‘Electric’ turning point?
Tesla and Volvo made some important announcements recently concerning electric propulsion. In many media people were talking about a real turning point. Time to put some things into perspective.
by Tony Verhelle
A few weeks ago Tesla announced the delivery of the first Model 3, the more compact and less expensive electric vehicle, at the same time Volvo CEO Hakan Samuelsson declared that as of 2019 the Swedish manufacturer will only sell new models in which there is also an electric motor (hybrid or full electric). Many comments in the press talked about the beginning of a new ‘electric’ era.
But was this really a turning point? In my view the real turning point was 2016, when as well the VW Group (until then fairly critical about electric propulsion) as Daimler declared to go for electric mobility, with the planned arrival of a fairly big amount of new electrically driven models between now and 2025. The announcements and politics of both Tesla and Volvo can be seen as accelerators of the movement.
Meanwhile Tesla faces the biggest challenge in its still very young history: producing a relatively cheap electric car on an industrial scale. Elon Musk and his company are very lucky that investors until now have shown a lot of patience regarding their investment.
Volvo has chosen to be different all the way. Their design, as well exterior as interior, is Scandinavian, the platform strategy is the most consequent of all manufacturers until now. As the Scandinavian/Chinese manufacturer is relatively small, it can afford to shunt diesel, especially because it’s second and third important market (US and China) don’t like dervs at all.
Meanwhile it is fair to point out that the pioneer firms on (semi-)electric propulsion are Japanese. Shortly the first modern electric car in the mass market is celebrating his second generation, the Nissan Leaf is also (and by far) the most sold electric car in the world, followed by another member of the same group, the Renault Zoë.
The Nissan/Renault Alliance, now also fortified with Mitsubishi and his substantial knowledge on plug-in hybrids, will maybe become the largest car manufacturer in the world, it is since a long time the most important manufacturer of fully electric cars.
On the other side there is Toyota, which has produced more hybrid (and plug-in hybrid) vehicles, since the appearance of the first Prius, than everybody else in the world added up. The Japanese number one is pursuing this direction but is turning his interest also towards purely electric vehicles on the one hand and to fuel cell vehicles, the hybrid vehicle 2.0, on the other hand.
So it’s high time for European manufacturers to leave their initial hesitation behind and ‘stream’ full forward, electric pedal to the metal. We are indeed living interesting times.