Carpe EV Diem

Photo Courtesy of Fully Charged
Photo Courtesy of Fully Charged

So many things are now happening within the mobility space, all at the same time, that there seems to be some new momentum for change. It’s now getting much harder to see that we might go anywhere but forward. More electric vehicles have been purchased by more open-minded buyers. More fast-charging infrastructure has been deployed. More new EV models are being launched. And more government and local resources have been provided along with policies designed to accelerate more EV adoption.

And as automotive companies change themselves, such as how they are organized (Ford), how they wrestle with becoming software providers (VW), and how they can vertically integrate for the new EV world by buying mining access (all), many other related things are happening too. For example, Ford has told its US dealers that by the end this month they need to commit to being an electric vehicle dealer, with the training and infrastructure Ford requires, or they will only get Ford’s internal combustion vehicles to sell. Sounds like an “ultium-atum” to use another maker’s term. Yet even with this kind of “take it or leave it” approach, the Ford Dealer Council prevailed and Ford agreed to create a middle pathway for smaller dealers to invest, an “EV lite” approach so to speak, so these dealers can sell a few EV’s per month and stay in the game. It’s clear that, at least in the US market, that if we do not respond to rural needs and enable the EV intenders in the middle of America, where there currently are few charge points for example, then we will limit the overall adoption rate of EV’s nationwide.

https://techcrunch.com/2022/09/14/ford-gives-dealers-an-ultimatum-on-ev-sales/

So companies like Ford are using the catalyst of this product change to electric vehicles to modify their sales approach as well. In the surface, it does not seem that a consumers choice of powertrain should change the sales model, but since Tesla and other new EV makers are selling their cars directly, or through an “agency” model, Ford and the other legacy automakers are right to explore this route as well. It’s easy to recall GM’s Saturn brand, which didn’t allow prices to be negotiated, so consumers knew the price before they arrived at the dealership. This worked well enough, but since Saturn’s product plan was starved, no new product meant that Saturn went away, regardless of the sales model.

And EV’s too will live and die by product selection and performance, not sales and distribution models. Consumers will always seek out and find a new product that has great value and exceeds their expectations. Tesla is the EV market leader not because of how it sells its cars, but how they work. While Tesla needs to bring out more accessibly priced models, it’s clear their basic product portfolio, with sedan’s and crossovers, are popular even though they are all at the higher end of the EV market. Having a network of Supercharger stations, that are easy to use, and widely deployed, and recently providing an adapter for owners to use chargers from other companies, means that Tesla continues to enable its new owners to have a positive EV experience.

https://cleantechnica.com/2022/08/26/us-electric-vehicle-market-growing-yet-tesla-still-dominates/

Recent research from JD Power shows that currently over 26% of all new car shoppers are very likely to purchase an EV within the next 12 months. And while Tesla still dominates the brand consideration for these potential EV consumers, Ford, Chevrolet, Toyota, and Hyundai are now right behind. This is because of all the new EV models coming from these companies, like the F-150 Lightning, the Chevrolet Blazer, and the Hyundai Ioniq. New product gets all the marketing money in the automotive business, and when you see enough “EVerybody In” ads (from GM) you might become curious and start to look closer at buying an EV. When we have over 1 in 4 new car buyers saying they are considering an electric vehicle, we are on the cusp of much faster adoption. Actual EV sales are just over 6% in the US market currently, so this means that 4 times more people are considering an EV today.

Maybe the real challenge for the industry is simply not to disappoint these “willing” buyers, and to make sure their questions get answered the first time, wherever they look for information, either online or on the showroom floor. Reducing their “home charger-install anxiety” for these prospects might also be important now, as “vehicle range anxiety” is quickly becoming a thing of the past with 500 mile range EV’s now. Local, familiar, and understanding auto dealers would be great places to get all this selling done. Think about the early days of cell phones, and the “stores” from the cellular carriers. Customers could buy the device, buy the plan, get their questions answered, all with one stop. Of course as the carriers moved to more sales online, and self-service, much of this experience was eroded. We need to make sure the “EV buying experience” becomes easier and easier. Maybe this is part of what is driving Ford and others to “seize the day” and change their approach to EV’s.

Who will benefit? Well, consumers will get new technology vehicles that have lower operating costs, with an easy sales experience. Automakers and suppliers will be able to participate and earn revenue across the ownership cycle, from initial sales and “over-the-air” (OTA) software updates. Dealers will have an opportunity as well, selling generally higher-transaction priced EV vehicles, but still having many service and repair opportunities beyond the powertrain, and perhaps participating in battery recycling and “energy storage systems” (ESS) redeployment of vehicle batteries. Local governments will have cleaner vehicles and quieter traffic. Utilities will have plenty of roving electricity “storage” too. And the planet will have less greenhouse gases contributing to climate change. Sounds pretty good to me. Let’s all “carpe diem” to a greener future!

