Automakers Set their Sights on Electric

By Griffin Schnitzer ’18

electric-vehiclesThe world renowned Paris Motor Show is coming to a close for 2016, and it did not disappoint. Glamorous new product announcements made headlines around the globe, and amidst all of this noise, major automakers began shifting their focus towards electric vehicles. Giants such as Volkswagen and Mercedes-Benz, perhaps feeling the pressure of newcomer Tesla Motors, and of mounting regulatory pressure, each announced new electric models.

In recent days, Mercedes-Benz announced its new ‘EQ’ or ‘Electric Intelligence’ brand, which will release new and innovative electric vehicles. With the brand debut, Mercedes unveiled a new ‘close to production’ SUV, the Generation EQ, with a claimed range of 310 miles – a range that would rival that of the electric vehicle industry leading Tesla Model S. Mercedes was hardly alone, however, with automaker Volkswagen not to be outdone.

Volkswagen, a company undergoing a major reorganization in the wake of its emissions scandal a year ago, and which recently announced it will produce 30 different electric models by the year 2025, unveiled one of the first such vehicles in Paris. The car in question, the ID, will utilize the company’s new modular electric design. This modular system, through versatility in enabling different car bodies to sit atop a flat battery floor, will allow VW to easily achieve economies of scale. With this strategy, Volkswagen hopes to achieve its stated goal of being the first manufacturer to produce more than a million electric vehicles. On top of this, Volkswagen announced further plans for spreading its electric vehicle network.

Under the brand of VW’s subsidiary Porsche, in the same week as the unveiling of the ID, the organization showcased its development of a new ultra-fast charger that can eliminate the worry of lengthy charging times for electric vehicles. With this announcement, Porsche signaled that they are on track to meet the claimed 15 minutes to 250 miles of charge – a key feature of its upcoming Mission E vehicle. Such innovation by these German auto manufacturers has been spurred along by shifting sentiment among the populace, sentiment that informed recent government actions.

Last week, the Bundesrat, Germany’s state legislative body, passed a resolution seeking to ban new internal combustion vehicles in the country by 2030. While this resolution does not become binding law, Germany’s significance within the EU means that its policy decisions influence EU law. Therefore, this vote may yet lead to such a ban coming into effect, undoubtedly worrying European automakers who largely sell ICE products. On top of this, adding to their worry, is the increasing luxury market dominance of newcomer Tesla Motors. Last week, a report came out regarding US sales of large luxury vehicles, showing that in Q3 of this year, Tesla delivered over 9,000 Model S sedans, while the next highest competitor, the Mercedes S class, sold fewer than 5,000. In response to the report, a BMW spokesman admitted this shows the progress and continued growth in popularity of EVs. Ultimately, these pressures combine to build a picture of why major automakers are finally making a play into electric.

It remains to be seen if these traditional manufacturers will, in fact, achieve their lofty ambitions for electric vehicles – or even are serious about their commitments to EVs – but the fact that they made such a big deal about the technology at one of the biggest auto shows in the world, means that they are certainly getting more serious about electric. For a vehicle type that occupies less than 1% share of the auto industry in the global market, this is big news.




Filed in: Featured content, Technology, Uncategorized

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