Few seem to have realised this, but the change to electromobility is the biggest transformation in modern history. The idea is to entirely change four large and globally important industries in all countries that commit to the effort: The automotive, transport, fuels industries will be changed from the ground up and the utilities industry will have to change dramatically to digitised power grids, develop new services, and expand power production and in many places grid capacity. Thousands of people need to get involved and new companies need to be started on a large scale.
Countries and the EU have decided to do this over the next two decades, but no plans have been made and budgets have not been set. So, there is a field of opportunity out there, going from the present focus on vehicles, batteries, and charging posts, to a holistic perspective on the transformation and the entire change process. The territory of electromobility is like a vast piece of land out there, waiting for settlers to colonize. In a way it is like finding a new Australia out there, an entire continent waiting to be explored, with enormous assets in terms of easily identifiable business opportunities of a varying nature.
The difference between the transformation to electromobility and the discovery of new far-off lands is that there are already settlers in the form of large and small companies, many with household names, that occupy the territory. Many of those will have to change entirely and the scale of the change has not been recognised. So far, there are 10% electric and hybrid cars in Norway, the country that leads the transformation and most countries in Europe have less than 2% chargeable cars. The number of electric trucks is still minuscule. To fuel all European cars with electricity there is a need for the power from some 120 nuclear reactors and to fuel trucks and buses another 60 are needed. To power cars, buses, and trucks generation capacity has to expand dramatically and huge business opportunities will emerge in the process.
Who Am I to Say This?
My name is Mats Larsson. I have worked for more than 30 years as a business consultant with strategy development and change management. Through those years I have worked with projects in a wide range of industries and sectors of society. From food to IT, life science, construction, and high-tech. For the last 17 years I have increasingly focused on sustainability and clean technologies, in particular on electromobility, the circular economy, and energy efficiency. In the course of this work, I have written 5 internationally published books on electromobility and the circular economy:
- Global Energy Transformation 2009
- The Business of Global Energy Transformation 2012
- Circular Business Models 2018
- Redrawing the Map of the Future 2019
- The Blind Guardians of Ignorance 2020
The knowledge and experience that I have built over the past three decades as a consultant includes:
- An extensive understanding of business development, business strategy, and innovation.
- A deep experience of organizational issues, both in the public sector and in companies.
- Substantial knowledge about change management and an understanding of how change is driven by large organizations and how it needs to be driven, organized, and financed when change is going to happen in society overall.
- Experience from working in a number of different industries, several mentioned above.
- Experience from developing organizations that focus on supporting the development of certain competencies in a region or a country, for example from my 5 years of working to develop the organization Big Science Sweden, helping Swedish companies to build supplier competence to supply to big science facilities.
My Conclusion Regarding Electromobility
When countries plan change there is usually enough competence among key decision makers to see which steps need to be taken and which groups of experts that need to be involved. In the case of the Apollo Program it was obvious from the beginning that in addition to a rocket there was a need for a moon lander, a launch ramp, a control centre, a building for the construction of the rocket, moon-lander and other equipment, a vehicle that could take the rocket from the building to the launch ramp, and many other details that were necessary.
Once the engineers started to engage with the challenges, they realised that there was a need for light materials and construction principles, heat resistant materials, communication solutions between astronauts and the Houston control centre, and a large number of other technologies and solutions that had to be developed to make the mission possible. There was also a need for a number of flights prior to the mission that would put two men on the moon.
All of these development activities had to be tightly scheduled before the end of 1969 and they had to be sufficiently financed to achieve the goal. Realistic scheduling and budgeting could not give way to unwarranted optimism, sloppy calculations and less than careful planning.
Similar approaches have been taken to other technical challenges throughout the past centuries. The building of railways has required locomotives, cars, tracks, switches, coal depots, station houses, and many other details. The electrification of society has involved the construction of power plants, national, regional, and local grids, switchgear, transformers, meters, equipment standards and many other innovations and technologies.
In the case of the transformation to electromobility society is identifying one need at a time. Governments, companies, and experts make no effort to investigate all the aspects that need to be dealt with to transform. They have so far identified the need for vehicles, batteries, chargers, and subsidies for cars and chargers. Few have realised that there will be a need for power production, reinforcement of grids, digitisation of grids, business development on a large scale, training of professionals for the roles that need to be filled, financing on a very large scale, and a number of other aspects and innovations that need to be taken care of.
This is probably because e-mobility has been promoted as a necessary activity to make countries sustainable and green politicians and experts have argued that this could be achieved at almost no cost to society. In 2013 the report from a public investigation financed by the Swedish Government called “Fossil Freedom on the Road” concluded that the entire conversion of Swedish car fleets could be financed through an increase in the tax on petrol and diesel cars and a subsidy on fossil-free cars. The report was written by Professor Thomas B Johansson, who focused primarily on the price of fuels and the need to cover the differences in these prices through the tax swap.
The report by Professor Johansson did not mention all the investments that would have to be made in fuel production, distribution systems for fuels, the development of vehicle technologies, and other aspects of the transformation. The report focused on a change to biological fuels, but the same mind-set of a tax swap that will finance the transformation has been carried over to the present view of the change to electromobility. The present Swedish government, consisting of the Social Democratic party, instead of the conservative Alliance that financed the analysis by Professor Johansson has implemented the measure suggested, namely a “Bonus Malus System” for the tax swap. We have a 7,000 euro bonus on electric cars and the government has increased taxes on petrol and diesel cars, just like the professor suggested.
Nowhere Near Enough
The somewhat naïve approach to electromobility that is taken by the Swedish government is by no means unique. As mentioned above the EU has decided to make the union fossil free by 2045, without considering the level of investment needed or the multitude of activities that need to be started immediately, as vehicles are used for 16-17 years, and many expansion projects take more than a decade to complete. A further example of naivism is that in December of 2020 the UK government decided about a 10-Point Plan for sustainability with a backing of 12 billion pounds that showed no signs of any system understanding among the persons who had developed it. A ban on the sales of petrol and diesel cars from 2030 was decided, but no provisions were made to secure power production to supply the entire car fleet with electricity throughout the change.
At Medium there is no topic of electromobility to choose from in business, as this development that will change 4 entire industries over the next three decades is not considered important enough by people to justify an entry of its own. Four of the largest industries will be dramatically changed and expanded over the next decades and nobody is talking about the transformation, except noticing that some new vehicles are launched on the market!
The conclusion from this must be that there will be ample business opportunities for the individuals and companies that decide to take a holistic view of the transformation. This type of large-scale change cannot be brought about without the involvement of a large number of people and not only by the individuals who are employed in the above-mentioned industries at present.