I recently explored how in 2021, the numbers for EVs don’t really add up yet. One of the key discoveries, was that many sensible people are projecting EVs will reach ‘price parity’ by 2024-5. If this happens consider the trend:
- 2021: Numbers don’t add up
- 2024-5: Price parity
- 2026 & beyond: Price Leadership
Looking deeper, there is every reason those predictions look real, and this will completely turn the automobile industry on its head. On this data, while buying an EV does not add up for most people right now, it soon will. And for a huge percentage of people, the EV that finally does ‘add up’ may be built in China, and perhaps even be a Chinese brand.
Automobiles have played a role in how cities and homes are designed, and a significant role in the world economy. Around 50% of the world largest companies supply automobiles or their fuel. Automobiles have been the 1st or 2nd highest valued asset for most people, exceed only by their home, and while homes are not exported and imported, cars are. Less people own homes than own cars. The result is that international trade is heavily shaped by automobiles, and changing this market, will change the balance of world trade. For countries like China, the ability to reshape the world economy even further is a very clear focus, and for Germany, Japan and the economies reliant on fossil fuels, the world order will change. This level of disruption compels governments to action. As individuals, our lives will be changed both by the vehicles and the impact on the world order.
We a facing major disruption.
- Revolution: What Will Drive A Revolution?
- Why EV Pricing in 2021 is so high.
- Price: From just too expensive, to price and feature parity, then to price and feature leadership.
- Price Parity is not ‘one size fits all’: Lowest price cars slower to parity.
- A Revolution? Really?
- Everything: Not just cars, SUVs and pickups.
- Seeing What lies ahead: We are provided with roadmaps!
- Who Wins, Who Loses?
- USA: A Mixed Result.
- Managing the Revolution
- The Future By Brand:
- Mercedes etc
Revolution: What Will Drive The Revolution?
Why EV Pricing in 2021 is so high.
Simplistically, buying an EV in 2021, is spending 50% of the budget on a battery, and 50% on the rest of the car.
Consider a $50,000 dollar car, is effectively $25,000 worth of car, and $25,000 worth of battery. By using lower cost materials and reducing features to halve the cost of car part, the result would be $12,500 dollar car with a $25,000 dollar battery that would be even worse value for money. This equation is why Tesla started with expensive cars, because while battery prices are so high, only relatively expensive electric cars can be close to price competitive.
However, as can be seen from the batteries technology reference, new technologies are reaching the market that will see battery prices fall significantly. This will reduce EV prices, and result in the greatest percentage price reductions on lower cost cars.
EV Price: From just too expensive, to price and feature parity, then to price and feature leadership.
The analysis is that in 2021, right now, the pricing does not add up, and there are still range issues. EVs are at only 5% percent of new car market, because their pricing restricts them to a niche. Doesn’t sound like a revolution. This is because we are still in the lull before the storm. However, it is clear the storm is coming.
The key is batteries.
Before Tesla, other manufactures tried to make low cost cars could justify themselves through savings with running costs, but the expense of batteries just made them way overpriced cars with inadequate batteries.
However Tesla took the opposite approach and introduced a desirable EV, even though that made it too expensive for most people: the Tesla Model S launched at US$70,000! Then Tesla introduced the Model 3, with a better range than the entry Model S started with, all for US$38,000. Ok, for many people still not there yet, but now consider the trend, and how much longer this trend needs to continue before “we are there yet!”.
Battery prices have already fallen, but so far, this seems to have had little impact on price. That is because the EVs simply had inadequate batteries and have only just reached adequate. So far, instead of cars falling in price, mostly we have just been getting better batteries for the same price, which still leaves the price still too high.
But it has allowed Tesla to move down in price, and cars that tried to be less expensive to be better than they were. The lower priced cars are better, and the entry price to a Tesla level cars has fallen. As the barrier to the market was lowered from the Tesla Model S to the Model 3, the price barrier will continue to fall, with Tesla already promising a US$25,000 Model 2 as new batteries are introduced. Battery prices continue to fall, lowering the price of cars with good range, and raising the range of the less expensive cars.
