shaping the future of electric mobility.

No matter how you view the evolution of EVs, the important thing is how to speed up the EV revolution. From relatively external factors to actions governments or startups can take, the 50 big ideas summarized in the casebook cover just about every nook and cranny of the EV market and factors shaping it. The creators of the report have done a tremendous job pulling these together and summarizing them in an attractive format. Last week, I spoke with one of the key authors of the report, and we’ll be working together to do follow-up stories on specific points. In the meantime, below is a straight list of the 50 big ideas and a map from the report highlighting specific locations connected to these. Check out the report to see a clearer version and to explore specific points yourself.


About the Author

lives in southwestern New Mexico and digs bicycles, simple living, organic gardening, sustainable lifestyle design, slacklining, bouldering, and permaculture. He loves good food, with fresh roasted chiles at the top of his list of favorites. Catch up with Derek on Twitter, RebelMouse, Google+, or at his natural parenting site, Natural Papa!