But it's good news for the rest of us.
It’s Geneva, everybody! And we all know what that means… it’s time for manufacturers to bring out the big guns, the best of the best, their most potent performance weapons and most advanced technologies of the future. It should come as no surprise that this year’s Geneva motor show has seen the unveiling of many electric cars. It is after all the chosen method of future mobility. But what we weren’t ready for was just how many electric vehicles we’d see, and the technology that would be accompanying them.
Every major manufacturer from Hyundai to Porsche has unveiled a hybrid or full electric vehicle at this year’s edition of the show. The production models have been expected, but the concept cars have been incredible in their sheer volume and the figures that have accompanied them. From Volkswagen’s I.D. Vizzion and its 400 mile range to Porsche’s Mission E Cross Turismo concept that looks to take the Macan’s identity and philosophy into the future with 600 horsepower and a sub-4 second 0-62 mph time. These new models and concepts are all very, very exciting. But here’s the thing – for the current crop of established EV manufacturers, all these new models and concepts mean trouble.
The current established crop of EV manufacturers has been rather small up until now. I’m not including the raft of electric versions of current combustion cars we’ve seen – the likes of the Fiat 500e and Ford Focus Electric – most of those have been engineering afterthoughts to merely comply with the expectations of society to have some sort of electrified product in the line-up. When I refer to EV manufacturers, I’m talking about those that have invested dedicated resources into complete electric vehicles – the likes of Tesla and Chevrolet.
Having had the market entirely to themselves for some time, these brands have been able to monopolize the EV market – forcing anyone who wants a thoroughly developed EV to buy one of their products. It’s not as if their products have been bad, though, on the contrary. They’ve revolutionized mobility and brought us to the edge of a new dawn for technology. But while they’ve focused on electric drivetrains they’ve also focused a lot on gimmicks. For Tesla at least, gimmicks like Ludicrous Mode, the Model X’s Christmas celebration mode, and even the ability to change the navigation to display Mars rather than Earth – until recently when a Roadster was launched into space, a little farfetched a notion – have been cool, but a little kitsch.
Yet these gimmicks and propulsion technologies have been developed at the expense of something else – quality. Tesla has been seen as a premium EV manufacturer for some time, and yet upon inspection of many a Tesla product, you’ll find build quality that feels suspect, panel gaps that are uneven, and glitchy bits and pieces that just don’t feel of the same quality as a genuinely premium vehicle.
Now that the rest of the premium elite are diving headlong into electric mobility, the likes of Tesla are in for a surprise. With Audi, VW, BMW, Mercedes-Benz, and Jaguar all unveiling electric mobility solutions, they’re merely adding the factor of electricity to the premium atmosphere and build quality they’ve established over decades. The flaws in current EVs will now be displayed clearly as the gimmicks they are, and the uniqueness of electric mobility will become commonplace, robbing these brands of their unique selling point. It’ll now no longer be enough just to provide a decent EV – they’ll need to live up to premium expectations.
The raft of new EVs will also have benefited from years of development done by others. Batteries have long since been a problem for EV production – as their weight, range, and lifespan has been poorer than what would be ideal. However with current manufacturers working hand in hand with battery suppliers, technology has rapidly advanced. The bugs have been fixed, the beta testing completed, and now the mainstream manufacturers can jump on board with fully operational technology. It’s a clean slate, one with no reputation of faults or mistakes – and with the financial backing of their combustion-driven sales, manufacturers will ensure wholly developed products that can now far exceed the capabilities of the current batch of EVs.
With the advancement in technology, suddenly we’ve leapt from EVs being problematic to EVs being fully viable. There’s no need for range anxiety when you can drive 400 miles on a single charge. A power failure overnight or forgetting to plug in no longer matters unless you’re already running on empty. That’s the number one benefit of the new EVs having being waited on for so long. Pricing too, shall become more affordable. With the sudden influx of manufacturers to the segment all utilizing the same outsourced battery and charging tech, the scales of economy suddenly weigh in our favor giving us affordable electric vehicles on a massive scale.
There’s of course the improvement in quality that means bad news for the likes of Tesla, but great news for us. But there’s a flipside to all of this. Competition drives success. With the lack of competition, Tesla and the like have been able to get by with their mistakes. But now, with a renewed dedication to improving their product in order to keep it competitive, the existing group of EV manufacturers will reach new heights – both in terms of quality and technical prowess. That’s perhaps the greatest of outcomes from this year’s Geneva Motor Show – it isn’t the sheer volume of newly electrified vehicles from each and every manufacturer, nor is it the incredible range from the Hyundai Kona or Jaguar I-Pace.
It’s what they mean for the industry. Their development alone is a good thing, but the way the competition will drive the technology forward is a great thing, and the accountability it brings with it even greater. For the last decade, electric mobility has been an idea – a great possibility, but one lacking in viability and one with ultimately, many flaws. It seems as if overnight that has all changed. At the 2018 Geneva Motor Show, electric mobility has just shown that it truly is a viable means of mobility as we head into a bright new future.