Tesla, BYD and others have all already announced new lower cost batteries, that enable lower cost cars, and the new technologies of Solid Sate Batteries, Graphene, and Aluminium all promise further price reductions. Unless all these newer batteries fail to be delivered as designed (and some are in their first cars already!), lower cost EVs are now inevitable. So consider the logical progression:
- 2015 EVs are either the price of a Tesla Model S, or one of few car lower cost than a Tesla but still expensive and with extremely limited range, and an even worse value proposition.
- 2021 EV value doesn’t really add up, but at least adequate range is available for the price of a Tesla Model 3.
- EVs are still expensive ‘passion purchases’, but getting better.
- 20214-5: Price parity: promised Tesla model 2 at $25,000 for a Tesla, and economy cars for much less.
- 2025-and beyond: price leadership for EVs
Many analysts have concluded that it is clear pricing will reach parity with in 3 to 4 years, which as a trend, means pricing is heading towards being below the price of internal combustion vehicles. As I discovered when exploring range(to be linked soon), there are many factors that make EVs better to live with, including performance, charging at home, better reliability and less maintenance. But, again, the biggest factor is that being simpler to make, they can quickly become less expensive for the same features.
Price Parity is not ‘one size fits all’: Lowest price cars slower to parity.
Some articles speak of price parity as something approached by percentage. The EVs are x% overpriced at this time, but that will be reduced to y% and then zero percent. Reality is that the 5% who buy electric cars in 2021, consider they cars they are buying as already having reached price parity. When Tesla released the Model S, some people already considered that vehicle competitive as determined by their criteria. These people had to be in market for a US$70,000 dollar vehicle, but in that market, a percentage of buyers found the Model S competitive. Then the Model 3 was released and a greater number of people found by their criteria, that model completive, and this time the buyers had to be in the market for at least a US$38,000 vehicle. Next will come the Model 2, at the US$25,000 bracket. More people will find these vehicles as at price parity or better by their criteria, and within their price range. Buyers cars below the US$25,000 price point may have not competitive EV product choice even after all buyers at higher price points do feel their are competitive products. The entire market will not move uniformly, and it is more the percentage of buyers finding what by their criteria are now competitive products that will continue to increase.
A Revolution, really?
Now consider impact as the price heads below the current cost of cars. The significance of lower cost EVs, and as a result lower cost cars, will be profound. As with previous industry after industry, the impact of electronics, computers and the rise of Asian manufacturing all combine to lower prices in a manner that reduces the total revenue earned by the industry.
Combine industry wide revenue decline with the addition of new entrants to the market, which will include not only Tesla (see Tesla’s $25,000 Electric Car Means Game Over For Gas And Oil) but the Chinese Manufacturers, and clearly, many existing brands will face significant revenue decline. Often in such situations, many companies cannot adjust to producing lower priced products for a smaller total revenue and will disappear. Think back to what happened to the computer with the microprocessor, and to many other industries impacted by low cost technology and low cost manufacturing in China. In the face of such changes, previous pillars of industry often find themselves anchored to total revenues that can no longer be sustained in the changed market. Some downsize, some repurpose, some vanish.
Almost every established brand will see total revenue decline. Some will retreat to niches, others will fail. The world order will change, with most likely China and possibly Korea playing more significant role in the auto industry.
These changes will still take time. Price parity in 3-4 years will not change buying patterns immediately and will not ensure the infrastructure is ready. The most rapid transition I can imagine is that non-EVs are reduced to specialist uses and niches by 2030. It may be slower, but it is hard to see the change being faster.
It wont be immediate, but things will never be the same again.
Everything: Not just cars, SUVs and pickups.
Currently there are no large SUVs, off roaders or pickups on the market, but consider:
- GMC Hummer
- Ford F150-ev
- Tesla Cybertruck
- Rivian R1T
- Bollinger B2
- 2021 Lordstown Endurance
- 2022 Chevrolet Silverado EV
- 2022 Atlis XT
- Less Certain:
The first 6 of these are scheduled for release in the next 12 months. Some of these may not happen, others like the Hummer are not only backed by well established brands but have already been spotted on the road in production form. Even if only half get released in the next 3 years, it will be a huge shift from the zero available right now.
Seeing What lies ahead: We are provided with roadmaps!
There are leaks as well as publicly declared schedules that reveal new car roadmaps many years in advance. Some predictions are easy because the ground work takes years, and can be followed. There is already significant information on many of the cars to be released by 2024/5.
