Motoring World into Turmoil?

Since acquiring my own green car – the all electric Leaf I have been taking a keener interest in this market and it’s implications.

At first it was a salve to my green concience with the benefits of low cost motoring and a quieter and more relaxed drive. But it is now much more than that. It is how much electric impacts upon our motoring and the mssive changes that will take place – really quite quickly.

And it is not just the motoring indutry that will feel the pinch as we flock to greener motoring over the next ten years.

However, back to the start – electric motoring has been around for years if not in a form that makes personal motoring on 21st century roads a pleasure. I recall spending a few weeks back in the sixties delivering milk on an electric milk float. You couldn’t accuse it of being fast and the charge was a full overnight job. But it moved a heavy load and was easy to stop start as well as providing delivery quietly in the suburbs in the early hours.

It needed a massive improvement in battery storage for it to become attractive alonside modern sophisticated cars. It also had to persuade manufacturers that there was room alonside their expensive and long established infrastructure to invest in something for which there was not yet a clear demand.

But a few manufacturers saw the opportunity and two in particular sparked interest and a trend that now seems unstoppable.

Nissan, with its factory in Sunderland, manufactured the first, a Leaf, introduced in Japan and the United States, in December 2010 and quickly set up in the UK with sales exceeding 170,000 vehicles worldwide since 2010, more than double its next two competitors combined.

At the luxury end of the market came TESLA. Founded, in 2003, by a group of engineers in Silicon Valley they wanted to prove that electric cars could be better than petrol cars, with instant torque, incredible power, and zero emissions. With more than 50,000 vehicles on the road worldwide, Tesla recently launched its Model X, a crossover vehicle featuring exhilarating acceleration, falcon wing doors, and room for three rows of seating.

Many car makers now have pure EVs or plug in hybrids and some top names like Jaguar and Aston Martin have concept EVs preparing for launch by 2017.

Alongside this, power suppliers have constructed grids of re-charging points across the UK and elsewhere that enable a driver to stop for a coffee whilst the car drinks juice. The best known is Ecotricity whose ‘Electric Highway’ provides free charging at motorway services and IKEA stores with plans to site further points on Britain’s A roads.

But, with the driving range, available on a full charge, extending with each new car model, just like the development of the mobile phone batteries, most charging is done at a dedicated point at home.

So what does this mean for old fashioned petrol and diesel cars? Clearly it will be a long time before they can all be replaced by electric –

  • most drivers could or would not afford to simply replace their current car; older carbon fuelled cars will be around for a long time
  • changing car manufacturing capacity to simply produce all the electric cars needed in a short time frame is not likely
  • not everyone is yet convinced, ‘though opinion is rapidly changing with the growing acceptance of electric as ‘normal’
  • some, like Honda, will want their own eco solution. Honda still seems commited to hydrogen but they require ‘gas’ stations and that’s a lot of expensive infrastructure and distribution even if one pump at every petrol station is ‘upgraded’

But the implications for the current car industry are massive.

  • how many petrol stations will be able to remain open as demand for carbon fuels declines? Will the supermarket forecourts become the only ones viable?
  • it is hardly conceivable that petrol stations will simply install charging points – the revenue is minimal and the act of charging is more social over a cup of coffee than simply a fill up.
  • what happens to dealers as the need for servicing reduces – no engine to service after all?
  • and the parts manufacturers and supplies factors. For sure if they supply engine part the reducing demand will have impact.

At least the changes, whilst quite fast, will probably allow businesses time to adapt but some will undoubtedly cease trading, certainly in their current form, and others may merge. The far sighted businesses will already be considering the impact and how to adapt to survive.

Even dealers will have to consider their format. TESLA does not use a dealer network. All sales are by order on TESLA’s web site just like buying books from Amazon.

But whilst the changing car market challenges a long established business model with difficult choices and outcomes for traditional businesses, the future is exciting for motorists.

New innovative vehicles that can already park themselves, can make the decision to change lanes safely for you and avoid the possibility of crashing into the car in front; soon driverless motoring will become common with drives and passenger able to enjoy a journey together. What will this mean to driving, like having a drink whilst out and not having to worry, for example?

This is Nissans new concept – who said electric cars are boring?

This self-driving Nissan IDS autonomous electric vehicle concept hints heavily at future Nissan Leaf

The Nissan IDS autonomous electric vehicle concept has been unveiled at the 2015 Tokyo Motor Show, showing the Japanese brand’s future design, as well as cutting edge tech we can expect to see on the road in the next five years.
Piloted Drive mode is switchable, so the driver can still take full control in the Manual setting. However, with the cameras, lasers and radar sensors always running, technology in the IDS will offer a constant safety net, intervening in a dangerous situation to help take evasive action.
Welcome to the future of motoring – it looks very bright.


NonICEfuelRegQ3-2014-15Source    European Automobile Manufacturers’ Association