Preparing for Our Electric Car Future
The year is 2020. On a typical day, you are driving your electric car home from work. On the way you decide to stop at the gym for a workout, figuring you'll re-charge your car battery at the same time. Using your voice-enabled vehicle communications system, you reserve a charge spot at the station next door to the gym.
As you arrive, your vehicle navigation system guides you to that reserved charge spot. While you're parking, the charge spot communicates with your vehicle electronics, confirming your reservation. You plug in your vehicle to the charge spot, press the "start charging" button on the display and head over to the gym. Returning an hour later, you pay for the electricity with loyalty points you've earned at the gym, and are on your way.
Various forces are converging to make this scenario a reality in the not-too-distant future. As concerns mount about global warming, oil dependence and urban traffic pollution, automotive manufacturers and policymakers are intensifying their efforts to make battery-powered vehicles a viable alternative to conventional oil-fueled cars.
From the consumer's perspective, the price will soon be right. With government incentives, the total cost of ownership for an electric vehicle (EV) is on par with the cost of owning a car with traditional internal combustion engine (ICE) technology. Electric vehicle technology and operations advances will continue to bring the cost down, and innovative battery financing will make purchase prices more attractive, even after government incentives end. As this gap closes, demand for EVs will grow. My employer, global management consulting firm PRTM, estimates that by 2020 EVs and plug-in hybrids (PHEVs) could account for nearly 10% of new vehicle sales. Less conservative forecasts peg penetration at 20%.
The advent of the electric car will, of course, have an enormous impact on automakers. But that's only the beginning. Over the next few decades, we'll see a whole new value chain spring up with its own roster of players, from utility companies to retail outlets. Revenue pools will shift dramatically downstream, from natural resources like oil to high-tech components like the battery. Important shifts will occur in the three chief parts of the transportation value chain: energy generation and distribution, propulsion systems and private services provision. These developments could create a $300 billion value chain with between 1 million and 1.5 million new jobs globally.
While the new value chain will generate enormous opportunities for some companies, it will create significant risks for others. Companies that include EVs in their business plans must identify the many products and services that customers across the entire EV value chain will need. Then they must build the operational strategies required to support these offerings. Conversely, companies in the oil-based value chain that view growing EV demand as a threat should reposition themselves to mitigate potential sales declines, lower asset utilization and technology obsolescence.
Here's a brief glimpse of the changes on the horizon--and various ways companies can capitalize on them.
Energy delivery. As an increasing number of cars come to rely on electricity instead of oil, the utility companies that generate and deliver the electricity will acquire a major new revenue stream, the charging provision market. Adding an Electric Vehicle to the grid is the equivalent of adding an average new household, translating into roughly $5,000 of electricity revenues over the life of the vehicle. Conversely, the part of the oil-based value chain focused on energy generation and distribution will lose about $14,000 of revenue per vehicle in related gas sales.
The rise in the number of battery-powered vehicles could strain electricity grids, so it will be critical for utilities to develop capabilities to manage their customers' charging needs. Recent advances in smart grid technology combined with discounts for off-peak charging should help.
Without question, shrinking demand for gasoline at the pump will hurt oil companies. But the negative impact should be dampened somewhat by overall vehicle growth and by the opportunity to focus on producing petrochemical products. These are more profitable than gasoline and in greater demand internationally. Plus, oil companies themselves may want to claim a piece of the new value chain.
Conversion and propulsion. The shift of the powertrain from internal combustion to a lithium-battery pack presents the greatest opportunities and challenges. By our estimates, it will probably shave $3,000 of revenue per vehicle from the oil-based value chain, and add $11,000 to the electric value chain.
Right now, large lithium batteries are very expensive, adding more than $15,000 to the cost of the car. Existing batteries enable a range of about 100 miles before needing a recharge. Companies that can design and produce these batteries with the same performance at half the current cost will garner a competitive edge. Firms across the value chain are racing to tap this new revenue stream and governments across the globe are increasingly viewing this technology as strategically vital.
By Oliver Hazimeh
Companies that provide traditional transmissions and other engine components to automakers will be at risk as demand shrinks. To combat declining sales and underutilized assets, these suppliers will need to leverage core competencies, like precision machining, so they can provide the equivalent products and services for EVs.
Private and public services. Companies that service cars with internal combustion engines will give up revenues since cars powered by electricity require less maintenance. Revenue will shift both to companies that can service electric drivetrain systems and to companies that can provide charging, maintenance and other location-based services. We predict the oil-based value chain will lose approximately $5,000 per vehicle, while the electricity-based value chain will gain $6,000.
New service revenue streams will come largely from services such as construction, communications, retail, media and advertising. Imagine ads informing drivers of the nearest charge point, or retail outlets offering discounts on charges through a 'green' loyalty program. Chargers could also become part of every new home construction, with the general contractor offsetting initial installation and service-provisioning costs. Software applications developed for smart phones could notify EV owners when their charge is running low. Nissan is already working with Apple to develop an app that does just that.
Meanwhile, traditional car service centers like Jiffy Lube will see their core revenues decrease significantly. To survive and thrive, these companies should take the steps needed to be players in the EV value chain. That means enhancing current locations with the equipment and competencies required for diagnosing and servicing electric drivetrains and battery packs.
The advent of the electric car is no longer in question--only the timetable is. Like any disruptive innovation, the new value chain will bring numerous white-space opportunities as well as risks. Companies that proactively stake their claim in this new landscape will be the ones leading the way in the next generation.
Oliver Hazimeh is director and head of the global e-Mobility practice at PRTM, a global management consulting firm. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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