I am building a table of the EVs roadmaps by brands for 2025, and I will keep adding to it, as well as details of actual models by brand in additional data here. Figures in brackets are number models in the market (before 2021).
- Ford: EV Only future in Europe. All electric in Europe by 2030.
- General Motors: 30 by 2025 (1), and all electric brand globally by 2035.
- Jaguar(owned by Tata): All electric by 2025 (1)
- Hyundai: 23 by 2025. (2)
- Mercedes: >6 (1) (see notes on Mercedes)
- Stellantis (Fiat/Chrysler/Jeep/Peugeot/Citroen): All electric in Europe by 2025
- Toyota: 15 by 2025.(0)
- VW: 75 by 2029 (1)
Obviously the list only contains companies with announced EV plans, which could create bias, but all large scale brands do have EV plans, so figures should be close to representative.
Clearly, these numbers do signal a revolution. But on whether is it a revolution driven by price, or by politics, manufacturers appear divided, with some brands, including all traditional US brands, less committed to the EV strategy beyond Europe.
Who Wins, Who Loses?
A Global Economic Shift.
As cars switch from combustion engines to EVs, China, the dominant force in manufacturing, and particularly in electronics manufacturing, is poised to become a dominant force in the world car industry. The world will be changed in a manner not seen since the adoption of mobile phones and the internet, and automobile industry will be completely transformed.
The rise of Tesla is only act one, as more new brands such as BYD, Nio, Xpeng and Rivian emerge, and many existing ‘icon’ brands are disrupted, merged or even decimated. National economies will be changed. As mobile phones changed our way of life, so will EVs. The EV take over progresses from the expensive luxury end of the market, through to the bread and butter.
Morgan Stanley has reportedly come to the conclusion that “Petrol car makers may soon be worth nothing, or worse“. Certainly several companies will fold, as EVs fall in price below ICE vehicles. Dealerships and sales channels will also be impacted as sales models change and service revenues plummet.
Globally, car sales fell in 2020 with the pandemic, but as cars still got older, this has created a boom in 2021, lulling many car makers into complacency.
USA: A Mixed Result
Why the USA Uncertainty? Tesla has risen from nowhere to be one o
Of the three historic US brands, 2 out of 3 limit their commitment to Europe, where many countries have mandated a move to electric or zero pollution vehicles. It makes sense that there are countries in Africa and other locations where new infrastructure for EVs will lag, but what about the US? It is true the US can be slow to adopt change. The US still has not adopted the metric system despite starting in 1975, but the US is not the only slow mover, with Myanmar and Liberia being the two other countries who have not gone metric. But when it comes to technology, the US is no backwater. The current world leader in the Electric Cars, Tesla, started in the USA.
A key point is that keeping some non-electric cars need not reflect the US rejecting EVs, as much as some people in the US rejecting EVs. The US is also not only the home of social media which is effectively monetized polarisation, the US is also the target. If anyone wants to influence Americans as to when and when not to invest in battery vehicles, the tools of influence are readily available.
China Wins: A Manufacturing superpower & Cost Cutting Champion.
It seems like almost everything that runs on electricity is made in China. Mostly, products made in China, does not mean a Chinese brand, as with Apple phones made in China. But slowly Chinese brands are emerging with a focus on technology, and from a quick search, after Samsung and Apple, the next most popular mobile phone brands globally are now the Chinese brands Huawei, Xiaomi, and Oppo.
I suggest we will see the same in with cars, with increasingly models from brands like BMW and VW being built in China for the global market, as well as some Chinese brands of cars becoming world powerhouses. Company such as BYD, Geely and SAIC.
I recall seeing a documentary some years ago, where the head of an emerging Chinese car maker declared that their company would not even try to reach a competitive level with brands such as BMW in the production of internal combustion engine cars, as it would take years and years and after all that effort, the technology would just a few year later become obsolete. Their strategy was:
- For now with ICE vehicles produce only low cost for China.
- Start now on Electric vehicles where all makers were at the time inexperienced.
- Expand internationally one EVs become mainstream.
This narrative also fits with these observations by Forbes magazine:
Forbes is even more bullish on EVs reaching price parity than 2025, but even with the conservative figures, the big Chinese brands of BYD, Nio, Xpeng and others are growing faster than Tesla.
