Global e-mobility movement gears up

Electric vehicle (EV) sales have shot up worldwide, boasting a compounded annual growth rate of 67% for new vehicle sales globally since 2015. In North America, Tesla has driven much of the excitement, but almost all of the major auto-manufacturers are now entering the fray with new EV models and multi-billion-dollar investment plans, in a race to leverage rising consumer enthusiasm for e-mobility technologies

 

inspiratia’s analysis has found that vehicle OEMs – alongside government-funded regulatory and incentive programmes targeting lower carbon emissions from vehicles – will spend more than US$300 billion globally on EV technologies and related research in the next 5-10 years.

In light of this immense market momentum, in November inspiratia will bring together top industry leaders from across the globe for three days of high-level business insights and partnership-building at EVS Whistler 2019 – the premier EV and sustainability summit in the exclusive resort town of Whistler, British Columbia.

Alongside changing cultural views around climate change, the driving force behind the e-mobility movement is the mountain of capital that experts predict will be invested in North America and Europe over the coming years. The two combined markets account for just about 50% of EV sales and stocks globally as of 2019, with the remainder mostly captured by China.

The majority of the plug-in electric vehicle (PEV) investment commitments outlined above are being made by VW alone, but American OEMs are also jumping in one after another as electric vehicle supply equipment (EVSE) infrastructure companies begin to take off and see huge infusions of cash from institutional investors with a long-term view.

The rapid acceleration of investment has also led OEMs and others to take on previously untouched vehicle markets.

Outside investors are joining the movement

The entrance of institutional investors in the EV and EVSE markets soared in 2018 – a theme that will be in the spotlight at EVS Whistler 2019– with more deals coming to a close in Q1 2019. Plays by Amazon and Ford into Rivian are representative of the growing confidence of operators as well as the big players in the tech world in the long-term viability of EVs.

Investors have piled in from different areas. Utility Duke Energy has asked the North Carolina Utility Commission for approval to double the number of installed public DC fast charging stations in the state and add a further 1,900 public Level 2 chargers this year. Meridiam, the Paris-based infrastructure investor, bought Allego in 2018. Legal & General has signed on to buy 13% of the UK-focused Pod Point charging company.

This year is likely to see further heavyweight investors – such as sovereign wealth funds (like the Saudi investment in Rivian or GIC’s investment in ChargePoint last year) and institutional funds (such as when CPPIB joined in on the ChargePoint Series H fundraise) – back the EV market.

The next BEV battleground? Pickup trucks.

When Tesla first entered the scene over a decade ago, the idea that full-size pickup trucks would eventually become the one of most highly anticipated battery electric vehicle (BEV) platforms amongst major automakers might have seemed laughable. Well, that day has arrived.

There is growing anticipation surrounding the impending release of the Rivian R1S and R1T – the first all-electric SUV and pickup trucks to hit the mass production market so far.  The two BEV models are designed and built by Rivian, a Plymouth, Michigan-based car manufacturer that claims both trucks (which appear to take many of their design influences from the popular Land Rover lines of recent years) are built around electric drive trains that can travel more than 400 miles on a single charge and achieve sub-3.0 second 0-60 mph marks.

The battery range, if accurate, would make the Rivian trucks the market-leading BEVs worldwide, including among any publicly announced competitor offerings in the pipeline for the next two years.

Rivian – much like its American progenitor, Tesla – has generated a lot of buzz with its recent rise to prominence, and it is clear that the excitement around the product has not gone unnoticed.

Rivian and the eSUV market

Since its founding in 2009 by an MIT engineer bent on making cars that do not directly contribute to climate change, Rivian has largely flown under the radar when compared to its most prominent competitor, Tesla.  However, the company’s R1S and R1T models – an all-electric SUV and all-electric pickup truck, respectively – have recently stolen the heady spotlight on EVs that now dominates the global auto industry stage.

Rivian is not just a unicorn by valuation.  In 2019 alone, the company has received US$1.2 billion in funding – US$700 million from Amazon and US$500 million from Ford – while it collected US$200 million in debt financing from Standard Chartered Bank in late 2018.

After a failed deal with GM last month – which reportedly resulted not from the reticence of the car-making behemoth GM but from cold feet on Rivian’s side, because the newcomer believed they were leaving money on the table in the talks – Rivian announced earlier this month [May 2019] that the company has finalised a deal for a large investment from Ford.  The deal has kicked off yet another round of exuberant speculation from industry experts and EV watchers around the North American vehicle market.

Tesla CEO Elon Musk, for instance, has been cryptically promoting the idea of a Tesla pickup truck for years now.  Musk recently told an interviewer for Recode in November 2018 that the Tesla pickup truck is the project that he is most interested in at the company now. When asked about the vehicle’s much-debated design, Musk said, “Well I can’t talk about the details, but it’s going to be like a really futuristic-like cyberpunk, ‘Blade Runner’ pickup truck. It’s going to be awesome.  It’s going to be amazing.  This will be heart-stopping.”

Similarly, though perhaps in less gushing terminology, both GM and Ford have announced plans to offer BEV versions of their most popular full-sized pickup truck models for the North American market in the near future. Ford, it turns out, will be doing so in the context of a partnership with the rising star of Rivian.

Pickup trucks and SUVs are amongst the penultimate frontiers and hurdles that the PEV makers have yet to fully confront, and BEV makers have been reticent to hit this particular market head-on because the demands of many truck-owners require rugged utility functionality and durability.

Rivian has shown through its design and prototypes that these major limitations are set to be overcome, with prices set to fall. While the R1S and R1T are still priced as luxury automobiles, their pricing is approaching parity with their ICE-based rivals in the near future. With GM and Ford joining the playing field, the competition within this market is set to explode as lithium-ion batteries continue their march toward the US$100/kWh price-parity tipping point.

 

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