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The High Cost of EV Adoption Today

  • Published on July 8, 2022
Photo Courtesy of Libertyplugins.com
Photo Courtesy of Libertyplugins.com

George Ayres

Automotive | Leader | Sales | Marketing | Mobility | Connected | Electric | Autonomous | Shared | Revenue | Growth

18 articles

The transformation of the auto industry from internal combustion engines to battery power is accelerating, no doubt about it. And the infrastructure, charging networks, and government support for this change are increasing. Consumer themselves are listening, learning, and becoming more interested in moving towards EV’s too. The article below describes a recent Consumer Reports survey that said 14% of people would definitely purchase an EV, but twice this number (28%) definitely “would not” consider an EV. What about the 58% in the middle? What will it take to move them? I think the main issue at the moment is not range, charging infrastructure, or fear of new tech. It’s simply cost. EV’s are expensive right now. Too expensive! And it seems things will be this way for at least 3 years. Let’s look at why.

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It’s clear that soon we will have many varieties of electric vehicles available, and some will be more affordable. All OEM’s are moving quickly. Just take a look at the center-spread of this week’s Automotive News (shown below) and you can see that every Automaker is moving faster to transform their product line-up to more EV’s. And States like California are moving to full EV only. But much of this terrific new product development is not helping buyers yet, as the models currently available for sale are all just too expensive.

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For example, the EV market leader, Tesla, has not expanded its model range for awhile, and even the Model 3 starts at $45k. Ford has the F-150 Lightning and Mach E, but they both cost $40k or more, and very hard to get. And yes, the Cadillac Lyriq sold out in a few hours, but it is in very limited production and costs over $60,000 which is much more expensive than the majority of the buyers in the new car market can afford. And because GM is no longer eligible, there is not even an EV tax credit for this vehicle. But GM did recently reduce the price of the Chevy Bolt. So GM is clearly thinking about EV affordability.

https://www.linkedin.com/embeds/publishingEmbed.html?articleId=8673126474556867075&li_theme=dark

But all of the new EV vehicles are not here yet. And people need to buy something, or upgrade their current vehicle, and can’t wait. Supply is constrained due to the ongoing semi-conductor chip shortage. And component material prices for batteries are increasing, especially for lithium and cobalt, due to the overall growing EV demand. See the article below from Alix Partners, a research firm, outlining the current situation. One key point they mention is this comparison. “At $3,662 per vehicle (in the US), ICE raw-material content is nearly double pre-pandemic levels. This pales in comparison to BEV raw-material content, which is now $8,255 per vehicle. The disparity is driven largely by cobalt, nickel, and lithium prices.”

https://www.linkedin.com/embeds/publishingEmbed.html?articleId=7764712561928756266&li_theme=dark

While new advances in battery technology like “solid-state” batteries promise better range and greater materials supply, these batteries currently cost four times more than standard lithium-ion batteries, exaggerating the current problem. Toyota is well placed to lead in this area, but it will be awhile before we see the majority of vehicles with solid-state batteries.

https://www.linkedin.com/embeds/publishingEmbed.html?articleId=9124043172319042537&li_theme=dark

Add in rising global inflation, which means you can buy less for the same money, and a war in Ukraine which keeps energy markets volatile, and no wonder consumers are hesitating. While they are paying $5 for gasoline, and sure don’t like it, coming up with the cash for a new EV is getting harder and harder.

For example, the average new car payment is now over $700 per month. Since the cost of borrowing is rising as the Fed raises interest rates to combat inflation, car buyers can either buy less car, or they have to put up more of their income for a car. Since all other prices are also rising, like mortgage payments, groceries, and school supplies, they feel the squeeze.

https://www.linkedin.com/embeds/publishingEmbed.html?articleId=7812184282103910342&li_theme=dark

And the average car loan length is now six years, which means that consumers that buy ICE vehicles today will be “upside down” a few more years longer, meaning they will owe more for the car than the car is worth. A negative equity situation. We have seen this phenomenon in the car market more than once, and it never works out for the either the consumer or the automaker. It delays purchases and keeps people trapped in their old technology. The average car on the road in the US is currently 12.2 years, which is much longer than historically we have seen. The current financing market dynamics are suggesting this may get even longer. The promise of a new EV will be in the distant future for too many.

https://www.linkedin.com/embeds/publishingEmbed.html?articleId=8622472421372719983&li_theme=dark

