Electric Vehicles: Struggles in Creating a Market
Abraham Sin Oih Yu, Lydia Lopes Correia Silva, Cristina L. Chu,Paulo Tromboni S. Nascimento, Alceu S. Camargo Jr.
University of São Paulo, Business Administration Dept., São Paulo, Brazil
--Toyota is the pioneer in the hybrid electric vehicle,and today almost all major car assemblers produce hybrid cars.Now, several auto manufacturers are preparing for thecommercial launches of battery powered electric vehicles in2011. Another battle for dominance in electric car market hasstarted. However, the development of technologies for electriccars has a very long history and presently there is a hugediversity of technological solutions in development. In order tounderstand the evolution of electric vehicles, we carried out tworelated case studies. In the first case study, we analyze theexperience of General Motors in the last 40 years in developingelectric vehicles. Our focuses are on the objectives of eachdevelopment, technologies employed and external factors thatstimulated each effort. The results show that in the first 20 yearsthe main objective is to explore different technologies. Theintention to launch a commercial electric vehicle only appears inthe last 20 years. In the second case study, we analyzepropulsion technologies and product architectures electricvehicles announced, in the last few years, by established automanufacturers and new entrants. The results show thatinnovations in product architecture can provide a niche marketfor electric vehicles.
I. INTRODUCTIONEven recognizing the importance of mobility as a keyvector for the growth of a globalized economy and for thedevelopment of socio-cultural well-being, the concern withthe environment and with sustainability of the energy sector now puts the spotlight on transportation as a central focus of attention worldwide . To meet these challenges, theautomotive industry has invested considerable resources inresearch and development in a broad portfolio of newtechnologies related to vehicle propulsion, ranging fromimprovements in conventional internal combustion engines, operating with fossil fuels or renewables (biofuels) toelectric propulsion systems, hybrid, fuel cells, or combinations of those.Increasingly present in the auto show and receiving greatattention from the media and public around the world, propulsion systems based partly or wholly in electric power train has been outstanding in recent years as an attractivesolution to environmental and energy security issues relatedto sustainable transportation of the future. Major automakershave already introduced electric cars such as Chevrolet Volt by General Motors (GM) and Leaf (Renault/Nissan), and theyare gearing-up their manufacturing plants for mass- production of these EVs (Electric Vehicles). Although thesecars are commonly known as EVs, there is no dominantdesign yet, as defined by Utterback , in EV. GM’s Volt isa so called extended-range hybrid electric vehicle. It is powered by an internal combustion engine (ICE), batteriesand grid electricity. This technology is also known as a plug-in hybrid. Renault/Nissan’s Leaf is powered only by batteries: a battery electric vehicle (BEV). There are manyother varieties of EV, including not only differences in propulsion systems but also in vehicle architecture, beingintroduced into the world market in the last few years.It seems that these different electric vehicle technologiesand architectures are ready for the coming battles that willdetermine, in the first place, which variety (or varieties) will be dominant in the EV market(s); and in the second place,whether the EV will displace ICE vehicles. It is interesting toremember that this is not the first time that the EV is battlingICE cars. Around the beginning of the 20
century, the EVwas competing against ICE and other propulsion systemssuch as steam engine. Actually, in 1900 the total number of EV produced was higher than that of vehicles equipped withICE in the USA . This is what we call the first wave of EV. The result of this first battle is well known: the victory of ICE. Now, one hundred years later, we are witnessing another wave of enthusiasm for EV.This paper is focused on this current wave of EVs. We useSuarez’s framework for technological battle  toinvestigate the technical trajectories traveled by one companyand to analyze technological strategies adopted by participating firms.For Suarez , a battle for technological dominance ischaracterized by a sequence of five phases and respectivemilestones: Phase I is characterized by the research anddevelopment (R&D) build-up in a technological field. Themilestone that defines the beginning of this phase is when a pioneering firm starts its efforts in R&D applied to the production of a new commercial product (T
). Phase II isdescribed by the search for the technical feasibility of a new product. The emergence of the first prototype in thetechnological field is the milestone that indicates its beginning (T
). Phase III is characterized by the effort increating the market for the technological field. The milestonethat signals its initiation is the launch of the first commercial product (T
), which introduces the technology developed tothe market. Phase IV is the decisive battle and its onset ismarked by the presence of a clear early front-runner (milestone T
). There is no guarantee that a front-runner willwin the battle. When a dominant design emerges (T
), thetechnological battle enters in Phase V: Post-dominance.Competition in this phase is often an intense “within-standard” rivalry based on licensed dominant technology.This paper uses two analyses to better contextualize thisenthusiasm for electric cars that can help better understand
978-1-890843-23-6/11/$26.00 ©2011 IEEE