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Who is the Ultimate Driver of E-Mobility?

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Rauf Fattakh's picture
Managing Director & Co-founder Prospero Events Group

Helping decision-makers in the European energy industry benchmark best practices by organizing peer-to-peer conferences since 2007.

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  • Oct 22, 2020

California is the latest significant jurisdiction requiring all new cars and passenger trucks sold to be zero-emission vehicles from 2035. IEA expects that EVs sales will account for 3% of global car sales in 2020. Stakeholders from power generators to governments in major economies are en route to the accelerating adoption speed and deepening penetration. So as a person in charge of E-Mobility who do you think is the ultimate driver in mass-scale EV adoption? 

Evolution in the chicken-egg problem

OEM's are struggling to achieve the optimal EV price because they are not achieving the necessary economies of scale. As result, they are hesitant to take a risk of mass production.

On the other hand, there are not enough EVs on the road for potential charging infrastructure operators to install stations. Only 12% of light-duty vehicle chargers (most of them slow chargers) were publicly accessible in 2019.

This problem has been around for many years. Due to these interrelated risks both OEM's and charging infrastructure enablers have been hedging risks instead of bidding on E-Mobility. 

Stakeholders should work at the same time and at the same place to assure step-by-step implementation of E-Mobility adoption programs.

The problem was tackled by the introduction of electric car-sharing initiatives. For example, Daimler, EnBW, and local government achieved well utilized charging infrastructure by combining the deployment of an electric car-sharing fleet with installing charging points in Stuttgart, Germany. 

The chicken-egg problem should be solved by timely coordination & cooperation between OEMs, utilities, charging point operators (CPOs), and city municipalities. Stakeholders should work at the same time and at the same place to assure step-by-step implementation of E-Mobility adoption programs.

Close cooperation with each city municipality is essential. Adoption is a local story so get ready for the city by city battle. Because E-Mobility perception is about the unique needs and wants of citizens in each city. 

Number of successful charging stations 

E-Mobility programs of utility companies aim to stimulate adoption by developing networks and charging infrastructure. The relevant people are involved in the entire process of deployment of charging infrastructure in the following chronological order:

  1. Advisory & planning.
  2. Installation.
  3. Operation & maintenance.

You are required to be dealing with several ongoing projects at once. Working in such projects requires both commercial and technical understanding to justify investing in EV charging infrastructure. 

Increasing % of charging stations with a positive business case is key evidence to win the argument. Such business cases can be made by attracting retailers to become EV charging site host to increase average retail spend per customer.

EV owners usually spend more time at the site while waiting for their car to be charged, longer time spent higher chances of spending more.

Hydrogen Vehicle vs. EV

If you follow today's media hype it seems there is no future for ICE vehicles, so the debate has already shifted to Hydrogen Vehicle vs. EV.  Both, Hydrogen Vehicles and EVs are clean alternatives to ICE vehicles in future mobility. 

In Hydrogen Vehicle vs. EV debate, the battery cost and charging infrastructure developments have made a huge impact for the past decade. 

For example, EV charging points can be in 3 location categories:

  1. At work.
  2. At home.
  3. On the road.

Whereas Hydrogen Vehicles can be filled only on the road the same way as diesel or petrol cars. Flexibility to charge EV at home is one of the key attractions to a consumer over petrol/diesel or hydrogen vehicles.

The place where EVs are weak is Heavy Duty Cars (trucks) or planes. That’s where hydrogen comes in handy.

To say who will win the rivalry is difficult because it will depend on government policies. And governments will need to see commercial and technological evidence to make specific decisions in the nearest future.

Publicly available chargers by country.
Available public chargers by country. Credit: The IEA

If China has already made a huge contribution to EVs adoption rates globally by its governmental policies, in upcoming decades we will see a push for hydrogen cars in Europe thanks to Next Generation EU recovery package introduced as a response to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Never forget Average Joe

In the rush of marketing efforts, you shouldn't underestimate the rationality of an end-user consumer. An ICE car driver can compare charging time, driving distance, and price before making buying decisions.

Yes, governments can force people to stop buying ICE cars, but time will show what price those politicians will be ready to pay when the time will come to implement today's decisions. 

When energy transition will sustain without subsidies? Are taxpayers ready to pay for it? That's a political question in many European capitals. You saw how French reform around fuel tax discouraging fossil-fuel use sparked the yellow vests protests in 2018.

