To some observers, the electric vehicle movement is like the social networking of the automotive industry; it’s not widely understood and there is some debate as to its inherent value. But to others, the EV is more aligned to the world of mobile apps—a fast-paced world with plenty of opportunity for people who think a bit differently.
As with any exciting new segment, the EV movement is not just about the product itself; it also shows the potential to drive related business opportunities, spin-off technologies and, yes, even societal change.
THERE’S AN APP FOR THAT
The latest wave of electric vehicles is, without question, a groundbreaking collection. But aside from the merits of
the cars themselves, there’s a cool factor to the owner-ship experience that is well beyond the reach of the typical gas-powered vehicle.
Picture this: It’s a cold, Sunday morning. You desperately want to hit the snooze button on your alarm for the third consecutive time. But you have errands to run later that day and you need to know precisely how much charge is in your vehicle’s battery.
You reach over to the nightstand, pick up your smartphone and launch an app that allows you to remotely access all the information you need to know about your Volt or your LEAF or your smart ED. You see that there’s ample charge in the battery pack for the day’s activities—and you hit that snooze button.
OUT FRONT WITH BMW
Another example, this one from the business world: In anticipation of their forthcoming plug-in hybrid electric vehicles—the subcompact i3 and the racy i8—BMW has helped launch a US$100 million carbon fibre plant in Moses Lake, Washington. Ultra-lightweight carbon fibre reinforced plastics (CFRP) are playing a bigger role in the vehicle production process as manufacturers work to make their vehicles consume less fuel or less charge, as the case may be.
But the German carmaker is not stopping there; they’ve also created a New York-based venture capital firm, BMW i Ventures, with the sole purpose of investing in partner-ships that will facilitate the general public adopting this next generation of vehicles. Thus far, the firm has invested in MyCityWay, an urban exploration app, and ParkatmyHouse, a “driveway-sharing” app that is intended to help EV drivers plug in when parked away from home.
Finally, here’s an interesting sociological side note to the electrification of the auto-mobile: In Southern California, there are networks of EV drivers who share charging equipment when planning to drive outside the typical 150-km range. This innovative approach mirrors what early adopters did over 100 years ago when the fuel being adopted was petroleum.
“Cars back then had relatively small fuel tanks,” explains San Diego Country Planning Commissioner Peter Norby, who is part of a BMW EV driver test group, “so people would keep gasoline stored in their backyards and share each other’s fuel when driving from town to town.” The key difference today: The sharing process is even easier due to a dedicated website that helps members of the EV community plan trips in advance.
If you think this last fact is just an interest-ing piece of trivia, you may not be ready for an EV. But if you consider it to be a powerful parallel, a bigger charge from your driving experience is fast approaching.
Smartphone apps are a logical extension to the evolution of the electric car. Apps have been developed for the Nissan LEAF, smart ED and Chevy Volt to provide drivers with remote battery charge status updates, among other services
Urban exploration app MyCityWay is a product of BMW iVentures