What has the industry learned about how to develop a sustainable market? Is it sustainable yet? If not, why, and how can the gaps be bridged?
As the session closed, participants were asked to propose questions that preoccupied their companies or organizations for debate in small groups. A selected burning question from each session, and the findings from the discussion of it, follows.
Question: What opportunities exist for cross-sector partnerships?
Conclusion: Three or four years ago, EVs were conceptual and largely based on subsidies and regulatory issues. But today, companies are starting to see opportunities versus threats and barriers, so new opportunities are emerging.
Possible combinations include a bundled product a customer can’t refuse from a trusted company, such as an Apple, made in China and serviced by an integrator. Another possibility is a vehicle from a trusted car maker with a premium brand like Mercedes, charged by a trusted mobility provider like BP or Shell, and supplied by a trusted car-sharing or rental company such as Hertz.
Still others could partner on a complex package of services, such as Deutsche Bank guaranteeing a battery, Swiss Re providing insurance, and GE supplying large storage plus green power in a quick-charge park.
Question: Is there a secondary market for batteries?
Conclusion: The seven-year-old battery has residual value given its high cost, with possible second- and third-generation lives. Afterlife applications could include additional heating capacity in countries adding to their capacity, like China, and in residential and commercial buildings elsewhere.
Rural applications in areas without electricity are also a possibility, for say, solar power recharging. Even in the US and Mexico, some rural areas are off-grid.
But start-of-life batteries should be standardized and a futures market created. More research and development into reclaiming efficiencies to improve lithium and other semiprecious metal yields, and government incentives to develop second-life alternatives, are needed.
"We applaud efforts under way toward battery reconditioning," the group said, in which a used battery is reconditioned to recoup 60% to 80% of its capacity. This could lead to a primary and aftermarket — even with the battery’s maker — to replace a spent battery with one with slightly less capacity at half the price. For this market to solidify, it needs to move from concept to concrete.
Question: With the auto industry threatened by EVs and collaboration between OEMs and utilities required, is there a new paradigm to push things forward, especially on the supply chain side?
Conclusion: In the move from ICEs to EVs over this paradigm shift, it might be useful to think about e-mobility, even in one-car households. Factors in the vehicle-buying decision include size, speed, capacity, cost and the enjoyability aspect. But the overall goal of car ownership is reaching one’s destination. Thus the total solution may involve a bike, scooter and/or mass transit.
It’s all about lifestyle and choices and trade-offs, such as trading speed for green or the size or cost for speed. Or one rents, leases or pays per use.
EVs may cover less distance than conventional cars per charge, but perhaps that’s OK. So a small, low-speed EV, such as those already built by Shifeng that meet basic cost, convenience and energy consumption requirements, may suffice. Perhaps industry and governments need to analyze EVs from that perspective. Perhaps the real paradigm is strategy, starting with smaller range, traditional lead-acid battery electric vehicles.
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