Five key takeaways from the Edison Open House Future of Transportation 2021

Published on 21-06-2021 13:11:11

By Neil Shah, Director of Research and Content.

After three days of presentations, panels and keynotes, an enormous amount of brilliant knowledge has been shared with our investor community by some of the leading players and pioneers working to transform the way we get from A to B. As the event concludes, here are my top five key takeaways:

  1. The debate on whether we are going to electrify our transport is yesterday’s discussion. It’s now ‘when’ rather than ‘if’. Our EV outlook number one: Growth, policy and net zero noted the strong growth of electric vehicle (EV) sales in the 2020 pandemic year, that current market forecasts looked too low, and that policy will continue to support the shift to EVs. This view was validated in presentations by Centrica and the panel discussion, EVs – where is the tipping point?
  2. An enormous amount of energy, innovation and disruption is being put in to overcome the hurdles to electrification. The pace of technological innovation was abundantly on show at the Open House Future of Transportation. Arrival’s lightweight composite material, which is recyclable and makes it cost competitive against conventional vehicles – as well as its microfactories, which lower capex and payback periods, stood out. ElectReon’s wireless charging technology brought a lot of attention as a way of solving both the infrastructure and range anxiety challenges. Pam Thomas, CEO of the Faraday Institution, referred to the Holy Grail of solid-state batteries, which made QuantumScape’s solid-state battery presentation compelling viewing. If demand is accelerating quicker than most people think, enabling the technology to supply this demand looks to be advancing at pace.
  3. The transformation will happen at a scale that has the potential to change the way we do things. The passion, purpose and scale of innovation was perfectly captured in Josh Giegel’s Virgin Hyperloop keynote. Here was thinking that was completely different to convention. At the start of Josh’s presentation, he made the point that every time society has become more connected, it has led to economic growth and a flow of ideas. The internet has connected us digitally and has had a profound impact on the way we live and work. The future of transportation has the potential to connect us physically and could change where we choose to live, how our goods and services are delivered and much more. The scale of change means there is hope that society will have fewer resistance points to doing things in more efficient ways that are better for our planet.
  4. From disruption, new opportunities are being born. There were a number of presentations that highlighted the new industries and opportunities being created by the transformation in transportation. Circulor’s blockchain and AI technology allows OEMs to ensure sustainable and ethical supply chains. The lifecycle for batteries is being well thought throughcreating opportunities for recycling companies like American Battery Metals Corporation and engineering service provider Lion e-Mobility, but also entry points for companies like VivoPower International, which focuses on hard to decarbonise sectors like mining and offers a complete solution including recycling of client EV batteries. VivoPower, Arrival and Quartix all see the potential of data to help optimise fleet management.
  5. Communication is a key challenge for the industry. Not everyone in the industry will succeed and become the next Tesla. Investors know that. Companies are competing to position themselves as one of the winners. With so many different, innovative businesses and business models, there is a risk of silos being created. The tipping point for mass adoption requires giving consumers confidence around reliability, safety, range anxiety, residual values and service levels, while tapping into their current desire to do things in an ethical and environmentally friendly manner. This requires a consensual industry voice rather than a lone one. One of our speakers shared an anecdote of a motor dealer not knowing about local charging infrastructure when selling an EV. This will have to change, and the industry will have to find a common voice to make this happen.

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