In recent years, there has been a growing interest in the development and use of electric vehicles. With improvements in technology and increasing concerns for the environment, electric vehicles look to be moving steadily into the mainstream. However, it may come as a surprise for some to know that electric vehicles are not a new phenomenon or trend.
The invention and practical uses of the first electric vehicle can be traced back to the late 19th century and early 20th century. Back then, it was a strong competitor for early gas and steam vehicles and had several distinct advantages including the lack of smell and noise pollution that was well received by the public. Unfortunately, it eventually lost popularity and its interest has since faded in and out of society in the coming decades. Renewed interest in electric vehicles in the 21st century began with the introduction of the hybrid Toyota Prius at the turn of the century and the rise of Tesla Motors. Imagine the things that could have been accomplished if the early electric vehicles hadn’t lost its flair.
With electric vehicles set to greatly shape the transportation landscape, many companies including automotive giants are putting effort into their own ventures. This has led to a wave of partnerships and as the companies try to reap the benefits of early involvement in the emerging sector. In the process of developing electric vehicles, many rival companies have also taken to exploring collaborations with each other. Longtime rivals BMW and Daimler, for example, have entered into a collaboration that seeks to focus on the research and development of five industries autonomous cars, ride-hailing, electric scooters, car-sharing, and electric chargers. With a combined $1.13 billion to spend, the collaboration would involve the formation of five different companies to cater to the different focuses. Other more recent noteworthy collaborations include:
Toyota x BYD
Both companies announced that they would be jointly developing electric sedans and SUVs under the Toyota brand for the Chinese market during the first half of the 2020s.
Toyota x Subaru
The two Japanese automakers have agreed to develop a new electrical compact SUV that will be sold under the names of both brands. So far, no timeline has been given as to when the SUV will make its debut.
Ford x Rivian
Ford invested $500 million investment into Rivian and will leverage the technology developed by the startup to develop a new vehicle through its details remain unclear.
Ford x Volkswagen
Ford and Volkswagen forged a partnership to invest billions of dollars into autonomous and electric vehicles. As part of the deal, Volkswagen invested in Argo AI, a company specializing in autonomous vehicle development along with Ford who had previously invested in the company two years ago. Both companies will also share their own technology with each other.
Because the technology is still in its early stages, investing in new technologies can be costly and having a partner with similar vision and goals allows one to share that risk and take advantage of each other’s strengths and networks in creating new products.
Startups and smaller companies are also playing an increasingly important role in the electric vehicle industry. One of the most influential companies in the space, Tesla Motors began as an obscure startup back in the early to mid-2000s. Startups bring in a fresh set of ideas and innovative methods that adapt more quickly to changing times. And just like Tesla Motors, some startups can grow to become highly profitable businesses that are able to challenge other industry giants. Already, startups such as Faraday Future, Lucid Motors, and Fisker Inc and many more have stepped up and are bringing change to the electric vehicle industry. Fisker Inc in particular aims to challenge Tesla directly with the release of a new line of electric SUVs in 2021 for under $40000, about the same cost as Tesla’s upcoming Model Y.
The benefits and potential of startups didn’t go unnoticed in the automotive industry either. Many automotive companies took to investing in not just electric vehicles but other emerging technologies that could greatly impact the transportation landscape including autonomous vehicles, 3D Printing, and Artificial Intelligence. In some cases, companies would outright buy startups. E-Scooter and bicycle-sharing company Spin, for example, was acquired by the Ford Motor Company in November of 2018 in an M&A deal that was worth $100 million. The company now plans to expand its service to more cities in the country.
Electric vehicles still have a long way to go before mass adoption. Apart from the need to still work on and improve the technology needed to develop the vehicles, it seems that most people aren’t quite ready to accept it. One of the main issues is an environment that isn’t quite conducive or ready for electrically powered vehicles. The lack of charging stations and costs of the car are among the issues that make buying an electric vehicle an unpopular option. Despite the drawbacks, it safe to say that the electric vehicle will be well on their way to widespread adoption as technology becomes cheaper and more efficient alongside continuous innovation by several companies aided by the cooperation of both public and private sectors. Electric vehicles aren’t the end of it as work has already started on another endeavor, autonomous vehicles.