Electric Vehicles Are Reaching Their “iPhone” Moment in 2017

Originally from Salay Consulting & Social Media Services

When the history books come to pass on 2017, one will look on this year as to where electric vehicles (EV’s) had its “iPhone moment.”

A decade ago, Apple released its revolutionary product. Although smartphones were around before, the iPhone helped change a lot of things. It helped changed how smartphones, and eventually the public warmed to mobile computing. It helped create new spillover industries while flipping old ones upside down.


Image Credit via Pixabay. Under Public Domain via Creative Commons.

Three factors are contributing this year to why EV’s are reaching that watershed or “iPhone” moment.

EV’s are becoming More Affordable as Battery Prices Plummet: The first shipments of Tesla’s Model 3 have now begun to hit the streets. Initially showcased last year, Elon Musk’s company took 373,000 in reservations as of March 2017. What is so special about this car? It’s Tesla’s first EV into the affordable mass consumer market at $35,000 USD a piece. One of the criticisms with EV’s was the initial excessive costs for consumers.

However, declining lithium-ion battery prices are now making it more affordable to mass produce EV’s, along with Tesla’s Gigafactory 1 in Nevada.

With batteries coming less costly, EV’s are nearing a tipping point where they are near cost competitive with combustible engine vehicles. A recent report underlines this. By 2025, all new vehicles will be electric. It’s especially important to know given the Paris climate agreement requires all participants keep CO2 levels well below 2C while aiming for 1.5C above pre-industrial levels.  Transportation alone creates 23% of all carbon emissions, according to the World Bank. Thus, creating affordable, clean tech transportation options at the mass consumer level is essential in cutting carbon emissions out from transportation.

While other companies, including Nissan, Chevy already produce EV’s. Tesla has had critical acclaim with its prior other models, including the Model S. Just like how the iPhone 10 years ago was synonymous with smartphones.

Companies are Going All In on EV’s: 2017 is also the breaking point where companies are making plans to slam the brakes on fossil fuel based vehicles.

Volvo recently announced by 2019 they will cease to make combustion engine vehicles, and manufacture only EV’s or hybrids. This is the silver bullet car manufacturers need to go all-electric. In 2007, Apple entering the smartphone market with the iPhone helped lure other companies, including Samsung, LG, Sony, Nokia, and Chinese tech companies to get into the smartphone game, providing more consumer choice. Smartphone costs also came crashing down to insanely low levels. It’s now possible to get a smartphone for $32 (compared to $499 or $599 US in 2007 for an iPhone). While it’s highly unlikely anyone will see an EV for $32 in their lifetime, it’s entirely possible as more entrants flood the market, prices will drop to make EV’s even more affordable for Main Street.


Global Policy: You can also thank public policy makers around the world around the globe for helping contribute to EV’s watershed moment happening now.

While Trump dumped the Paris accord, other countries are strengthening their ties by supporting cleantech. France recently announced earlier this week by 2040. They will be eliminating the sale of all petrol fuelled based vehicles. Last year, Germany vowed to do the same by 2030. Policy makers are helping to shift towards cleaner vehicles, which adds another layer towards EV’s becoming a real force.

Thomas Friedman’s 2016 book Thank You For Being Late discussed how in 2007 was the watershed moment for many key technologies, ranging from cloud computing storage, solar energy, and smartphones.  Ten years later, thanks to declining lithium-ion battery prices, companies moving towards just electric cars, and supporting legislation, are helping EV’s have their “iPhone moment.”

So what you think? Has electric vehicles reached their watershed moment this year? You can reach me on Twitter at @adamjohnstonwpg, or by email at adamjwpg@mymts.net.

From CleanTechnica: Tesla Motors Expects Small Profit In Q1 Of 2013; Reports $306 Million Revenue In Q4 Of 2012

Is Tesla starting to to hit the road in profitability?

