Upward e-mobility: How electric vehicles are driving a new class of 'pro-sumers'

Car being charged by robot
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E-mobility refers to the development of electric-powered vehicles.

Cars account for 47 percent of petroleum consumption in the United States alone. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, that is double the amount used for heating homes and businesses. By 2050, the global population will increase by 2.5 billion people and the majority will live in cities, which are already densely populated and experience high levels of pollution.

As the population continues to increase, our desire for efficient mobility will increase, too. Despite public transportation and ride-sharing services, cities are still dominated by cars that create a significant amount of congestion and pollution.

With innovations in technology, we have the opportunity to lower emissions and create more efficient means of transportation. While the automotive industry is moving toward e-mobility, a few major breakthroughs are required before electric cars dominate the roads.

Increased desire to lower emissions 

The biggest driver of e-mobility advancements is the desire to lower emissions by decreasing fossil fuels that traditional industrial combustion engines create. Companies are becoming more purpose-driven and are approaching their businesses more holistically as consumers place greater value on corporate social responsibility.

Social, environmental and economic activities and performance are interrelated — each creating a tangible impact on one another. Recently, Volvo announced that by 2019, all of its cars will have electric engines. The potential for battery-based electric energy is significant: Modern batteries that can be used for energy will lower emissions used in traditional cars, reduce pollution and make the power grid more resilient. Electric vehicles reduce greenhouse gases and the smog that surrounds cities by using renewable resources. As people invest in socially responsible brands, the demand for e-mobility will increase.

Convenience and competitive pricing

While consumers want to make the world a better place, electric vehicles must become more user-friendly if they are to become more widely used. Faster charging stations are the first — and arguably most important — step. The purpose of driving a car is to get somewhere quickly. Frequent charging stops detract from the user experience and make purchasing an electric vehicle a less attractive option. Vehicle charging options should be as ubiquitous as cellphone charging options. If electric vehicle charging stations become commonplace in popular areas, this will increase user adoption.

Another factor to consider is price. There’s usually an adoption curve for new technologies and the early investors traditionally will pay a higher price than the laggards. As time goes by, the prices will become more competitive and there will be a larger inventory of pre-owned vehicles.

One way for corporations to spur adoption is to use electric vehicles for their corporate fleets, as SAP does. There’s an average of 2.2 billion business trips taken every year. By investing in and providing charging stations at offices, companies can encourage employees to use these cars to travel at a fraction of the cost, while reducing emissions.

Needs from the utility industry

Until recently, the utility industry didn’t consider electric vehicles to be a revenue driver, as they encompass only 1 percent of total vehicles in the U.S. However, that's changing, as the industry realized the electric vehicles market can help support integration of renewable energy.

In March, 36 of the nation’s largest utilities companies wrote a letter to Congress requesting a lift on the cap of electric vehicle tax credits. In this letter, they point out that electric vehicles will lead to cleaner air, make communities more sustainable, create American jobs and decrease our reliance on foreign oil. 

For e-mobility to become a reality, utility companies must enable "energy roaming." This is the process associated with charging cars and the impact that has on energy supply and demand. The Department of Energy’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory discovered that the electric grid currently has the capacity to support more than 150 million electric vehicles.

Looking at fleets alone, semi-trucks can go 500 miles with one charge. As utility companies make moves to partner with carmakers for charging stations, we expect to see increasing numbers of electric vehicles on the roads.

The path to a greener future

Before long, mobility will become a service. Consumers will become "pro-sumers" as everything they are putting out in terms of energy will be able to be reused. Instead of relying on purchasing a car from a dealership and paying for gasoline, consumers will be able to use electric autonomous vehicles to move from place to place, saving energy and money.

In addition, as the population continues to increase, our appetite for travel will increase too. Whether it’s for work or for fun, getting from place to place efficiently is an important part of living in the 21st century. Innovations in next-generation technologies have granted us the opportunity to increase our adoption of electric vehicles and make the planet a greener place for generations to come. We expect the consumer demand for green initiatives, increased ease of use and growing involvement from the utilities industry to help drive widespread adoption of e-mobility.