So if OEM’s want people to move to EV’s they need to bring affordable EV’s to market. They need to work with the government and their ecosystem to ensure that there is wide penetration of EV infrastructure. And of course the government needs to increase EV incentives and encourage more switching from ICE to EV, and not with just tax cuts. What about helping people pay for installing home chargers? While there is good commitment for this from the current administration, these programs are not yet simple, practical, and easy to access. Why not a “voucher” system for anyone buying an EV from a dealer, or even online, to receive a rebate on the cost of a home charger. Tax credits are hard to access and too far removed from the original cost outlay. Consumers need relief on this cost more quickly.

https://www.linkedin.com/embeds/publishingEmbed.html?articleId=6987414249488379809&li_theme=dark

Overall consumer will move to electric vehicles, the trend is now inevitable, as product development cycles for automakers are many years long. The ocean liner turns slowly. So we will see lots of EV choices for new car buyers in a few years. And high volume categories like Pick-up trucks will even be very EV competitive. This is all good for the future.

But we need to do some things now to ensure people make the move to EV earlier. I recall the “Get America Rolling” initiative GM introduced 10 days after the 9/11 attacks, when the auto market had become paralyzed. It used 0% financing to boost demand for new cars, boosting the US economy in the process, and by the end of 2001 it had helped sell 1 million more cars. It was like marketing adrenaline.

Given the existential threat of climate change and the need to reduce automotive emissions quickly, let’s find a way to move every current in-market buyer to pick their first EV today, and not wait one more cycle. How about it. Let’s “Charge Up America!” Today!

Learn more about how you can better prepare for the new mobility future and the changes, and opportunities this creates, by contacting us at Automobility Advisors. 

Expanding EV Charging – Some Practical Issues

Courtesy of Volta Charging

This week General Motors announced plans to invest $750 million to help provide 40,000 new electric vehicle charging stations starting in 2022 through its GM dealerships, and said that 90% of all American’s are within 10 miles of one of their automotive stores. It’s terrific that GM is making this commitment to EV charging in addition to the $35 billion major product investment it previously announced. Let’s look at a couple of the issues they will need to think about to make their charging network plan deliver on the promise.

The Urban vs. Rural Experience

GM has dealers all over the country, serving rural areas most importantly. EV adoption needs to happen in rural places too, but other than home charging networks, there are just not yet many office buildings and retail locations with chargers in small communities. Shown below is a map of a major charging company, Volta, and their current and near-term charger locations. Notice that major metro areas are where these are all going. So GM can fill a valuable need by leveraging its small town dealers to fill in the gaps.

Map Courtesy of Volta Charging

“We want to give customers the right tools and access to charging where and when they need it, while working with our dealer network to accelerate the expansion of accessible charging throughout the U.S. and Canada, including in underserved, rural and urban areas,” said GM President Mark Reuss in a statement.

But there will be a major difference between who is providing charging stations in rural places, with those in urban locations. While most urban and suburban EV buyer’s will have access to a charger in their home, apartment building, or even their office (if they are still going there), and they can now use a myriad of networks, most people may find that charging is an adjunct to a destination they are already visiting. Going to Whole Foods, or a multi-retail location to shop for groceries and other services, and plugging in to top up your car while you are there, may be the normal use case. When presented with a choice within a few miles, of a multiple-charger bank in a food or services retail store parking lot that they already have decided to visit, or a GM dealer that may have more chargers available but only has accessories and floor mats to shop for, the customer may choose the food and services retailer most of the time. So in urban locations, while GM dealers may be great locations for chargers, the customer will need a different experience that most auto dealers provide today. Free coffee is not enough.

For rural EV buyers, it may be terrific that the local GM dealership, which historically supports the town’s Little League Team, Fourth of July parade, and just about every other civic activity, is now the center of the EV charging experience. It would make a lot of sense as well, for these dealers who are sometimes on the edge of town, to partner with the local Wal-Mart or Dollar Store to provide EV owner’s with a free shuttle to these retailers while their car is charged. This saves the stand-alone retailer from investing, and provides them with some captive shoppers for an hour at no real effort. The GM dealer then becomes a mobility center in some ways within the community, and could easily expand on-demand shuttles to other users too. This may be more than the local dealer wants to do, but they will have little competition from banks of retail chargers, unlike the urban dealer. Rural dealers can leverage their facilities and locations to lead on EV adoption in the community, and EV pick-up sales might benefit the most from local dealer’s stepping up to convince traditional buyers that EV’s can be easy to live with. GM dealers have to help GM get the change to happen, one customer at a time.

Photo Courtesy of Hardy Chevrolet Buick GMC in Dallas, Georgia – Go Visit them today!