Tesla Motors Expects Small Profit In Q1 Of 2013; Reports $306 Million Revenue In Q4 Of 2012 (via Clean Technica)

Tesla Motors expects to make a small profit in the first quarter of 2013, with the critically acclaimed Model S especially helping to move EV company slowly into profitable territory. Green Car Congress notes that Tesla’s 2012 fourth quarter revenues were $306 million, a whopping 500% increase from…

From CleanTechnica: NREL, DOE’s ARPA-E, & Others Team Up To Improve EV Battery Management

NREL, DOE’s ARPA-E, & Others Team Up To Improve EV Battery Management (via Clean Technica)

Recently, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) and others related to the Department of Energy (DOE) announced they are teaming up to boost battery optimization in electric vehicles (EVs). Both the DOE and NREL just announced the Advanced Management and Protection of Energy Storage Devices…

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The Climate Energy Era Round 2: Arctic Sea Ice Continues To Melt As Formula E Is Created

Last week two stories that may have gotten little coverage in the mainstream media, yet are equally just as important in the climate energy era.

If you did not know, Arctic sea ice levels continue to melt away National Geographic noted, the new level dropped to 1.58 million square miles.

The new levels even surpassed those of they’re previous level in 2007, which was 1.61 million square meters.

The article noted that climate change played a considerable role in the loss of Arctic Sea ice, as noted below:

Her team determined that human activity can be blamed for some 60 percent of the observed rate of decline since 1979, with the rest due to natural climate variability.

“If you run these climate models and you don’t put in the observed record of greenhouse gases, none of them show the ice declining,” Stroeve said. “None of them are able to capture what’s happening today without including greenhouse gases.”

As the Arctic sea ice melts, there is a greater possibility, the weather will may get more wonkier, than what has been going on the past few years, as Jennifer Francis, a Climatologist with Rutgers University clearly mentions in this following exerpt from the article:

Since jet streams generate and steer storms, she added, their slowing meander can prolong fall and winter weather patterns across the entire Northern Hemisphere.

“Many extreme weather events are associated with weather patterns that are stuck or moving very slowly … including droughts, cold spells, heat waves,” Francis said. (See a graphic of extreme-weather trends.)

“I would not be at all surprised to see another unusual winter around the Northern Hemisphere” this year or next.

So either get your rain coat for an increased chance of a February rainstorm, or dig deep and pull out six layers of winter clothing.

Meanwhile, the Federation Internationale de l’ Automobile (FIA) announced the creation of an electric vehicle racing series called Formula E. The circuit is backed by various investors and it is set to start up in 2014. Rio De Janeiro is already been confirmed to host one of the first races on the championship circuit.

The president of the FIA Jean Todt believes this is the wave of the future for auto racing. He was quoted of saying:

“We are pleased with this agreement with Formula E Holdings as they bring a very strong experience in motor sport. This spectacular series will offer both entertainment and a new opportunity to share the FIA values and objectives of clean energy, mobility and sustainability with a wider and younger audience as well.”

Burkhard Goeschel, President of the FIA Electric and New Energies Championships Commission also gave some excellent context on the importance of digital technology, a beacon, perhaps of moving towards a more environmentally sustainable universe for car racing:

“Formula E will be a milestone for the future of motorsports, driven by the FIA. It follows the global megatrends of our world like sustainability, the growth of the megacities and the digital world of connectivity. I would like to say thanks to all partners, who supported us in creating this new project and also to the partners who will accompany us to a successful launch of Formula E.”

Both the stories of the recent loss in Arctic sea ice and the creation of a new electric car racing circuit provide excellent contrast and hope of where we are headed in the climate-energy era in the following aspects:

  1. The idea that losing Arctic sea ice, thanks to the amount of carbon dioxide being pumped up the air can, increasing the chances of extreme weather events is not something we should be taking lightly. Sea ice loss just does not affect polar bears or Santa Clause at the North Pole. It could have impacts on a) How much precipitation an area like Winnipeg gets in the winter b) If we get more or less precipitation; c) Will are winters be extremely cold or extremely warm; d) If it is warmer, what form of precipitation does it come down in winter time (snow, sleet, freezing rain or rain); e) Could it cause infrastructure problems in Winnipeg should a freakish rain storm occur in January or February; and lastly f) Is Winnipeg prepared for something like this?
  2. Would a Canadian city like the one I live in now, Winnipeg, need to seriously look at making upgrading infrastructure to deal with further deluges of torrential rain we would not normally get?
  3. Are insurance agencies ready to consider the potential of higher costs for their premiums should more vile extreme weather events occur? Will they eat up more costs, or eventually have to change some of their packages, or make customers eat the cost?
  4. On the flip side, the forming of Formula E shows that electric vehicles, can give auto racing an extreme make over. Auto racing has been often an enemy of many within the environmental community due to it’s high carbon footprint. However, this announcement shows that thanks to the advances in technology, auto racing could seriously have a healthy environmentally sustainable future.
  5. Also, the Formula E announcement will provide a defy the naysayers who say professional sports cannot be environmentally sustainable.
  6. Formula E may prove to the general public that electric vehicles are the real deal and can be just as good as normal vehicles.

