The electric car, the eternal expectation

Since our inception in the battery world, VT has closely followed the evolution of the electric car in the automotive market.

In 2012, we learned about "Better Place", the project of a venture capital fund to manage electric car batteries under a "battery sharing" model.

At the time the idea seemed to be the perfect solution to the battery charging problem.

The model was that Better Place subscribers could enjoy (as users/subscribers and not as owners) charged batteries at any time, as long as they went to a battery replacement station. Of course, these batteries would be charged with renewable energy, which made the project even more attractive and "subsidizable" if possible. But of course, this model with a battery replacement station was subject to certain conditions:

  • Sufficient replacement stations were needed to cover territories (a 60-mile radius of action was considered reasonable).
  • It required all manufacturers to have solutions compatible with the Better Place system.

Naturally, these two requirements are very costly and difficult to implement. It implied a large investment that required a network of charging stations in any territory. However, the most difficult aspect, which made this project unfeasible, was to get all electric car manufacturers to agree.

Result. After a pilot test investment of more than $400 million, Better Place filed for bankruptcy in 2014.

In 2019, during a trip to the Chinese city of Shenzhen, we discovered that the Better Place solution was already implemented by ByD, the Chinese automotive giant...

It turns out that most cabs in the Canton metro area are electric cars. These cars do not charge their batteries at night but replace them at stations like those planned by Better Place. We don't know if the energy with which they recharge the batteries is renewable, but the fact is that the system works for them.

There is no need to bring many automakers into agreement here. B&D is the dominant one. Nor was it necessary to invest a lot in a network of replacement stations. The metropolitan area of Canton has more than 45 million inhabitants in 7,400 km² (yes, it is not a mistake, there lives the population of Spain in an area half the size of the province of Burgos). Therefore, having critical mass, a willing manufacturer and an area with short average distances, the electric car is a viable solution. And it is viable even with the autonomy of current batteries, which do not give more than 300 km of real autonomy (400 km certified).

And having said all this, why hasn't the electric car taken off in Europe and even less so in Spain?

To every person that we tell that we are dedicated to the batteries the first thing they ask us good! you will sell many electric car batteries!

IF you search for electric cars on the internet, they seem to be selling like hot cakes.

Politicians of all stripes and conditions are full of mouths saying how much they support the electric car, green energies and how important all this is to mitigate the consequences of climate change that is coming our way.

Without going into the documented nature of these statements, it seems that there is a great desire for the electric car to become a reality.

For some time now we have been constantly seeing forecasts that the electric car is going to take this or that market share in five years. But five years go by and the forecasts are not systematically fulfilled. The data on the evolution of the vehicle fleet in Spain are stubborn. The market share of non-diesel and non-petrol vehicles (including hydrogen, gas and electric vehicles) does not reach 0.4% despite so many years of propaganda, subsidies, purchase aid and desire to curb climate change:

In our experience, aftermarket sales data in the automotive sector show the same trend. Sales of batteries for electric cars are practically non-existent compared to starter batteries for internal combustion engine vehicles.

The truth is that the electric car does not have the weight in the market that the media, politicians and social networks want to give it. Back to the question: Why?

The reasons, in our opinion, are:

  1. The range of the electric car is very limited, no more than 300 km real (400 km certified in driving conditions that are not the real ones). This makes it attractive only for short trips, but for more than 500 km per day it starts to be a problem.
  2. Price. It is not competitive with equivalent vehicles in combustion engine. And the battery is a cost overrun on top of the 4 or 5 years....(Better Place had a point).
  3. The recharging network is not developed. Where can the user who does not have a garage at home charge his car? Where should he take it to charge it at night? And where there is a communal garage ..... Is there enough power to install as many chargers as neighbors?

For these reasons, it seems that the electric car has not yet "taken off". And frankly, it doesn't look like the situation is going to change in the short term. In any case, we will remain vigilant!