Trade barriers and protection may hinder the growth of the Chinese companies, but particularly in the case of BYD, it would be impossible to stop the technologies and manufacturing will finding their way onto the world stage, even if the cars are delayed, less competitive due to government policies.
The Guardian news site posted an article March 2021: Why Japan’s carmaking heavyweights could be facing an electric shock.
Despite leading with Hybrids, Japan seems lost at cross roads of indecision on which way to go with zero emission vehicles. Despite that every day it becomes more clear that hydrogen is not the way to power EVs, Japanese Automakers in general and Toyota in specific are still trapped in indecision between hydrogen and battery EVs.
In Japan only 1% of new car sales of EVs, one of the lowest rates in the world, so Japanese Automakers may still be able to perform well in their own market, even after most of the world has moved on.
Managing The Revolution.
How fast will things really change? Cars last a long time!
Cars last a long time. The longer cars last, the longer it will take for any change new car buying to change the cars in use. If average car age, which for example is the USA is around 12 years, if for simplicity is 10 years , there would be approximately half less than 10 years old, and half more than 10 years old. Because some cars are older than 20 years, more than have would be less than the average, but ‘half’ is close to correct. So an average age of ten years means approximately half of cars would be replaced in ten years if the average is to be maintained. In fact, slightly more than half because some cars are less than 10 years old at end of life, which offsets the approximation of ‘half’. So if there are almost zero EVs now, after 10 years of all new car sales being EVs, still only half of the cars in use would then be EVs.
The result is that a rise in EV sales will have a far greater impact and faster impact on new cars sales and automobile manufacturing, than the impact on the percentage of cars in use at a given time are EVs.
Car last a long time, but what is the actual number on how long? The average age of an automobile in the US is around 12 years. In Japan and the UK it is just over 8 years. This seems a big difference, but it is also possible that the data is measured slightly differently. Is this the average age of cars people own, or the average age of the cars being driven, as cars driven less last longer, so older cars probably on average spend less time on the road. A limitation on statistics is that trends change, so the average age of a car ten years from now may change. Worldwide, the Covid-19 pandemic has reduced the average distance driven each year, and people increasing the amount they work from home, there could be some an acceleration of the trend for people to drive less. As distance driven per year decreases, the number of years a car should last rises, so it would be best to take the higher number from the US a representative, and assume it could take another 12 years for half of the cars in the market to be replaced, and as much as 20 years to replace the bulk of cars in use at this time.
Can Battery Production Keep Up?
The current battery technology of choice is lithium-ion. These batteries have a lithium compound as the positive electrode and typically graphite as negative electrode. Note these terminals switch between the roles of anode and cathode as battery switches between charging and discharging. The most popular batteries so far have used
If there are not enough batteries to meet demand, then the price batteries will rise and predictions of price parity will fail. The questions to be answered are:
- Are the even enough of the raw materials needed to support a future where all cars are EVs?
- Can mining gear up in time to supply those raw materials to battery makers?
- Can battery makers gear up to supply the batteries?
I am not the first to ask those questions. Boston Consulting Group produced this report in 2018. More recently, national public radio asked the question: As Auto Industry Goes Electric, Can It Avoid A Battery Bottleneck?
Lithium? Cobalt / Phosphorous?
There is no risk of running out of lithium, cobalt or phosphorous any time soon. I now have a separate exploration of this exact topic, which should be linked in the next week.
Lithium supplies are not seen as presenting a threat to EV production, but it does have to be mined and processed in time for battery production. Overestimates of demand for lithium led to a lithium glut and price crash in 2019 . To avoid price fluctuations, car makers are even entering into contracts with miners to lock in supply.
BMW and Volkswagen have even announced contracts with mining companies to buy lithium directly for years to come. That’s unusual because most major automakers — with the notable exception of Tesla — have typically relied on their suppliers to source raw materials for batteries.npr
Gas Stations Dry Up?
Have you noticed that there are fewer ‘gas’ stations than there were before? Rising real estate prices, falling sales of items such as cigarettes from the associated convenience store, and improved fuel economy have already reduced the number of fuel stations. But that is nothing. Forecasts are that by 2025 EVs will still only be around 25% of new vehicles, but now consider that running costs are lower for EVs, which means those who drive the most, will be those with the greatest incentive to switch to an EV. Statistically, the 25% who use the most fuel use well over half of fuel consumed, so the change in fuel use could exceed the population of EVs. It will still take time for EVs be a significant portion of cars on the road, but every fuel station will be thinking “it is only going to get worse”.