What are everyone’s thoughts about the climate-energy era? Can you think of other examples of how climate and energy have been connected lately or will be in the near future?

With a changing climate and melting Arctic ice potentially creating more bizarre weather, will cities like Winnipeg Manitoba Canada see more freezing rain fall events in the winter in the future? Photo source: Zimbio- http://www.zimbio.com/pictures/-lYvXoOnRDI/Freezing+Rain+Storm+Creates+Icy+Commute+New/x_tHRUEc22Y

What the Renewable Energy Sector Can Learn From Apple

Apple recently became the most valuable company in the World. Renewable Energy companies like Gamesa could learn some lessons. Photo sources: ipad & iPhone: http://www.uis.edu/informationtechnologyservices/iss/iphone.html; Apple Logo: Wikipedia; Gamesa wind turbine: http://www.renewableenergyfocus.com/view/17062/gamesa-launches-low-wind-4-5-mw-wind-turbine/

In case you missed it last week, Apple became the world’s most valuable company, reaching an astronomical US$622 billion on Monday, August 20th. This is quite amazing accomplishment, given that Exxon has often been the most valuable company.  With Apple again whipping the oil giants like Exxon, here are some lessons both the renewable and clean technology sectors can learn from Apple’s success:

Sell a vision: One thing that Apple has always been good at is selling a vision, something that other companies do not provide.  Apple was on the edge of a vision, making cool products like the iPhone, iPod and iPad that people wanted. Steve Jobs and company had a vision of where they wanted their products to go. Look at where that vision got them. It’s important that leaders within the renewable energy sector do not lose focus and continue to have a solid vision of where they want their product to be.

At the same time, keep your products simple: While it’s important to have vision, it’s also important for a company to simplify its product. When Steve Jobs returned to the company he created back in the mid-1990’s Jobs began to simplify much of the product line apple had.  Carmine Gallo, an author who has written many books on the success of Apple recently had this to say about the importance of how Apple simplified their products in a recent Forbes article:

“Steve Jobs once said, “I’m as proud of what we don’t do as I am of what we do.” In 2007 cellphone manufacturers were adding features to phones to make them ‘smarter.’ More features added complexity for consumers. Steve Jobs had the courage to eliminate the clutter, including the keyboard itself. Part of the iPad’s success is that it is incredibly easy to use. Since there’s only one button on it, even a 2-year-old can use it. Don’t believe me? Search YouTube for “2-year-old” + “iPad” and see how many people post videos of their children picking up an iPad for the first time. Apple’s lead designer, Jonathan Ive, once said, “We are absolutely consumed by trying to develop a solution that is very simple, because as physical beings we understand clarity.” In 1998, Steve Jobs told a business reporter that one of his mantras was focus and simplicity. “Simple can be harder than complex. But it’s worth it in the end, because once you get there you can move mountains.”

Renewable energy and clean technology companies, should keep their products simple and straight forward for their customers to use. Remember the KISS method in school. It applies here as well.

But sell the “Coolness” of the Product: Just because you keep your products simple does not mean they do not have to be cool. Apple has been successful, because of the coolness factor. They used the “anti-PC” factor early on. Apple innovated products like the mp3 player, mobile phone, and computer tablets, and virtually made cool products other companies would not dare have thought have.

Ron Pernick and Clint Wilder in their 2007 book, The Clean Tech Revolution also emphasized this, saying:

“And if your “cool: cachet is high enough, you may be able to command a premium price for a clean-tech product.” (P.278)

Renewable energy companies like wind, solar or those in the clean technology sector including electric cars and smart grids need to sell the coolness factor. They just can’t sell the “Save the world” factor in order to engage people to buy it. Former General Motors executive Bob Lutz, well-known for his anti climate change views, is a proponent on selling the GM  hybrid electric Volt car as a “cool” product, because the demand was there.

Here is hoping the ghost of Steve Jobs will channel through the leaders within renewable energy and clean technology companies looking to boost their bottom line.