Navigant Research Blog

Costa Rica Plans for Sustainable EV Future

— January 4, 2018

Up until now, plug-in EVs (PEVs) have been about as popular as snowshoes in Latin America due to the higher cost of the vehicles and lack of governmental focus on reducing transportation carbon emissions. However, in Costa Rica, government agencies are developing policies and infrastructure to lure automakers to send PEVs and to get consumers excited about the technology.

A Small but Ambitious Market

Costa Rica may not seem like the ideal location to grow a PEV market. The country has a gross national income per capita of just over $10,000 per year (as of 2015, per World Bank statistics), whereas most PEVs cost north of $40,000 and would be out of realistic reach for most consumers. The vehicle market is also small (just 154,000 vehicles sold annually), so it is not a top priority market for automakers to support PEV sales.

Nevertheless, with tourism to its sandy beaches and internationally renowned rain forest contributing 5% of Costa Rica’s gross domestic product, the government wants the country to project an eco-friendly image and participate in global efforts to combat climate change.

The country has set a goal of getting 37,000 PEVs on the road by 2022. On December 15, 2017, Costa Rica passed its first incentives for EV purchases, which include exemptions on the sales, consumption, and customs import taxes. According to a report from Nacion.com, this would reduce the final cost of a PEV by about 24%.

Growing Support for PEVs

Federal organizations in Costa Rica are also planning support for PEVs. The state-run utility led by Grupo ICE and Costa Rica’s integrated ministry of energy and environment (MINAE) both shared steps they are taking to promote EVs at the Third Annual Latin America Clean Transport Forum, which was held in San Jose, Costa Rica on September 20, 2017.

ICE said that with 76.6% of its power generation coming from renewables, the carbon savings of switching transportation from liquid fuels to electricity can be significant. Since 92% of residents live in private homes, pervasive access to home EV charging should smooth the introduction to PEVs. Also, the mild climate (an average temperature of 25°C) would enable PEV batteries to provide greater range and durability than in places with harsher weather. The utility is now investigating the barriers to PEV adoption and infrastructure requirements (such as charging levels and standards for collecting data) to prepare for their introduction.

EV Policy Development and Logistical Challenges

MINAE is developing a national policy for transportation electrification that will be released as part of the annual Oficializado Plan Nacional de Energía, which was due at the end of 2017 but does not appear to have been published yet. The national EV policy will set achievable goals for reducing emissions in transportation, including light and commercial vehicles as well as mass transit. These goals will align with the country’s overall climate change targets.

Despite these efforts, getting automakers’ attention to prioritize Costa Rica and other Latin American nations as PEV markets will be a challenge. With no local manufacturing plants, PEVs currently have to be imported into Latin America, and the higher cost of shipping the vehicles will need to be offset by local incentives. Consumer education in places where PEVs are rarely seen will require concerted effort from both the public and private sectors. Importing used PEVs, which have low resale values and could be used in fleets, is an effective method of introducing target customers to the capabilities of PEVs and building buzz around the technology.

 

Disney vs. Netflix as Analogy for Auto Incumbents vs. Uber and Lyft

— January 2, 2018

TV and movie businesses may not seem like the best analogy for the automotive industry and the future of transportation, but if you consider the evolving relationships, there are some fascinating parallels. The relationship between two of the world’s largest media companies, incumbent Disney and insurgent Netflix, is becoming increasingly tenuous as both look to leverage disruptive technologies. In the mobility space, we are seeing a surprisingly similar dynamic between major automakers and ride-hailing companies like Uber and Lyft, with Alphabet and Apple on the periphery of the battle.

The Evolution of Entertainment as a Service

It’s now been a full decade since Netflix began its pivot from mailing plastic discs to customers to streaming video over the internet. Until a few years ago, Netflix was completely dependent on the willingness of content creators like Disney, Fox, Warner, and others to provide the materials that it mailed or streamed to subscribers. The studios did this in exchange for licensing fees because they saw it as advantageous to get in front of viewer’s eyeballs on the new distribution channel.

