Small start-up companies whether software applications, cutting edge consumer products or, home improvement products have traditionally driven their respective technology spaces to innovate. It also forces the larger stodgy companies to take notice and innovate to meet the challenges created by the nimbler small businesses that can enter the market quickly with their products and services.
The Lucid Air Electric Luxury Sedan
Over the past 10 years’ Battery Electric Vehicle (BEV) start-up companies have made their presence known and driving a market thought to be all but dead to the consumer. With companies such as BYD, Faraday Future, Lucid, Tesla and many others constantly pushing the envelope this forces the larger corporate conglomerates to innovate and provide a more competitive landscape in the BEV market. Not only do these small companies drive vehicle innovation but, this type of environment also provides seed for ancillary companies to start-up and experience growth while establishing market presence as well as brand equity quickly. Some of these markets include high power vehicle battery chargers, solar power based charging, battery based home power systems, etc.
It's the small business engine that drives innovation and economic growth which, forcing the automotive manufacturing titans to innovate and change. Small business often times will lead the way.
With the advent of Vehicle Electrification, will Pattern Failure Diagnostics in the Field Becoming Obsolete?
As the era of Vehicle Electrification continues to quickly change the landscape of automotive vehicle systems, the impact of these changes will very likely cause a disruptive transformation in how aftermarket (and possibly some OEM) automotive technicians execute diagnostic processes. For example, traditional internal combustion engine (ICE) systems have experienced gradual changes and have significantly matured slowly over the past 100 years. With a long time horizon, technicians have had the opportunity to slowly “grow” with these changes and OEM product lines.
Conversely, Vehicle Electrification is on the cusp of significant growth, with stringent regulatory and compliance metrics driving innovations. Growth of emerging technologies fuels innovation, the innovation results in change, and change is a polar opposite to the experiences of (current) mature products. The automotive industry is in a unprecedented tsunami of innovations driven by vehicle electrification – specifically in electric powertrains, battery packs, and on/off-board charging systems – to name a few. Whether it is the Chevrolet Volt that is in it’s 4th generation of battery pack or Tesla announcing that it will innovate in 12-18 month cycles, it could result in an intimidating time in history for technicians, and the business of diagnostics and repair. However, I believe that rather than be intimidated, we should look at the glass is half-full. This period of innovation offers significant opportunity for those willing to learn it. Examples of Vehicle Electrification changes can be seen here and here.
As innovations continue to quickly evolve, most do not follow commonality in format, technology, or (in some cases) technical function. To compound the problem, technicians and enginees cannot rely on legacy knowledge or technology transfer to help them bridge the gap. With technology applications changing so quickly, it does not provide an opportunity for products to mature in creating an environment for pattern failure diagnostics to become commonplace. Therefore, technicians and engineers will need to learn a new knowledge and skills and rely less on pattern failure diagnostics or prior experiences to help navigate the new technological waters. Technicians (and engineers to some extent) will need to know what questions to ask when problem solving, rather than relying on knowing that every 2008 vehicle that is painted blue will need a new set of injectors every 25,000 miles (pattern failure). By understanding the fundamentals of systems hardware, firmware, software, systems integration, and the associated functionality of these systems – a technician or engineer is formidably armed to solve a problem.
Also, those that are engaged in diagnostics, especially in Vehicle Electrification systems, should know how they learn so they can more effectively learn new information and skills. Most of my colleagues over the years really didn’t know how they learned – they struggled silently. Knowing how you learn is an invaluable tool in dealing with the quick cycles of technology change and the application of fundamentals. An excellent article on the topic can be found here.
The first step in tackling the world of Vehicle Electrification is acquiring high-quality training (and education if possible) to equip your mental tool box, for enabling the ability to problem solve – even if the OEM provides information and special tools (which are sometimes inadequate for helping someone solve a problem). However, application of information and tools is dependent on the individual applying it. History is littered with the accounts of those that did not tool themselves for significant iterative changes and relied on training and skills that had little application in solving future problems. Well, the future is here, today. Actually, the future has been here since about 2001. Without the training or education, it’s like traveling without a map or compass.
There is an old axiom that has served me well over my career that may help those that are starting their career with Vehicle Electrification: Success is when opportunity meets preparedness.
Are you prepared?
With significant regulatory and compliance changes on the horizon that, will require automotive OEMs to increase fuel economy, while ZEV credits and multipliers diminish, you would think that the OEMs would push the marketing hot button for their Plug-In Hybrid Vehicles (PHEV) and Battery Electric Vehicles (BEV). However, studies conducted by Global Equities Research combined with data CompetiTrack and Motor Intelligence point to the lethargic marketing prowess of the OEMs with respect to PHEV and EV products.