An average car driver is the real driver of E-Mobility. Current EV owners are early adopters who are willing to tolerate cost, relative complexity in charging EV, and cope with range anxiety. Those enthusiasts live in the future and are willing to bear the cost and hurdle of a long way ahead in e-mobility adoption until it becomes common.

If you will fail to convince Average Joe to switch from his very convenient ICE car to EV then all government subsidies and your marketing videos are a waste. In all E-Mobility adoption efforts, the key focus should be on consumer's cost and comfort concerns. 


The ideological disagreement about the root causes of climate change between Baby Boomers and ''Greta Thunberg'' generation is a central part of the transition from old to new energies. We are talking about behavioral change. E-Mobility is a mainstream aspect of that dispute. The real shift will happen once the ''Greta Thunberg'' generation will gain significant purchasing power. Generation Z is fine to share a car and is expected to be transported by driverless taxi. As that day getting close year after year DSOs, TSOs, Power Generators, and CPOs are preparing today to meet the future demand.

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Bob Meinetz's picture
Bob Meinetz on Oct 22, 2020

"Both, Hydrogen Vehicles and EVs are clean alternatives to ICE vehicles in future mobility. "

Neither Hydrogen Vehicles nor EVs are clean alternatives to ICE vehicles if the hydrogen is generated by steam-reforming methane, or the electricity is generated by burning methane.

It matters how it's made.

Matt Chester's picture
Matt Chester on Oct 23, 2020

In every zip code of the United States, even those with the dirtiest grid still reliant on coal and gas, the associated emissions per mile of driving an EV is less than that of a comparable ICE car:

Does that mean the EVs are zero emissions? By no means. But they are cleaner than the status quo alternative that most people are driving. And as grids get more and more decarbonized, that difference only becomes starker 

Bob Meinetz's picture
Bob Meinetz on Oct 23, 2020

Matt, though the Union of Concerned Scientists (the leadership of which includes exactly one scientist) might have slightly more credibility than the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists (no atomic scientists), both are primarily activist organizations which have discovered concerned donors give generously to hear smart people tell them "Don't worry, everything will be OK."

Download the same Argonne GREET model UCS used, and check for yourself. Depending on what inputs you use (there are hundreds), you can generate output that tells you anything you want to hear.

Using GREET's default inputs, however, tells me that in most locations of the U.S. Southeast new electric vehicles are still dirtier than comparable, new, internal-combustion ones.

Though it may not be as comforting, that's the truth.

Matt Chester's picture
Matt Chester on Oct 23, 2020

I'm quite familiar with GREET, actually-- it's a great tool! I know actually the UCSUSA uses GREET inputs, as do most credible analyses of this issue. My experience playing with the GREET model still consistently finds LCA benefits of EVs over their more common ICE replacements. And the benefit of EVs is also that they're getting cleaner every year as the grid decarbonizes-- so an EV bought today will see its MPGe improve over the decade it's owned along with the local grid mix

Bob Meinetz's picture
Bob Meinetz on Oct 27, 2020

Agree with everything you write here, Matt, but originally I had written "or the electricity is generated by burning methane."

In many locations electricity has a considerable proportion of nuclear or renewables, so the grid mix is cleaner than 100% gas. As nuclear plants are shut down, or emissions are increasingly exported to other states (as they are in California), the electricity that's going into your car may be getting dirtier.

The first step is confirming your electricity is clean and likely to get cleaner. US electricity carbon emissions are already starting to level off, and there will be a point where they start to rise again if NG consumption continues as expected. If you care about finding a solution to climate change, that's not good enough.

Rauf Fattakh's picture
Rauf Fattakh on Oct 23, 2020

Bob, in that perspective you are right. I supposed to dig deeper before declaring both electric and hydrogen cars as 100% clean.

Bob Meinetz's picture
Bob Meinetz on Oct 23, 2020

Rauf, because 95% of commercial hydrogen is made from methane, driving a fuel-cell vehicle (FCV) emits more CO2 overall than driving a comparable hybrid powered by gasoline.

An EV powered by a typical US electricity mix (mostly gas, some coal, some nuclear, some renewables) emits about half as much CO2/mile as an FCV (~100g/mi), but it isn't by any means 100% clean.

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