Electric mobility still light years away from mainstream, consultant says

May 31, 2013 // By Christoph Hammerschmidt
On time for the eMobility summit which took place this week in Berlin, strategy consultant Roland Berger presented a study on the global status of electromobility around. The results: So far, electromobility has failed to gain even the small market share the pundits expected a few years ago. The costs of ownership are simply too high, the margins for the manufacturers too low. Other factors are battery safety and the lack of a charging infrastructure.

Along with its partner, market researcher FKA, Roland Berger compiled an e-mobility index which compared the competitive positions of the seven leading car-manufacturing nations - China, Germany, France, Italy, Japan, and South Korea - in the field of e-mobility. The result: From the perspective of the carmakers as well as from the user's point of view, electrical vehicles are not attractive, at least at the present point in time. "OEMs earn much lower margins on the sale of EVs than on regular cars," says Wolfgang Bernhart, Partner at Roland Berger Strategy Consultants. "The total cost of ownership of EVs over their useful life is much higher than for conventional vehicles."

Also the batteries are an issue. Especially the battery type used in most e-cars, the lithium-ion batteries, are expensive, heavy, and not overly safe - they can explode or burst into flames when damaged. Since this risk is not acceptable, battery makers should "sort out this safety problem fast with innovative security concepts, not rely on rigid, heavy safety structures as they did before", analyses FKA Senior Engineer Markus Thoennes.

Another problem is the lack of infrastructure for EVs, along with the limited range of this kind of cars. Since the range problem probably won't be solved before 2020, the availability of a charging infrastructure will be crucial for the acceptance of electric vehicles - which is not en entirely new finding but nevertheless still an urgent one. There is still a long way to go, for instance in Germany, from today's 2200 public recharging points to the 150.000 recharging points which would be necessary.

The experts from Roland Berger and FKA analysed the seven most important carmaking countries in the categories of technology, industry and market. The resulting rankings were as follows:

- Technology: South Korea is still the leader in technology, although the vehicles announced are not yet in showrooms. Germany comes a close second, having greatly improved