As always, if you want to know the future, follow the money.
The money today says that EVs (electric vehicles) are on track to reach price parity with internal-combustion engine cars by 2024, less than two year away. That’s according to the research firm Wood Mackenzie.
“The projected price of battery packs keeps dropping,” says Wood Mackenzie in Green Car Reports. Battery packs will drop below $100 per kilowatt-hour by 2024—one year earlier than expected. And that’s the point, add Green Car Reports, when EVs should be as affordable as your typical Honda Accord with a tidy four-banger and a bunch of other mainstream cars.
Not surprisingly, Wood Mackenzie suggests that EV sales could account of what in a normal year is about 40-45 per cent of the global new car market – annual unit sales of 45 million by 2040, at which point the world could see a total of 323 million EVs on the road.
Wood Mackenzie is just one of a horde of forecasters looking ahead to what might be a world in which EVs become everyday and thoroughly mainstream transportation. But as with all forecasters, these are just projections – or best guesses. Wood Mackenzie isn’t betting its own money on EVs, but instead selling its insights to help car companies, investors, governments and others make plans and place wagers.
Ah, but as The New York Times points out, an emerging bubble of investors is putting big, big money into EVs – and we’re not talking only about Tesla shareholders. Let’s do a little bit of following some very big money.
Meet Steve Burns. His company, Lordstown Motors, is one of several emerging EV companies that is racing to market with niche models that have attracted investor attention. Lordstown is rushing to built and deliver an electric work pickup, a fleet model aimed at utility and construction companies, perhaps governments and others fleet operators.
According to The Times, Lordstown’s order bank is up to 27,000 and growing. The goal is to beat Tesla to the market with a commercially viable EV pickup.
Then there is Nikola, which when commercial production begins plans to build heavy trucks powered by electricity and hydrogen fuel cells. Fisker is yet another emerging EV maker with a business plan to make a plunge in a growing market for “green” vehicles – a market which will be given a massive boost if Democratic nominee Joe Biden wins the presidency in November, sending “clean coal” Donald Trump and his anti-environment policies to the sidelines.
What makes these three EV makers and others so very interesting and promising, notes The Times, is that they all have the funds to make their plans reality. They have the money and gobs of it.
Fisker has merged with an acquisition company backed by Apollo Global Management, the private equity firm. Lordstown, which has a plant and machinery from General Motors (also a small investor), has merged with what’s called a special-purpose acquisition company or SPAC. That has put hundreds of millions into the Lordstown kitty, along with a public listing on Nasdaq, making the company accessible for a broad swath of investors interested in putting money into a green future.
Or as Burns put it to The Times, into the “race to be the first with electric trucks.”
I won’t dig into the arcana of SPECS, other than to describe them as shells with lots of money looking to invest in emerging companies in the form of a partnership or acquisition that works for both parties – the investors get a chunk of a potential game-changer of a company, and the cash-starved start-up gets funding and the backing of rich partners with access to even more money.
As The Times notes, “investors behind SPACs have become particularly enamored with electric vehicle businesses amid rising expectation that such cars and trucks will soon begin displacing vehicles powered by fossil fuels” If Wood Mackenzie is correct, it’s a market that could be part of a global EV surge reaching 45 million units annually in less than two decades.
Today, Lordstown Motors is valued at US$1.6 billion, with plans to start producing pickups next year, notes The Times. This would not have been possible without having raised hundreds of millions in private investment for the public company. Along with GM, other investors include Fidelity, BlackRock and Wellington Management. These investors are hoping that Wood Mackenzie is correct – that the market for EVs will grow from about 2% now to 40-50 per cent by 2040.
The expectation is that Lordstown’s pickup, the Endurance, with its four electric motors (one powering each wheel) will be at the vanguard of a sea change in the global auto industry – a transformative shift to EVs driven by consumer demand with the regulatory blessing of governments from China to the entire European Union. And even the United States, if Biden is elected and puts into motion his US$2 trillion “green” plan.
The truth is, a huge pile of money, one growing by the day, is betting on the future of green transportation. That’s a fact, not a projection from a research company or a think tank, nor is it a political promise.