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The Tipping Point of Vehicular Electrification


By:

26. September 2013

The Frankfurt Motor Show, a.k.a., the 65th IAA, ended last Sunday. After media days ended, the coverage pretty much dried up. All of the sexy cars had been blogged and posted here, there and everywhere.

But comments by Matthias Wissmann, president of the German Association of the Automotive Industry (VDA), organizer of the event, caught my eye and are worth noting.

Wissmann emphasized that one of the themes that resonated throughout the event is “electric mobility.”

BMW i8 BMW i8

To quote him at some length:

  • “The car of the future will set new standards in emissions
  • We are on the way to the zero emissions car.
  • Today we talk of ‘fuel costs’—or to put it better, ‘electricity costs’—of only 3 euro to travel 100 kilometers.
  • For customers in particular, this is a strong argument in favor of electric mobility!
  • Here at the IAA everybody can see that electric mobility is no longer a vision, but reality.
  • We are no longer dealing in announcements; now it is being implemented!
  • The e-cars are now appearing on the roads—and in all segments, from small cars to sports models.
  • By the end of 2014 the German manufacturers alone will launch 16 electric series models onto the market—with pure battery-electric drive, as plug-in hybrids, or with range extenders.
  • Secondly, the car of the future will be completely connected.
  • ‘Always online’—in future this will apply especially inside cars.
  • Cars and smartphones are two sides of the same coin!
  • We are bringing the Internet into the car—and we are bringing the car into the Internet. . . .
  • This industry is energetically driving forward the digital revolution both in and around the car.
  • Online services in and around the car are increasing rapidly.
  • They will lead to an exciting and new driving experience.
  • The car is becoming a mobile communication platform.
  • This makes driving even more comfortable and, more importantly, even safer.”

Here’s the thing: Certainly one of the quintessential purveyors of German cars is BMW. BMW’s tagline has been for many years “The Ultimate Driving Machine.” Yet with innovative electric vehicles like the i3 and the i8, “machine” doesn’t seems to be the right word to describe what are highly advanced electronic devices.

While it may not be all that surprising that Japan-based companies like Toyota have long been at the forefront of the electrification of vehicles because that country has a long history associated with the development of consumer electronics, with companies like Panasonic, Toshiba, and Sony, it is surprising to hear the president of the VDA hold forth on the vehicle as an electronic device, one powered with electricity, one that is a connected node to the Internet.

People often talk about tipping points, when something somewhat rare becomes increasingly common.

We’re there with the electrification of the vehicle.

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