Category Archives: Case Study 4

Updates from Case Study 4: Business models in electric vehicle ecosystems

The diffusion of electric vehicles: step-change or mass transition?

Can the market for a new technology like electric vehicles grow and survive if it occurs a progressive, step- transition?  I will argue that the answer is NO, for the following reasons.

First, many other examples of successful technological innovations recently have not occurred as linear, slow incremental changes: they have been exponentially-growing, societal revolutions of the way people live and interact.  Very clear examples include the internet, smart mobile phones, the cloud, and so on.  If EVs are too slow on the uptake, and fail to be a “disruptive technology”, they will soon enough be outcompeted by alternative fuel technologies.

Second, a widespread adoption of EVs requires charging infrastructure that is interoperable and information systems that are standardised.  Setting up such an infrastructure cannot be done in a piecemeal fashion.  Rather, it requires large-scale coordination of developers and, potentially, considerable market power to impose one’s own standards.  If you are a member of one EV-charging scheme, and you are locked out from charging stations because of your exclusive contract with your provider, or the incompatible ID recognition software, you have all the reasons in the world to tell your friends *not* to buy an EV.  And user experiences are precisely what this industry relies on to grow.

So, a mixed fleet where a small percentage of drivers have an EV and others don’t, is not a likely viable scenario.  EVs cannot be expected to be perfect right away, yet for a consumer-driven market to materialize, they need to be ready to scale up.  The future will be all-electric – or not.

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New Forms of Urban Mobility

What do Oslo, Amsterdam, Paris, Oxford, San Francisco, and Houston have in common?  All have an electric-car-sharing program.  Urban mobility is taking on new forms with the introduction of small, eco-friendly vehicles at parking stations across cities available for a time- or distance-based subscription.  The concept is similar to a cell phone contract: for a monthly, annual, or in some cases daily or weekly fee, users can take out an EV and return it to any other station in the city after use.  This shift to mobility-as-a-service, or “servitization”, is the new trend in private transport, as the younger generation is changing its attitude towards driving.  Vehicle leasing is increasingly appearing as a more attractive option in cities than ownership of a vehicle.