23Oct 2015

Ah, we could talk for hours about James Bond’s 1964 Aston Martin DB5.  Aston Martin remains an iconic luxury brand, one of the last vestiges of British automotive style. So fast forward to 2015, the age of electric cars and Teslas: Aston Martin just announced its plan for the RapidE, a fully electric Aston Martin 1000-hp luxury sports car that the company’s CEO sees as an “intrinsic part of the company’s future product portfolio.” I wonder how soon will James Bond get to drive this new beauty?

…that is if he does not decide to drive a Tesla P90D instead. At nearly 760 hp, this all-electric luxury sports car has broken every 0-60 mph speed record. Of course, Tesla Motors has also changed our communal perspective of electric vehicles which have reached a record 1,000,000 vehicles on US roads this past September.

Porsche, the iconic German luxury sports car maker, will not be outdone by Tesla nor Aston Martin. The company, now part of Volkswagen recently caught with polluting diesel engines, is planning an all-electric vehicle, aptly named the Porsche E. The concept is stunningly beautiful. Yes, electric cars are here to stay — and you might never know, they could become the new “green” cars to replace the disgraced diesel autos.

The all-electric Porsche E concept. Source: Porsche

But these luxury cars are for the 1%! What’s there for the other 99%? This space is looking more promising, especially as we begin to see new announcements that combine aesthetics with longer driving range and increasing affordability.

Tesla has made several announcements about its Model 3 planned for a first public showing in March 2016. With a supposed range of 200 miles, it is targeted at a relatively more affordable price around $35,000 to $40,000. Chevrolet is also betting more than a few dollars on increased adoption of electric vehicles. It just announced its plans to release the Bolt in 2017 with a projected range of 200 miles too. Chevrolet made another pleasant announcement: it sees its own cost of lithium-ion batteries dropping to or below $100 per kWh by 2022. That is at least ⅓ or ¼ the cost level of just a couple of years back. Read this earlier post on trends in battery costs.

The Chevy Volt, first announced in 2009, is getting ready for the release of an all new 2016 model that sees an expansion in the capacity of its battery, longer driving range and a lower price point. True, the Volt is not an all-electric — it carries a gas-powered generator — but the evolution of its battery represents a serious push to make electric and/or hybrid electric more affordable for the general population.

These new announcements highlight two accelerating trends in the industry: i) increasing driving range to the 200-mi level, and ii) decreasing battery costs. The combination of these will serve to make electric cars competitive v.s. traditional combustion-engine vehicles. Yes, this will continue to be a relatively slow process — especially when compared to the evolutionary speeds of consumer devices — but the trend is unmistakable, electric cars are here to stay; lithium-ion batteries will witness wider deployment and adoption; and no major material breakthroughs are necessary to meet these goals for the coming years.