Electric Buses: Hybrid Buses May Need to Step Aside
In the late 1990’s and early 2000’s, hybrid bus systems were being developed at a feverish pace, based on low emission and higher fuel efficiency requirements from many major cities in the U.S. Market. However, as transportation technologies march forward, it appears that hybrid bus systems may experience serious competition from pure electric bus systems. Many countries external of the U.S. are venturing into the zero emission vehicle (ZEV) market to improve air quality (i.e., China, Singapore, etc.) this is driving the need for bus fleets with ZEV systems. Companies such as BYD and Proterra have quickly caught the eye of several U.S. cities that are shifting from traditional diesel powered buses directly to ZEV bus systems, eliminating the “in between step” of using hybrid technology.
The reason that ZEV buses can be utilized is that Lithium battery technology has superior specific energy and energy density that reduces the size and mass (weight) of the battery pack system. Therefore, enormous battery systems are not necessary for a bus system due to the advantages of Lithium technology. This alters the need for large battery packs which may no longer be necessary for bus systems. If high power wireless charging technology is placed on bus routes and in depot sub-stations to permit fast charging of the battery pack, large battery packs will no longer be necessary. Also, logistics would be significantly easier because, requiring the bus to return to the main depot for charging would not be necessary. While this is occurring on a global scale, keep in mind there are and will continue to be other technologies that will be considered for charging batteries along a bus route. Overhead wire systems located only at bus stops or sub-depot locations can also be used to rapidly charge the batteries. This would eliminate the need for modifying streets or roads when installing wireless charging pads.
Traditional vehicle purchasing may experience some significant changes during the next several years and throughout this next decade. In fact, major automotive OEMs are betting on it. As companies like Uber and Zip Car (ride sharing and vehicle sharing) services continually resonate with younger generations and environmentally conscience consumers, the landscape of vehicle ownership will also change. In lieu of an individual investing in the purchasing of a vehicle that may only be utilized a small percentage of the time, many prospective buyers are now turning toward ride and vehicle sharing and only pay for “when” the vehicle is used. Automotive OEMs have heard this message loud and clear. Obviously, if this type of trend continues, the OEM sales numbers could decrease and shift from primarily private ownership to a significant volume of corporate ownership. This is one reason why the OEMs are partnering with Autonomous vehicle systems suppliers to “hedge their bet” in the event that the ride and vehicle sharing trend growth continues to grow and expand at rates that increase the relevance to the transportation market.
GM has recently announced a partnership with Lyft to begin navigating the waters of Uber and Zip. The $500M GM investment in Lyft indicates that the automotive OEM is serious about expanding into the rental vehicle market but, more importantly, it indicates GM’s interest in moving deeply into the Autonomous vehicle space. Most companies that have considered or that are currently in the Autonomous vehicle space have targeted the use of battery electric vehicles as the primary platform, such as the GM Bolt. Lyft and GM believe that the Express Drive program will assist both companies implement technology infrastructure for fleets of self-driving in the future. However, the immediate focus of the Lyft Express Drive program is place more Lyft vehicles into service.
Wireless Charging: Seamless and Effortless Battery Charging
As with most of the technologies associated with Plug-In and Electric Vehicles, the battery pack charging technologies are changing with blazing speed. Currently, the conductive (cable plug-in) systems are marching toward ever-higher charging rates. With most SAE and CHAdeMO conductive Direct Current Fast Charging (DCFC) systems capable of 50kW – 100kW power, Wireless Charging is now beginning to gain traction in the vehicle battery charging market. Wireless Charging systems have obvious advantages by not requiring a vehicle operator to make a direct connection between the charging station and the vehicle. Electric vehicles can have a vehicle pad mounted under the vehicle so it can receive power after the vehicle is driven over the base pad to initialize Wireless Charging. The vehicle or your smart phone will assist in positioning the vehicle pad with the base pad. However, currently Wireless systems are not capable of delivering the level of kW power when compared to conductive systems. For example, the Qualcomm HALO system can currently provide 3.7kW, 7.4kW, 11kW, and 22kW Wireless Charging.
The Wireless Charging system has one significant advantage when compared to conductive charging systems – it can be located within a road or street to permit quick charging when a vehicle is within range. As an example, Wireless Charging is perfect for electric buses. When the bus has stopped to pick-up passengers at a bus stop location, the bus can charge while it is taking on passengers. Also, the bus can charge when the driver is on a rest break. Having Wireless Charging locations along a bus route, it eliminates the necessity of returning the bus to the depot to be charged at a conductive charging station which, is a significant advantage and convenience.
