Looking back, I remember the Toyota Prius as a great leap forward, I watched it being ridiculed (even on the Big Bang theory – Leonard drove one) then gradually accepted, and now the technology is widespread throughout Toyota’s line up. But that’s where it has apparently stopped.
I read reviews of the BMW i3 electric car, its first. I even took one for a test drive – it was car of the year and great things were expected, but that is where it stopped. The Nissan Leaf was revolutionary (apart from its poor temperature control on its batteries). But it didn’t go much further.
All these companies lost their first mover advantage to Tesla, when first the Roadster, then the mModel S, then the Model X, and now the Mdel 3 and Model Y innovated and expanded on what an EV could be. Elon Musk is the champion of rapid change and disruption.
So why am I raising the question? Because I can see what is now coming out of China. The Chinese Electric Vehicle industry used to be full of cheap imitations and joint ventures with Western auto makers. Today, if you read the list of top ten selling vehicles in China, the only western company is Tesla (and it is not number one).
Last week, the local EV websites are full of the launch of the latest Chinese computer on wheels – except it isn’t just that. The car – the XPeng P5 electric sedan – transforms into a bedroom or a lounge, as well as having all the tech of a computer and all the power and range of an up market EV, read more here.
Except that it is the same price as a Camry!
Musk has promised such a vehicle, but it is probably a couple of years away. He is now facing some stiff competition.
As the demand of the domestic Chinese market slowly gets satisfied, we will see more and more of these top class, quality, inexpensive vehicles being exported. The competition is no longer between mobiles and handsets, but between smart phones and cheaper, smarter phones. It may take time, but they will come to Australia.
David Waterworth is a researcher and writer, a retired teacher who divides his time between looking after his grandchildren and trying to make sure they have a planet to live on. He owns 50 shares of Tesla.