Cost Differentials

Buyers of EV’s in urban and suburban locations will have many choices for chargers sooner than you think. And many of these chargers will be free for the first 30 minutes or longer. Much of this is because a bank of chargers in an outdoor retailer strip mall can be used for advertising, point-of-sale information, event, discount messaging, or even saturation with a national brand’s messaging. Retail charging locations in urban areas will have lots of ways to subsidize the cost of a charge, and will be competing with each other for visits. Finding and paying for a charger will be relatively simple for the urban EV owner.

Photo Courtesy of Volta Charging

In contrast, it will be awhile before we see many chargers in smaller and rural communities. There may be a couple of chargers, but if they are at the local Chevrolet dealer, then their advertising value accrues to the dealer, primarily, and he or she presumably has much cheaper ways to advertise. So it’s likely that the rural EV driver will be paying more directly for the charge, with less subsidy available. Smart dealers will assess the market penetration of EV’s in their area, using DMV data or other available information, to understand how they can pull in the multiple-brand EV buyers in their community, making “first 30 minutes free” charging or other draws to get the hook-ups they need to make charging successful. Will non-GM EV drivers feel ok to charge their EV at a GM store? I think yes if the experience is safe, easy, and cost-effective. But the cost will not be reduced by advertising in these situations. It will be because the GM dealer thinks creatively about how to attract and serve the community. Since this is something local dealers have been doing for over 100 years, I think they will figure it out too.

Conclusion

We see a divide in our society between urban and rural sometimes culturally. But EV buyers have the same needs wherever they live. They want to find a place to plug in that is safe and cost-effective, and if they can do it while taking care of other things it will be convenient too. I have great faith that the push GM is making to add chargers nationwide, will find great partners with rural dealers as these community leaders change rural resident views on electric vehicles. Maybe The Heartbeat of America just needs a little jolt!

In The News

Will the Chevy Bolt recall change EV adoption?

Last week GM’s CFO reassured Wall Street that the company will recover the over $1 billion cost of the Chevy Bolt EV recall, with the battery maker, LG Chem, paying GM back for the expense. While as an automaker, recovering direct costs from suppliers for warranty expenses is a routine matter, this is a high profile, high visibility situation for GM. The company has made tremendous progress moving toward an all-EV product line-up, branded their battery system the “Ultium” (which is pretty cool branding actually),  and even changed the corporate logo to be more hi-tech looking. Will this recall cause any slow-down in EV adoption for GM? I say short-term yes, long-term no, for three reasons.

First, the transition to electric vehicles is happening globally much more rapidly than most previously expected, and this will not slow down for some recall events here and there. EVvolumes.com has reported that in the first half of 2021, global EV sales were up 168% over last year. Of course, the global pandemic had a dampening effect in the first half of 2020, but this is still much more growth than the mainstream auto market. It seems like we are finally “crossing the chasm” as technology adopter guru Geoffrey Moore famously put it in his seminal book of the same name. There is no looking back now.

Second, automakers have had many brushes with bad PR due to perceived safety issues and always gotten beyond them. Ralph Nader made his name by attacking a GM vehicle, the Corvair, in the 1960’s, and GM overcame this issue. Audi in the 1980’s suffered sales declines due to perceptions of “sudden acceleration” in some of its models, and now Audi is a very strong brand in the US market. Toyota even had some of the same issues with perceptions of sudden acceleration a few years ago, and this does not seem to be an issue for consumers who are still buying Toyota’s. Overall, these kinds of issues do affect the short-term sales of a model, and the brand as a whole, but longer-term they are soon forgotten. The global chip shortage will probably have more effect on GM’s EV sales near term.

Finally, consumers are changing and their expectations will need to be met by progressive companies, and offering EV’s will be a requirement. Tesla has had some bad press a few times along the way but overall they have built a very positive and favorable image for themselves among consumers. Customers like Tesla’s large touch screens, over-the-air-software updates, and “autopilot” automated driving technology. They are looking for similar features from all other EV choices, and the winners will be those that provide the best value which can be thought of as the Total Experience divided by the Total Cost. Savvy consumers will continue to drive the automakers to supply EV’s loaded with hi-tech features and that need little maintenance.

In the end, yes, this is a stumble GM could have lived without, and it is great that they will recoup some costs from their supplier. But consumers now have a taste for the future of “mobility” and EV’s are a critical part of this. More EV’s for sale by more OEM’s will be required, and GM will continue to drive much of the progress. Let’s help them change the planet!

News Source:  https://www.thestar.com/business/thestreet/2021/09/10/general-motors-stock-jumps-as-cfo-sees-battery-recall-cost-recovery-stable-chip-supplies.html?es_id=7968cdc9b4