Another Oil Crisis?
Bloomberg has even predicted that that once oil displacement reached 2 million barrels per day, the resulting market contraction will trigger another oil crisis.
Three projections are made, reaching the trigger point for this new oil crisis in 2023, 2025 or 2028. A the time the original calculations were made in 2016, it was projected EV sales would be at 5% by around 2025. Reality is this 5% target was already reached in half the time and by 2020, and now the target for 2025 is 25% of all sales.
Further, action on climate change has since triggered more governments to commit to timetables for banning internal combustion engines. By 2040, the date the original estimates had for EVs reaching 35% of all new vehicles, almost all of Europe is expecting to be mandating EVs. Perhaps the biggest take away from the 2016 article, is how the EVs take up has accelerated in just a few years. Now more certainly than ever, EVs will trigger a permanent reduction in the demand for oil. I am not an expert on oil crises, so leave there explanation to that 2016 article, but since that date, the world has also experience Covid-19, and seen the oil price even temporarily go negative. Certainly things will change for the oil industry, and while the world will never run out of uses for ‘fossil fuels‘, we are moving towards no longer using them as fuels. Change is the theme here. The world is changing, and as looking back at predictions from 2016 shows, changing fast than expected.
Brand Management of Falling Prices.
Rising prices can drive up sales as buyers have FOMO (Fear of missing out). The last thing sellers want is the opposite, where buyers feel the longer they wait, the further prices will fall. the computer industry has been dealing with falling prices for years, but there was never much of a ‘used computer’ market, not the concept of ‘resale values’ to manage.
The strategy so far has been to use falling prices to enable upgrading specifications rather that offering products at reduce prices. The price history of Nissan and Tesla has been to increase battery capacity as battery prices have fallen, but both brands have reached the limit of that strategy with the Leaf and Model S respectively. The solution for the Leaf will probably to soon end that model, and for Tesla they will have to find new strategies to justify the price of the Model S as lower priced competitors like the BYD Han, or they will surely need to lower prices. Tesla manage both the repositioning of the Model S as the luxury model and lowering the entry point to a Tesla vehicle with the hugely successful Model 3. But how does the Model 3 evolve with the entry of the $25,000 Model 2?
Hyundai with the Kona EV has an even more difficult problem, as that vehicle is almost twice the price of the otherwise similar gasoline Kona built on the same platform. The existence of rapidly becoming overpriced Kona also limits Hyundai’s option in the pricing the about to be launched Ioniq 5.
Solving the puzzle of allowing prices to fall will be a vexing problem for manufacturers.
The Revolution and Futures by Brand:
I am not a car industry expert with deep inside knowledge, although I am friends with people who are experts and have lived and breathed and worked in the industry all their lives. Further, this section is a work in progress, I will start with first impressions and then build on them. Overall, one big takeaway is that the pace of change is likely to catch many off-guard, with serious consequences.
Revolution: Coachwork, Batteries and Motors.
In the early days of automotive companies, there were coachbuilders who build cars using engines built by others. The coachbuilders did not make engines. Now with EVs, many brands may again become ‘coachbuilders’ as the key components to an EV, batteries and electric motors, are simply not part of their core business.
BMW had some interesting first initiatives in the i3, which was great implementation of the ‘pre-Tesla’ idea of what an EV should be. Unfortunately, even today, that pre-Tesla concept is unworkable. Then there was the i8 hybrid. But in EVs that the world is about to start using, BMW is in a poor position. The brand image for an EV world is questionable. BMW could be a casualty. Plus, a ‘motor works’ that does not make ‘motors’ anymore? I will look further at this and hold more discussions.
The ‘king’ title is from an article I read. Just over one month ago, I had not really even heard of BYD.
Then after first hearing about ‘Build Your Dream’ , I thought they sounded like a somewhat immature start up. Then you see the investors like Warren Buffet, the partnerships with the likes of Toyota, and it starts to become clear this is very serious business. In fact, one that could potentially become one of the worlds largest businesses.
