electric car charger manufacturers:The Energiewende didn’t bring Europe new industries. The Autowende should.
“Photovoltaic energy in Germany makes as much sense as growing pineapples in Alaska”
-Jürgen Grossmann, former CEO of RWE
There’s an interesting parallel to the Autowende, and it’s called the Energiewende. It began with a whisper when the German government passed a little noticed energy law in 2000 that guaranteed a steady price for solar and wind power. The first few years, no one paid attention.
Solar panels were expensive and wind turbines were not very powerful. Renewable energy was like science fiction: it would happen one day, perhaps, but not in the next ten years and certainly not in Germany. As a result, big utilities such as RWE and E.on didn’t react in the year 2000. Nor in 2002. Or 2005. They kept building fossil power plants with lifespans of half a century.
They ignored the gathering storm of renewable energy.
In hindsight we can see how wrong these energy executives were. Thanks to the temporary benefits for solar and wind energy in Germany, demand for solar panels grew. Factories scaled up production and the price of solar panels dropped dramatically. Wind turbines grew larger, cheaper, and more efficient. Solar and wind energy experienced a boom that few predicted.
But only a fraction of the industries profiting from the Energiewende — solar cell factories, wind turbines, battery storage — are delivering value and jobs to Germany. Most of the manufacturing of these next generation technologies has gone to Asia.
Are we about to make the same mistake again?
During a public talk between Elon Musk (CEO of Tesla Motors) and Germany’s vice chancellor Sigmar Gabriel back in September, something interesting happened. After Musk warned about climate change and laid out his vision of a full electric future, Gabriel pleaded for slow, cautious measures:
“Europe and its classic automotive industry is focused on traditional drivetrains [..] if we don’t want to get into massive problems, we have to move step by step [..] the development in the EU is evolutionary and not disruptive”
Gabriel sounded like a captain of a ship who receives all signals of a storm brewing up ahead and expects the storm to wait for him.
Of course the storm is not going to wait. In the last months we have seen one of the world’s largest car makers get into deep trouble after rigging emission tests on a massive scale. Dieselgate halved Volkswagen’s share price, while the “Made in Germany” brand has been tarnished. At the same time, Tesla Motors is already outselling premium models of the established incumbent brands such as Mercedes and Porsche.
The time has come for Europe to act. It needs to reinvent three industries:
car manufacturers building electric vehicles;
battery manufacturers producing batteries;
the ‘Shells of the future’ delivering clean and cheap renewable energy to these cars.
The next trillion dollar industry
Currently there are only a few ‘trillion dollar industries’ on the planet. Oil & gas is one, and the automotive industry — with currently the internal combustion engine at its heart — is another.
Electric cars will end both of these industries in their current form.
If European car manufacturers don’t lead the Autowende and don’t start building massive battery factories and electric car plants, they‘ll be left behind. Other countries will simply jump in the gap — and that’s already happening. The Chinese are investing in electric giants like Build Your Dreams (BYD). The Japanese are well prepared for the Autowende with the largest electric vehicle manufacturer, Nissan, and the battery giant Panasonic. South Korea has KIA, Samsung SDI and LG Chem who are all aggressively betting on batteries and electric cars. Tesla Motors is rapidly building the largest battery factory on the planet in Nevada, and a plant in California which will produce 500.000 Tesla’s per year.
These companies employ highly skilled people and develop deep know-how on batteries, electric drive trains and solar cells. Nothing like this is happening on a similar scale in Europe. We do have some initiatives but currently we lack the conviction and ambition to go all in on the Autowende.
If this remains the case these trillion dollar industries and the hundreds of thousands of jobs and the prosperity they bring will move out to other continents. With an estimated quarter of Europe’s GDP dependent on the automotive and oil & gas industries, we cannot afford to lose these industries with nothing to replace them.
What to do
Full electric Porsche Mission E with 500 km range and 15 minute fast charge capability. Expected to debut in 2019.
Dieselgate seems to have woken up at least one giant. Volkswagen seems to have found a new CEO who knows what to do. Within weeks after assuming the position as CEO, Matthias Müller accelerated the Volkswagen electrification program. The Volkswagen Phaeton will go full electric and Volkswagen will develop a completely new electric platforms. Both Audi and Porsche will introduce long range luxury cars with fast charging capabilities in 2018–2019.
Audi Q6 e-tron SUV with 500 km range (2018).
In the next 60 months, the European automotive industry has to say goodbye to the internal combustion engine and put all their effort and funds behind the electric revolution.
If Europe wants to maintain its automotive prowess, we have to start building massive battery factories, develop electric car platforms, retool factories and roll out a reliable and dense European fast charging network — all at the same time. And we have to start today.
Michiel Langezaal, Co-founder and CEO of Fastned
Fastned is building a network of fast charging stations for all electric cars along high traffic locations in Europe. Want to know more? Read my blog The Fastned Freedom Plan. Or follow us @melangezaal and @fastned
Some statements in this blog post, such as those about future price drops of lithium ion batteries, are “forward-looking statements” that are subject to risks and uncertainties. These forward-looking statements are based on current expectations. Various important factors could cause actual results to differ materially. Fastned disclaims any obligation to update this information.