“Instead of 2.5 halls stuffed with exhibitors that we saw last year, this year saw only two halls available and they were scattered with many large carpeted areas with nothing in them and side stand areas blocked off. Sadly, most of the state-of-the-art devices were gone this year.” That’s from a blog post by Dr. Peter Harrop, founder and chairman of IDTechEx, a market consultancy (www.idtechex.com
). He’s writing about the recently held electric vehicle exposition, eCarTech, which was held in Munich.
Now I like a tradeshow as much as the next guy, but somehow I’m not totally convinced that a decline in the number of square meters of exhibit space at a trade show is an indicator that a given technology is having trouble. Possibly the show organizer just didn’t do a particularly good job of selling floor space.
And as Dr. Harrop’s colleagues at IDTechEx pointed out, the show “no longer had several electric boats and outboard motors.” Let’s face it: boats tend to be on the big side, which could also contribute to the smaller show footprint.
And as for the lack of state-of-the-art tech at the show, Dr. Harrop goes on to explain that himself, as he writes, “The list of latest EV [electric vehicle] technology is a very long one. Of course, the small companies—the innovators most of the time—rarely pay the eye-watering fees to exhibit in a German Messe and there lies the problem.”
But my point here is not about German trade shows. It is about that “very long” list of EV technology from the standpoint of it being something where there are great opportunities for suppliers.
Admittedly, these are not opportunities that have an immediate return. And they may be opportunities that have absolutely no return.
But that’s the nature of technology. Sometimes it works out well. Sometimes not so well. But those who don’t pursue the opportunities don’t have the chance of the upside, and they aren’t protected from the downside, because if something catches on, they may be left behind—and incapable of catching up.
Consider: Microsoft rolled out with its music playing device, the Zune*, in the fall of 2006, and by the end of 2011. . . .
Well, at least they tried.
What’s going to happen to those companies that say, “Aw, that EV market—no one is going to buy those things.”
Smell the hint of “Get a horse”?
I’m not arguing that there is going to be a sudden transformation from internal combustion engines to fully electrified vehicles. I might make an argument that in not too many years there will be a high percentage—well over 50—of vehicles with some sort of electrification, such as a variant of the General Motors eAssist system (which includes regenerative braking and provides a bit of oomph for the downsized internal combustion engine). And there is no arguing that Toyota has proven, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that the Prius is not simply some sort of marketing gimmick, as had been thought by no less than Car Guy Extraordinaire Bob Lutz back when it was easier to deny the tech than to put it on the road. (He recovered. With the Chevy Volt.)
With Nissan, Ford, BMW, VW, Mercedes, Honda, Hyundai, etc. etc. etc. in addition to the aforementioned GM and Toyota with electrified vehicles on the road and more on the way, there should be little question that this is the real deal.
Again, the growth is going to be slow. But the growth will come. There will be technological developments. There will be increases in capabilities and decreases in price. And that will lead to greater sales, which will lead to economies of scale, which will lead to further price reductions, which will lead to additional sales. . . .
And we’ll be seeing lots of EV technology in carpeted expo halls around the world. But the EV technology will be packaged in vehicles. And the events will be car shows.
*Full disclosure: I actually own a Zune HD. And it isn’t all that bad. Really. But sufficient is insufficient nowadays, whether it is in personal tech or automobiles.