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Insights and News /

03 October 2019

The race to be part of the complex Electric Vehicle (EV) ecosystem is on

Dennis Nasrun

Dennis Nasrun
Director | Energy, utilities and resources | London

Most consumers underestimate the number of actors involved in making e-mobility work: they solely think of carmakers as being responsible for the vehicle, and utilities as responsible for the charge point. In reality, the e-mobility ecosystem is much more complex.

This is an opportunity for established players from within the sector, but also new entrants and actors from adjacent and different industries to establish themselves in one or several of these areas:

  • Energy supply
  • Aggregation and related smart technologies to balance supply and demand
  • Network and charging infrastructure
  • Electric vehicles
  • IT and customer services, billing and other data services

Traditionally, energy supply is the core business for utilities. However, car manufacturers have started to compete for the consumer by offering complete mobility packages including not only the EV, but also access to charging points and/or the required energy supply. In many cases, energy is supplied by utilities as a subcontractor, but brands such as BMW and VW have started to take over the energy supplier role as well. Upstream energy companies such as Shell are also entering the power supply business for the end consumer.

Public perception of EVs is closely tied to their impact on air quality and carbon emissions (see Baringa’s research report “Is the UK ready for Electric Cars”), which ultimately requires electricity from renewable energy sources. However, water, wind and sun are intermittent power sources and require balancing of supply and demand in the form of storage capacities and aggregation platforms. This need to manage charging gives businesses an opportunity to interact directly with the consumer, and to combine this with new vehicle-to-grid services. This role can be performed by utilities, but can also be taken over by start-ups or IT platform operators such as aggregators.

Car manufacturers and oil and gas majors are expanding their footprint across the value chain and invest heavily in charging infrastructure. One such example is Ionity, the Joint Venture between BMW Group, Daimler AG, Ford and VW Group with Audi and Porsche, whose objective it is to build a reliable network of charging stations along major routes across Europe. Not to forget the many startups, financial investors and businesses in adjacent industries that address different areas of e-mobility infrastructure. Real estate companies, for example, are installing charging points to increase the value of their property and to gain new revenue streams from residents. In some cases, they have also set up their own energy retail business and can combine this function with charging infrastructure.

We are also observing a revolution in the automotive industry where the production of electric vehicles is becoming a key focus for players outside the traditional car manufacturers. Startups like EVELOZCITY, but also players from other industries like Apple and Dyson, known for its vacuum cleaners, are increasing their investment in the EV market. They also address IT services, with Joint Ventures like Hubject, to offer mobility solutions – starting with billing, but also offering other digital services to e-mobility clients.

Industries are converging and new players with more financial power and stronger customer acquisition capabilities are entering areas that utilities previously claimed for themselves. The automotive sector faces many new challengers. In the EV space, where we are observing a fragmentation of the value chain, the barriers of entry for new players have been lowered greatly, allowing new entrants to emerge and existing players to venture into areas new to them.

A major factor that will determine the success of these players will be the race for the primary customer relationship. Consumers are increasingly asking for packaged offerings that combine vehicle, energy, charging infrastructure and charging management. There is a significant risk for some of the players within this eco-system to lose their key customer interface; established vehicles manufacturers are no exception.