At first, the number of people watching Disney content on Netflix was relatively low and the studio saw it as an interesting experiment. The revenue numbers were small and had to be split with the distributor. Now, as it has become increasingly apparent that consumers are shifting away from paying to go to theaters and paying for cable TV services in favor of direct streaming to TVs and mobile devices, the idea of splitting that revenue pie has lost its appeal.

Disney’s Step into the Streaming World

Thus, over the course of 2017, Disney announced that it will launch at least two of its own streaming services, a sports oriented channel for Disney-owned ESPN, and an entertainment channel. When the latter launches in 2019, much of the Disney content that has been so popular with viewers will disappear from Netflix, including Marvel and Star Wars. Disney acquired a controlling interest streaming technology company, BAMTech, and its late 2017 bid for much of Fox’s entertainment business will give it control of rival streaming provider Hulu.

Meanwhile, Netflix has been reacting by investing billions of dollars in creating its own catalog of proprietary content. While the company has managed to generate net profits, it has also been burning cash at the rate of nearly half a billion dollars per quarter. As content from Disney and other studios disappears over the next couple of years, Netflix is likely to struggle to retain subscribers and its financial position may get significantly worse.

How Will the Auto Industry Respond to the as a Service Momentum?

Meanwhile, in the transportation space, ride-hailing providers have grown at an even faster pace than Netflix while continuing to lose billions of dollars per year. Automakers have taken note of the growing popularity of mobility as a service and see the threat to their core business of selling cars, just as streaming has eaten into Disney’s core distribution channels.

Most of the big automakers are actively developing ridesharing services that will increasingly leverage disruptive automated vehicle technologies. Just as Disney no longer sees the need to share the revenue from its creations with Netflix, GM, Daimler, Ford, Volkswagen, and others may eventually want to stop giving Uber, Lyft, and Didi a cut and instead compete with them directly.

Navigant Research’s Mobility as a Service report projects annual ride-hailing revenue of nearly $1.2 trillion globally. An ever increasing proportion of that is likely to go to the companies that build the vehicles that move people and goods as well as those that operate their own services.

 

European Powerhouses Invest in EV Assets

— December 21, 2017

The days of the internal combustion engine in Europe appear to be numbered, as the governments of the UK, Germany, and Norway all plan to end petrol and diesel car sales in the coming decades. The newly empowered replacement market of plug-in EVs (PEVs) continues to rapidly grow, and a trifecta of industries (energy, fuels, and automakers) is jockeying for position in powering PEVs.

Electrifying Partnerships

Fuel company Shell gobbled up EV charging company NewMotion earlier in 2017, and it announced a partnership with Daimler, BMW, Ford, and Volkswagen in November 2017 to install the group’s Ionity EV chargers at Shell locations across Europe. In September 2017, NewMotion signed a deal to provide access to its network of EV chargers to the customers of France’s Total. Competing oil major BP has been in talks with automakers to offer EV charging at its fuel station in Europe, according to Reuters.

Tie-ups between fueling station operators and PEV makers and charging companies make sense since the number of cars in need of petrol will only shrink in future years, so both are looking to provide similar services to PEV drivers rather than concede market share. Ultra-fast charging, at 300 kW or greater, makes sense at these locations since many PEVs will be able to get an 80% (or greater) charge in 15 minutes or less, during which customers can buy snacks, grab fast food, or take a bio break. (I presented on this topic to at the recent NACS Fuels Summit Latin America in Buenos Aires, Argentina.)

Power to the PEVs

European utilities rightly see PEVs as the greatest opportunity to increase load, and the somewhat flexible nature of EV charging allows for managed charging to balance the natural peaks and valleys in electricity supply and demand. Germany’s RWE was in early on EV charging and sells charging infrastructure and other EV-related services through its spinoff company Innogy. Also based in Germany, E.ON is deploying a fast charging corridor from Norway down to Italy in partnership with e-mobility service provider CLEVER. Global sales of direct current (DC) fast chargers are expected to reach 70,000 units annually by 2026, according to Navigant Research’s newest report on DC fast charging.

French energy company ENGIE has also been active, acquiring charging infrastructure company EV-Box in March as well as investing in e-scooter company Gogoro in September 2017. E-bikes, e-scooters, and e-motorcycles need to replenish energy as well, and we’ll likely see more companies offer more than light duty vehicle charging services.