Unlike every other EV company, they started with batteries and other core technologies. They became battery experts before being car experts, and now BYD are just starting to introduce batteries with cost-efficiency and safety at a level beyond the rest of the industry. One factor bringing the EV revolution forward is BYD. Expect to hear a lot more of them, and maybe even consider a vehicle from them within a few years. BYD is likely to become the no1 player in the Automotive industry, and unlike Tesla, not just based on the highest valuation, but perhaps also the biggest producer of cars.
Text to come.
I see Hyundai as at a pivot. On world ranking they are currently 6th (allowing for the Stellantis merger), 4th in the USA (adding Hyundai and Kia), and 3rd in Australia. They could use the introduction of EVs to move up even further, but they have a significant base to protect with their combustion cars/SUVs. Pricing for the Ioniq 5, and success of that model and the its Kia clone will be critical in their position for the future.
Mazda has just (6th May 2021) announced specs and pricing for its first EV, the MX-30 E35 Astina. Seems to have a battery that restricts range (200km) and usage to the role of a city car, but is priced similarly to cars with over double the range, such as the Tesla Model 3. Slow start, and so far, seemingly unimpressive start.
The about to be launched EQS is the first pure electric platform Mercedes in production with earlier EQC, EQA and EQB all being based on platforms shared with
Is this an alliance, or a true single business? Certainly EV strategies are divergent, and do not so far share platforms. Despite Nissan and Renault both having good bases in EVs, it is not clear that they are ready for a revolution.
SAIC (including MG).
The 3rd heavyweight from China.
The largest player in the industry is certainly taking EVs seriously, but overall has the most to lose from the revolution. Recently released/announced cars:
Audi E-Tron, Porsche Taycan, Skoda Enyaq (ID.4), VW ID.3, VW ID.4.
Tesla was built from scratch on the breakthrough profound insight, that the road to EVs by way of economical city cars was not possible back in 2010, and the best opportunity, was to create premium cars that justified their cost through ‘muscle car’ performance.
Now the challenge for Tesla is to build on the lead created by that insight, and become the mature company required to enter the mass market. The goal is to get to where BYD is, and have their own batteries and other critical components. Could they be the #1 non-Chinese automaker in the future? Interesting contest with VW and Hyundai. Any of the 3 could emerge as champion, and it is mostly a matter of who makes the most mistakes.
By 2025, EVs will be ‘mainstream’ with competitive pricing and features. Even in 2021, just after I first published this page, the launch of the 2022 F150 lighting, the EV version of the largest selling vehicle in the USA, highlighted how we are moving to the reality of competitively priced EVs. Still not perfect on range, but otherwise price is getting there and what will another 4 years bring?
Will EVs be price competitive by 2025?
It will never be black and white, as EVs are not exactly equivalent to gasoline and diesel vehicles, with different strengths and weaknesses, which have different levels importance to different people. Take that F150 lightning. It is announced that the base version is will cost less than the closest gasoline equivalent, particularly in the US with subsidies. The EV F150 will be significantly faster, have far lower running costs and will even tow bigger loads, can even provide power for power tools, and has more storage with that front storage space. But EV F150 still does not have the same maximum range the base gasoline F150, takes longer to recharge on road trips, and what the enthusiastic reviews fail to mention, is there no lower costs single cab version of the EV, as there is with current F150s. The F150 Lighting EV has no equivalent to the lowest price single cab gasoline F150.
Further, more upmarket versions of the F150 EV do cost more than current F150s. There are many features that (as listed above) to justify the price increase, and US tax incentives may even bring prices back the parity, which should ensure the vehicles should sell well, but price ‘parity’ through tax incentives is not genuine parity. And for some people, range will still make the Lightning as a less attractive choice.
The F150 highlights the biggest problem with ‘price parity’. Not only does it depend on criteria, the last cars to achieve this ‘parity’ are often the lowest priced cars, which risks EVs being a ‘rich people first’ marketplace, especially once the fact that many people buy ‘used cars’. However, this ‘lightning’ is 2022, not 2025 yet.
While the USA, and Europe, host many new EV start-ups that target ‘rich people vehicles’, the impact of China and mass market oriented start-ups from around the world should not be underestimated. There will be amazing new opportunities, but also carnage in the current automobile industry.