The Auto Industry’s Rising Tide of Electrification

By: Rohin Shivdasani

“Accelerating the world’s transition to sustainable energy.” For over a decade, these words have kept the workforce and chief executive of Tesla Motors grounded in a dogged sense of purpose. Despite current skepticisms about the company’s financials, valuation, and production capabilities, only one reality remains: Tesla worked.

A decade ago, major car companies tended to view electric cars only as feel-good science projects. Research and development initiatives for EV programs were managed accordingly, being afforded minimal to no resources in many cases. Now, as auto manufactures realize the existential risk posed by electric vehicles, the way forward has become clear.  The largest 10 car companies around the globe, Toyota, Volkswagen, Daimler AG, BMW, Honda, GM, Tesla, Ford, Nissan, and Fiat, have each invested more than 10 billion dollars in extensive near-term electrification programs. As these companies try to establish themselves in this rapidly expanding space, the industry seems to be welcoming the electric car sooner rather than later, which is all that the founding members of Tesla could have hoped for. Now though, the Model S, X and 3 will soon be up against real competition. Here is a small snapshot of what to expect in the coming years.

Toyota

 With the release of the Prius in 1997, Toyota has been a leader in hybrid technology for 22 years, placing the world’s largest auto manufacturer in a ready position to have an electric motor in every car they sell by 2025, per a 2018 announcement. While this commitment only promises a combination of all electric and hybrid vehicles, it will prove to be a massive step in advancing the industries, chiefly lithium ion battery production and new battery research, that will enable global adoption of EVs.

Volkswagen

Volkswagen executives have been touting the company’s new EV architecture platform which is being called MEB. With this platform, VW plans to have 27 electric cars for sale by 2022, one of the more ambitious timelines to be announced thus far. With a focus on affordability and practicality, VW projects the sale of 100,000 “ID hatchbacks” and 50,000 additional electric cars by 2020 alone. With fast charging – up to 80% in a half hour – and ranges of about 250 miles, these sales estimates may not be so far removed from reality, and would be an exciting step forward in the democratization of  EVs.

Daimler AG

Better known as the maker of Mercedes Benz, Daimler AG plans for a differentiated range of ten all electric cars to be available for purchase by 2022. Following suit with Toyota and others, Daimler also will also offer an electric version of every Mercedes Benz model, which comes out to 50 electrified vehicles overall. The German auto giant isn’t completely forsaking combustion however. Daimler sees its future lineup as a three-way portfolio of high tech combustion engines, hybrids, and all electric.

BMW

Known for the i8 sports car and smaller i3 hatchback, BMW has been a leader in demonstrating the feasibility of the electric car. BMW’s corporate strategy dubbed “Number One” relies heavily on electrification. By 2021, the i3 will share the company of 4 more EV’s, the MINI Electric, the iX3, the i4 and the iNEXT. However, the number of EV’s BMW has officially planned between now and 2025 is “at least twelve,” which could end up being significantly less than competitors.

GM

General Motors has not been shy in terms of getting involved with the EV space in the past. Many of us remember when the Chevy Volt, now the best selling plug-in electric car of all time in the U.S, came out alongside the Nissan Leaf in 2010. Now, Chevrolet is moving forward with its new all electric car, the Bolt EV. GM continues to make steady progress adding to an electric portfolio, planning two more electric cars built on the same platform as the Bolt EV by 2020, and at least eighteen more EV’s on an entirely new platform in the following five years. Having already experienced the expensive and technologically complicated world of bringing electric cars to market, GM is focused on developing its new platform for EV’s to be profitable quickly.

Despite the industry’s high voltage ambitions, earth’s active car population sits at around 1.5 billion, with only approximately 85 million new cars sold annually. Even if car sales were to become 100 percent electric, it would take decades to replace all gas cars currently on the roads. Nonetheless, who knows how far off the widespread adoption of EVs would have been were it not for, from a mission success standpoint, an extremely successful company in Tesla Motors.