The electric car market and its successor, the self-driving car market, have been fascinating arenas to watch for several years.
Now, it is becoming like a good Netflix series.
As predicted, the annual CES frenzy in Las Vegas, provided a goldfish bowl for all the latest electric car news.
From news that BMW has produced the first ‘colour changing’ car, to news that blockchain is somehow involved in the car market, the noise and the news was almost overwhelming.
There are two fundamental issues with the electric car market as it stands.
First, there are too many companies vying for a place in it.
Secondly, there are two fundamental camps that are competing for this lucrative place between your home and your place of work.
Too many companies means that said companies will start to use gimmicks and expensive PR agencies (by the way, we have nothing against PR agencies, expensive or otherwise) to make themselves heard (I feel blue today, BMW, please be blue too). Or, ‘I know, blockchain is the ‘le buzz mot de jour,’ let’s see how we can crowbar that into a press release.
To watch the two camps is interesting and worrying in equal measure.
One camp makes cars and has done for generations. The other makes digital communication devices. Marrying these two is very like the (complete failure of the) telecoms market to get to grips, culturally, with these same digital services players.
The first camp wants to put cool electronics and sensors into its amazing car, the other wants to wrap its extraordinary array of sensors, electronics and entertainment gizmos (er, smartphones) in some good-looking aluminium.
Apple, as one example of a smartphone maker wanting to launch an iPhone on wheels, says that it is still on track to launch such a thing by 2025.
Setting aside the fact that there is a small chip shortage out there (even now, a top end SUV has more than 1,600 chips in it), that seems unlikely and might even prove a step too far for our favourite Goliath.
There are other, deeper yet stronger, issues working against the success of the whole electric car market (let alone the self-driving version).
One is trust – would you buy an Apple Watch? Sure. Would you step inside an Apple Car and head down the highway? Oh, wait. What?
The other is that the pandemic has changed our lives in ways that will have a huge impact on the electric car market, the real change emerging at about the time when Apple and others are ready to launch (and try to realise some of the huge sums of money that has been invested).
We will be working from home most of the time and many of us won’t need a car anyway.