Italy’s Enel reached across the Atlantic to acquire eMotorwerks, an EV charging services company that is also working on vehicle-to-grid integration services. In the UK, a consortium including energy companies National Grid, British Gas, ScottishPower, and ESB is researching the potential for integrating PEVs into operations across the UK.

Down the Road

The EV charging market remains highly fragmented with many small players. Utilities and energy companies have recognized that the stakes (and revenue potential) are much higher with ultra-fast charging and the rapid expansion of PEV models for sale. Making a profit by marking up electrons has proved challenging for startup companies. Energy companies with distribution networks and utilities that understand high power delivery believe they are well-positioned to manage power delivery through EV charging assets. Combining EV charging with other home energy management services is a desired business model for automakers, generation, and distribution companies alike. They will, however, face competition from the US’ largest EV charging network—ChargePoint—which has been fundraising to expand its European operations and has received investment from Siemens, Daimler, BMW, and others.

 

In an Age of Digital Disruption, Cities and Utilities Must Work Closer

— December 19, 2017

Energy transformation will force the industry to reassess existing value propositions and identify new revenue streams. Until recently, this value lay in single technologies—such as smart meters or solar PV. However, the industry is recognizing value in the convergence of technologies that have historically been treated separately. These technologies might not currently sit within a utilities’ existing area of influence. The potential convergence of EVs, automated driving, smart transportation networks, charging infrastructure, metering, and billing could create huge opportunities for utilities. The industry should keep an eye on disruption in other industries, particularly transportation and smart cities.

Utilities Must Identify Where Value Will Be Created

Kodak is an often cited example of how companies can fail in periods of industry disruption. Kodak developed the first digital camera and owned many patents related to digital photography. Yet, it failed to recognize where the future of digital photography value lay. It believed that digital photos would still be printed on Kodak paper and did not consider a future where users would share digital images online.

There are many lessons that utilities can learn from Kodak, primarily that nothing within business models can be taken for granted. No part of the value chain is immune from the risk of future irrelevance. Every company must consider where the future value will lie in the energy transition. For many, this will focus on helping customers reduce their power consumption, instead of supplying more power. ENGIE UK and the Netherland’s Eneco have both stated their intentions to shift to this service-based approach. The industry has also recognized the growth opportunity in supplying power to EVs and the associated vehicle-to-grid services.

There Is Significantly More Value for Utilities beyond EV Recharging Infrastructure

However, I would posit that utilities have not yet recognized the potential value that lies beyond EV charging infrastructure, supply, and grid services. The automotive industry is undergoing a period of disruption arguably greater than what utilities are experiencing. As city leaders are increasingly concerned about pollution and congestion, cities such as Paris, Athens, Madrid, and Mexico City have announced bans on the most polluting diesel vehicles by 2025. The UK, France, and China have announced bans on the sale of all light duty internal combustion engine vehicles in the next 20 years.

While EVs will play a large part in the shift away from petrol and diesel and offer an opportunity to utilities, there is significant value to be gained by the most ambitious utility. Decarbonization is just one part of automotive disruption, and we are starting to see a shift in trends of car ownership. Increasing numbers of urban residents are turning their backs on car ownership. Singapore has legislated that there will be no net increase in car ownership after 2020. Auto manufacturers are investing millions in automated vehicles, which could hugely disrupt ownership models and, consequently, the taxi and car hire industries.

Utilities Must Work Closer with City Leaders

City leaders—keen to improve air quality and reduce traffic congestion—could be the primary driving force behind a shift to shared ownership and automated models. However, they will need partners to deliver the sophistication of smart transportation services. Utilities have an opportunity to provide the recharging infrastructure for EVs, so it is not inconceivable that they can manage additional infrastructure, such as the metering and billing of automated vehicle use, predictive maintenance of vehicle fleets, fleet asset management services, and more.

Over the past decade, I have witnessed (at least some) utilities’ reluctance to cooperate with smart city programs. However, the concomitant digitization and disruption of electricity and transport create a strong argument for cities and utilities to work closer for their mutual benefit and the benefit of citizens. Navigant Research recently published a list of recommendations for utilities to work closer with city leaders.

 

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