Register for Training Related to Electric Drive Vehicle Charging:
Level 1, 2, 3 Plug-In and Electric Vehicle On-Board Charging Systems and Chargers (3-Part Online Training Series)
To ensure that there will be trained automotive technicians to service HEV, PHEV, EREV, and BEV (e.g., Advanced Technology vehicles) Automotive Instructors play the pivotal role in developing these technicians. Prior to instructing any automotive topic, instructors should receive professional training and develop experiences that can be transferred to their students. With degrees already brimming with traditional automotive courses, instructors are finding it extremely difficult to determine how Advanced Technology vehicle information will be inserted into a structure that cannot accommodate additional courses. Additionally, college level administrators may not see a need to include the necessary courses to automotive degrees and certificates that properly prepare the students to analyze, diagnose, and repair vehicles with high voltage electric drive systems, battery packs, electric air conditioning compressors, etc. There are college administrators that have tried to solve this problem by offering adjunct 1-year certificate programs that permit students to continue with their automotive studies for a 3rd year. However, students quickly realize that, because the extra year of training in the Advanced Technologies is not a component of their 2-year degree program, they cannot acquire financial aid to help defray the educational costs until after graduation. Therefore, there are multiple issues in offering Advanced Technology vehicle training to the students, even if they desire it.
A more pressing issue involves automotive instructor training. If colleges aren’t supporting the addition of Advanced Technology education as a part of their automotive programs then, it may be difficult for automotive instructors to acquire support from their administration to attend qualified professional training. At FutureTech, our staff recognized this problem many years ago. The concern is real – with the production of Advanced Technology vehicles accelerating at exponential speed and instructors not receiving qualified training then, how will the next generation of technicians be trained to fundamentally learn the knowledge and skills necessary to diagnose and repair Advanced Technology products?
The answer is simple. FutureTech supports colleges and their automotive instructor staff that currently or plan to provide this training as part of a certificate or degree program. For those colleges that do not include or offer this training, private sector companies, such as FutureTech have already developed the training products, tools, and equipment for field technicians and can easily begin to integrate college level students into these Advanced Technology vehicle courses.
MIT Study Indicates Battery Electric Vehicles (BEV) can Meet Most Drivers’ Needs While Lowering Emissions
An MIT Study by Professor Jessika Trancik cites that Battery Electric Vehicles (BEV) can meet needs of most drivers. The study indicates that “current EVs could meet the needs of about 90 percent of drivers, at a total cost no greater than that of legacy ICE vehicles. EVs could also play a significant role in meeting emissions reduction goals. Furthermore, assuming battery technology improves at the expected rate, by 2020 up to 98 percent of vehicles could be replaced…..by a low-cost electric vehicle available on the market today, even if the cars can only charge overnight,…..which would more than meet near-term US climate targets for personal vehicle travel.” The study contends that overall, when accounting for emissions from today’s power plants, this would lead to a 30 percent reduction in emissions from transportation.
Although this study may seem aggressive in application, its findings may be closer to how BEVs could be deployed into the market at a faster rate than previously thought. With the advent of more Level 2 and Level 3 (Fast) Charging Station accessibility, Level 3 Charging Stations are capable of providing 80% battery charging in 20-30 minutes, that will provide significant vehicle range increases at (200 - 250 miles/charge +), making BEV acceptance a much simpler reality than in years past. And for those that need more range than 200 miles there are always the BEVs that have a range extender option or there are extended range electric vehicles (EREV), like the Chevrolet Volt, that offer no range limitations with on-board electrical generation.
As the electric drive vehicle technologies and their derivatives continue to evolve at an exceptionally fast pace, these vehicles have now become part of the main stream market. FutureTech expects to see a rapid adoption of BEV and other Plug-In vehicle technologies to move to the market forefront, very soon.
Automotive service businesses may be missing out on how the can market their services to a new generation of vehicle owners. The new generation of Plug-In Hybrid, Extended Range Electric, and Battery Electric (Advanced Technology) vehicle owners are very “tech savvy” and are constantly scanning their local area for businesses that can maintain, analyze, diagnose, and repair their Advanced Technology vehicle. Acquiring their business may be very simple and does not require more than a few minutes of your time with them. By adding a plug-in Charging Station, you can easily begin to market your business as “friendly” to these Advanced Technology vehicle owners. The marketing is very simple: Most plug-in vehicle owners want to know where they can plug-in to charge their vehicle. In fact, many owners use smart phone apps such as Charge Point to determine where the nearest charging station is located to receive a quick charge. And, it would be very simple to add your business to the many smart phone apps that are available to vehicle owners. If your business is already diagnosing and repairing Advanced Technology products then, this would be a simple and inexpensive strategy to market your business as a location for not only vehicle charging but, also vehicle repair. Level 2 charging stations can be purchased for less than $750.00 and only need a dedicated 220V electrical circuit with 20 – 40 Amp capability.
