The Canadian Matt Stevens debuted in the world of electric vehicles in 2003 designing a lunar rover. Later he prepared an SUV for Ford. Since then, 15 hybrid and electric vehicles have left his hands. His Ph.D. deals with electrical battery systems and has won several awards for his contribution to electric mobility in Canada. Like when it started nobody bet a hard for electric vehicles (VE), the money has been made developing simulations for third parties.
"We create models by computer, we tell you how the prototype would work if you built it and perfected it. So we have tried about 200 vehicles for the main car assemblers ", explains in Barcelona the CEO of FleetCarma, the VE company that he founded 12 years ago and that has recently been absorbed by the American Geotab. Challenge to who does not trust the success of electric cars to wait a couple of years and see what happens in the market.
How has the industry evolved since you started?
The main changes that the sector has suffered in the last 15 years have happened in the last two years. In this period we have seen a dramatic fall in prices accompanied by a considerable increase in autonomy. In any fleet in which we look we always find an interesting proportion of VE that do well the job that is asked of them and also they bring savings of between 30% and 40%. In passenger vehicles, we already move in a range of between 250 to 500 kilometers
If they are so good, why are not we still surrounded by electric cars?
I remember when I bought my first flat TV six years ago: it was expensive, but I was willing to pay for it because it was clearly better than the previous one. The same will happen with the VE: as they become cheaper, they will invade the streets. Another fundamental element is education. Those who think about buying one are still not sure if it will really help them save money, when the answer is a yes resounding More pedagogy is needed in this regard.
There are also not many recharging points.
Many people focus on public infrastructure: if I live in Madrid and want to travel to Barcelona, will there be recharging points along the way? That has to be solved. The same does not happen with the infrastructures of the cities. I do not think they will be used too much: most will recharge the car at home or at work.
Car manufacturers often say that their bet on VE is not total because there are not enough recharging points; energy companies and institutions, meanwhile, say they do not put them because there is no demand. How to break this spiral?
We have seen how this situation is unblocked in countries where institutions say they are going to invest money, although not en masse, to launch some fast charging points on a couple of key roads. As soon as people see him, he goes for his electric car. In Ontario, where I live, there was a dramatic increase in the sale of VE as soon as charging points were placed on the main highway. People just need to see that they can make long journeys to decide.
How good are they the batteries today?
Autonomy is what has changed dramatically. I have a Chevrolet Volt. When I bought it in 2012, the battery cost the brand around $ 16,000. Today it will go for about $ 2,800. This tremendous change in the cost structure of cars has occurred in just six years. The $ 16,000 batteries gave you 60 kilometers of autonomy; Now for that price you have 500km. My current car has that autonomy, so I do not worry about how far it can take me. As for the useful life of the batteries, those that have between five and six years preserved around 90% of the capacity they had the first day, which is very good.
About the loading speed, my vehicle can be charged at 150 kilowatts (kw), which means that I can have an autonomy of 500 kilometers in about 40 minutes. Porsche is betting strongly on the 350kw. Do you need so much speed? I really do not need it: I usually load at work or at home. And when I travel, after driving 500 kilometers I almost prefer to rest at least half an hour before returning to the wheel … But it is true that as soon as the batteries are charged in 10 minutes we will have one more claim to change the chip.
When Tesla was born It seemed that electric cars were going to change the market forever. Has it been like this?
I can tell you with complete certainty that Tesla has changed the vision of car manufacturers about EVs, especially in the luxury sector. BMW, Mercedes and the VW Group have come to the conclusion that if their brand wants to offer the best possible driving experience, they have to bet on electric motors. The defenders of EVs are usually based on the environmental argument. It's important, but it's not the one that's going to make them win. They will win because they are better! People will love how fast and smooth they are, how wonderful it is to get up every morning with a full tank.
Then we will see them before in the luxury segment?
The fastest vehicles in the world are electric. So if you want a fast, luxurious and smooth driving sports vehicle it has to be electric. The German brands that I told you have understood and in the next two years we will start to see high-end all-electric vehicles. If the average time of development of a gasoline vehicle is about three years, the electric ones that incorporate serious improvements will take about five. We will see them, I guarantee it. In the US, where the Tesla Model 3 has already arrived, the market share of BMW and Mercedes has plummeted. They are very aware of this and a couple of years ago they are investing seriously to solve it.
Some argue that, taking into account the amount of energy that is needed to move with VE, it is not so clear that they will be cleaner than gasoline.
The last study I saw, focused on Europe, used data from 2016 to conclude that VEs are between 10% and 20% cleaner than the rest taking into account the entire process, from manufacturing to consumption throughout their lives . When I bought my Volt, the average emissions in the province where I live were 300 grams per kilowatt hour. Now they are 40 grams per kilowatt hour. It is true that we have to see how we do electricity and cars, but even using today those that were developed a couple of years ago we are improving the situation with respect to gasoline. And that improvement is more pronounced with each passing year.
We do not have anything similar in America, although it would be fine. We have verified that where emissions exclusion zones are implemented there are massive changes towards VE, especially among commercial vehicles. In fact we are in a moment of high demand of VE for delivery of last mile in Europe precisely for that reason: because the tendency is to prohibit the gasoline and the diesel or to increase its taxation. That, in turn, will cause the installation of more recharging points and will initiate a virtuous circle that can break the immobility that we talked about earlier.