You may want to think about adding a charging station to your business. It’s an inexpensive method for exposing your service business to Advanced Technology vehicle owners globally. It’s also a method to acquire traditional service business from a customer. Remember, most customers believe that, if a business can maintain and repair their Advanced Technology vehicle, certainly they can repair a traditional vehicle with “old” technology.
How many customers could your charge station attract in your business' service area? FutureTech can develop a report that is unique to your business, showing how many Hybrid, EREV, Plug-In Hybrid, and Electric Vehicles are close to you.
The Advantages of Advanced Vehicle Technology Early Adoption
As an Advanced Electric Drive Vehicle Technologies (i.e., Hybrid, Plug-In Hybrid, Extended Range Electric, and Battery Electric vehicle) solutions provider, FutureTech is often asked by prospective clients about the wisdom of adding Advanced Technology vehicles to their service program portfolio. The Aftermarket, in particular, has asked this question with increased frequency during the past 2-3 years. This initial question often compels a deeper question of when they should add Advanced Technology service programs to their business model. It’s obvious that electric drive vehicle technology and its derivatives are quickly becoming essential to most automotive OEM vehicle platforms. The fuel economy and emission requirements for the OEMs have driven them to use the electric drive powertrains with efficiencies that are considerably higher than traditional vehicle powertrains. With fuel economy requirements elevating quickly each year, and the 2025 mandate of 54.5 mpg looming in the background, OEMs are not waiting until the last minute to try meeting these elevating fuel economy requirements. Additionally, Zero Emission Vehicle (ZEV) Credits and Multiplier ratios from the federal government are decreasing as the fuel economy requirements increase. This means that more electric propulsion vehicles will be required to meet the compliances.
The OEMs such as Honda and Toyota began to enter the market and offer hybrid vehicles for sale in model years 2000 and 2001, respectively. From 2000 – 2013, there were approximately 2 million Advanced Technology vehicles sold in the US Market. From Q2 2013 thru Q1 2016 there are more than 4 million in the US market. Therefore, it had taken only 3 years to double the number of Advanced Technology vehicles in the US market from 2 million to 4 million units. These significant exponential sales numbers cannot be ignored. This is a volume that the Aftermarket, Fleets, and other related industries should consider when examining their business model for possible changes toward profitability. The addition of Advanced Technology products and the rate of change in the adoption of these technologies follow a model developed by Everett Rogers in the early 1960’s. Roger’s Model can be used (generally) to project how technologies will be adopted and the rate of change to the adoption. Specifically, the Rogers Model provides a blueprint for how business opportunities intersect with profitability. When considering this model, it can be seen that the majority of profitability occurs in the Early Adopter and at the beginning of the Early Majority phases.
When comparing Advanced Technology vehicle deployment from 2000 – 2016 to the Rogers’ Model, it is FutureTech’s opinion that the Aftermarket is in the early stages of the Early Adopter phase. The doubling of the Advanced Technology products from 2013 – 2016 was (in our opinion) the initiation of the Early Adopter phase. Specifically, the Early Adopter stage offers the highest Profit Opportunity. There are many business investors that acquired significant profit from companies such as Amazon, Apple, Dell, Google, Microsoft, Twitter, etc. when these companies were in the Early Adopter stage. Unlike investment stocks, investing to service the Advanced Technology vehicles isn’t much of a risk because, the automotive industry has already made their commitment to move in this direction. Therefore, since the market has already moved into this direction there is only one question for you: Are you ready to enter the Early Adopter phase and profit from the era of Advanced Technology vehicles?
Advanced Technology electric drive systems will force disruptive technologies into the service space and these changes will be significant. The OEMs will continue to escalate the utilization of electric drive systems well into the future, coupled with technologies such as Autonomous vehicles. If you are a business owner in the automotive service space, you should consider entering the Advanced Technology service market now to enjoy the full benefits of profitability, and be known in the industry as a pioneering market leader – and FutureTech, as an experienced technology and innovation company with scalable solutions that are available NOW, is ready to work with you to make a smooth transition.
Find out how many Hybrid & Electric Vehicles are in your business' service area, and find out how many customers you - as an early adopter - could be serving now.
Innovating Vehicle Electrification Support to the Automotive Aftermarket.